Although it's still warm and sunny outside, it won't be long until the shorter, colder, and much drier days of winter arrive. Low humidity and cold, blustery wind outside, and harsh dry heat inside, can deplete the natural lipid layer that protects your skin from drying out. As a result, your appendages start to look and feel dry, cracked, and unsightly.
The skin on your hands is just like the skin on your face in that it can start to look aged beyond its years if you don’t pay special attention to it—especially during severe winter conditions. Here are a few tips to keep your hands smooth, soft, hydrated, and youthful-looking as we ease our way into winter:
Wash with warm water. Hot water can dry out your skin even more by further depleting its natural moisture. When washing your hands, use warm, rather than hot, water. In addition, use a creamy, mild, natural soap, rather than harsh antibacterial brands. You can find a wide variety of natural or organic soaps online and at health food stores.
Exfoliate weekly. Exfoliating your hands helps to remove dead skin cells and can encourage the formation of undamaged new ones. Not to mention, exfoliation makes your hands smoother and softer. There are plenty of exfoliating products on the market, but if you want to make an all-natural one at home, combine ¼ cup of brown sugar; 1–2 teaspoons of coconut, jojoba, avocado, or olive oil; and 1–2 teaspoons honey.
Mix all these ingredients together and massage into your dry hands for about one minute. Then add a little water and continue massaging for a minute or less. Wash your hands, then moisturize.
Moisturize frequently. During the wintertime, you simply need to moisturize frequently. However, I am not a fan of the chemical-laden drugstore brand moisturizers. Most of them contain petrolatum. Also known as petroleum and paraffin jelly, petrolatum is a type of mineral oil used to seal in moisture. This is the ironic part, because petrolatum actually interferes with your skin’s own moisturizing ability, leading to even more dry skin and chapping.
When you use a skin care product that contains petrolatum, you will usually find it to be very waxy. This is a sign that your skin is not absorbing the product. Instead, it just sits on top of your skin, suffocating and clogging your pores.
Fortunately, there are plenty of moisturizers that do not contain petrolatum and other questionable chemicals, but rather shea butter, cocoa butter, aloe, and other soothing and easily absorbed ingredients from nature. Just look in your local health food store, vitamin shop, or at any of the countless online retailers that sell natural skin care products. Be sure to use your moisturizer after washing your hands, before and after going outside, and any other time you feel you need it.
Hydrate and humidify. It can be difficult to remember to stay hydrated in the wintertime, when we are sweating less and, therefore, tend to be less thirsty. But it’s just as important to drink eight glasses of water per day in the wintertime as it is in the summertime. If you need to keep warm in a cold office, then drink decaffeinated teas, like chamomile or red teas. In addition, use a humidifier in your house to increase the moisture in the air.
Supplement. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are known to create moister, softer, suppler skin and tissues. To ensure that you are getting enough EFAs in your diet, eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like flaxseed oil (1–2 tablespoons per day); ground flaxseed (4–6 tablespoons per day); raw pumpkin seeds (2–3 ounces per serving); and cold-water fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, or halibut (3 times a week). Also be sure to include monounsaturated oils, like olive oil, avocado oil, or macadamia nut oil, in your diet. Use these oils in your salad dressing recipes and when cooking to help you moisturize your skin. Finally, take at least 1,000 mg of fish oil per day.
Now it's your turn: What do you do to avoid dry skin?