We all know how hard it is to nourish winter skin and at this time of year, dry skin is unfortunately common and always unwelcome. Here are the top 4 things you can do to nourish winter skin. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who complain to me about their flaky scalp, itchy arms or scaly legs. While the cosmetic aspect of dry skin can be annoying and embarrassing, it can also be painful. Continually dry skin is flaky due to over-proliferation (excessive production of skin cells), which goes hand in hand with inflammation, irritation and itchiness.
So, what can be done about it, apart from lathering on the moisturiser?
First of all you need to understand why your skin gets so dry in winter. There are a number of factors that will contribute to seasonal flakiness and these can vary from person to person. However, the four most common are:
- Cold and dry weather – In the cooler weather it’s often less humid (though that can depend on where you live), which means there is less moisture in the air to nourish your skin.
- Windy days – Windy days suck the moisture and natural oils right out of your skin – the more you’re exposed to the elements the worse it will be.
- A tendency to drink less fluids during cooler months – People often drink significantly less during winter as they don’t feel as thirsty – this leads to dehydration, which will show on your skin.
- Indulging in extra-hot showers – Lovely though a hot shower can be on a cold day, it can also dry your skin out – particularly if you use a lot of soap – as this will strip your skin of its natural oils, exacerbating inflammation and itchiness.
Admittedly, the weather isn’t something we can do much about (unless you are able to escape to a tropical location – in which case I’d recommend that!). However, there are a number of diet and lifestyle changes that can help enormously.
- Stay hydrated – After all water is moisture… and your skin will soak it up! Aim to get at least 1.5 – 2L fluids each day. This doesn’t have to be only water, but can include herbal teas, broths, soups and stews – all of which are wonderfully warming during the cooler months.
- Eat well – Go for foods that are nourishing inside and out, including good sources of protein (such as eggs, free-range meat, legumes, nuts, etc) and beneficial fats (such as avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, nuts and seeds). Also keep up your fruit and veggie intake – even better if you can eat these ‘warm’ e.g. in stir-fry, soup, curry, casserole, etc. As always, steer clear of processed foods, products high in sugar and any ingredients you know you can’t tolerate (e.g. wheat, soy, etc).
- Exfoliate – Get into the habit of dry body brushing before your shower or bath. This simple practice involves brushing your skin from your hands and feet up towards your heart using a body brush (available in pharmacies and health food shops). The whole thing will take about 3 minutes and helps to get rid of those unwanted dry skin cells. However, if you’re worried that your bathroom is too cold for pre-shower brushing (an objection I’ve heard before!), use an exfoliation mitt while you’re bathing. Whatever works for you.
- Moisturise – While looking after your body from the inside is important, a good quality intensive moisturiser will also help to nourish the skin from outside in. You can moisturise your body with a natural oil, such as sesame or coconut, or choose a nourishing non-toxic moisturiser from your local health food store or pharmacy. If you have sensitive skin, you may need to try one or two to find what suits you best. On your face, jojoba and/or rosehip oil work a treat, particularly when your skin is dry. Moisturising day and night is ideal, if you can get into the habit of it.
These are just some ideas, starting at home, that can get you started. Even these simple changes can bring about a big improvement, usually in a matter of weeks.