Winter Body Care
Winter creates a moisture challenge for even the healthiest skin. That includes skin on the body. If you live in a part of the world that experiences typical winter weather, you know what we’re talking about: dry, itchy, sometimes dull and flaky skin. The extremes in outdoor vs. indoor temperatures, wind, and lack of humidity in the air can have a dramatic effect on all skin types, especially on areas of the skin that are exposed to weather.
Fortunately, a few changes in your daily routine can help.
First of all, drink more water! Every cell and system in our bodies require water to function properly, and skin is no exception. Topical hydration plays a role in protecting the surface layers, but important repair and rejuvenation systems lie deep in the skin and only internal consumption of water and nutrients can deliver the necessary fluids there.
Traditional Chinese medicine considers winter the “season of Water” (Yin) and encourages eating slow-cooked, warming foods such as soups, stews, baked, and roasted dishes. Cooking with seasonally-appropriate ingredients, such as root vegetables, winter greens and squashes, mushrooms, nuts, and seeds, can nourish Yin and bodily fluids.
Explore nutritional changes with a nutritionist, naturopath, or TCM practitioner, and consider increasing the quality and quantity of healthy oils that you’re consuming.
Winter air is typically dry and can dramatically affect hydration levels in the skin; indoor heat even more so. Humidifiers and essential oil diffusers are great ways to add moisture back into your indoor home environment, especially if you enjoy cranking up that thermostat. (Diffusers have the added benefit of delivering therapeutic essential oils into the air, which can aid in allergies and sinus issues.)
Avoid Hot Showers and Baths
During the cold winter months, it’s completely understandable that the first thing we want to do after a long day in the cold is take a long, relaxing hot shower or bath. Unfortunately, extended exposure to hot water can strip the protective surface lipids off your skin, leaving you vulnerable to trans-epidermal water loss and increased dryness. Try opting for warm showers and baths, as opposed to hot temperatures, and keep the duration short.
- Tip: If you love soaking in a bath, try applying body oil before getting in. This can supplement your skin’s barrier and protect against excessive moisture loss.
And if you can’t resist the heat, leave the bathroom door closed to trap moisture and steam inside the room with you. Immediately follow your ablutions with a rich body cream to replenish lost lipids.
Exfoliate with Care
Exfoliation during the winter months requires caution! A good rule of thumb: less is more. The skin barrier is already compromised due to the dry, cold weather, and over-exfoliation can make this worse. We recommend a gentle sugar scrub mixed with nourishing oils no more than once a week. (Any redness or irritation is a good sign to take a break from exfoliating for a while; instead, focus on moisturizing.)
- Tip: Another option to gently encourage skin renewal without scrubbing is dry brushing. A gentle brush and soft pressure can help slough off dry skin cells while assisting lymph flow to energize the body. Begin at the feet and hands and brush upwards in long strokes, always toward the center of the body.
Don’t Forget Hands
The skin on the hands has fewer oil glands compared to the skin on any other body part. For this reason, moisture escapes quickly in cold weather, making hands prone to cracks and itchiness. To help protect your hands, apply a moisturizer day and night, and especially before you go out into the cold. Cuticle oil can be applied nightly to help maintain soft cuticles and prevent dryness and splitting around the nailbeds.