Winter in the mountains: back to the season of dry skin?
When you live in the mountains, you are surrounded by beauty. In winter, you can go skiing or touring in the most beautiful and magic places. It just makes you feel so good, except for your skin. Winter in the mountains is synonym to cold weather, low humidity levels, wind, and high altitude. These environmental factors dry out and damage your skin.
What can you do to stop suffering from dry skin and keep on enjoying the mountains all winter long?
When you experience a feeling of tightness, rough skin, intense itching, fine lines, cracks, chapped lips or redness, this is usually because your skin is very dry unless you suffer from a more serious skin problem. When you go outside, it gives your skin a hard time. If you stay inside, it might be worst because of heating which draw moisture out of the air and out of your skin. Even a fireplace in a cozy alpine hut gives a hard time to your skin.
But don't worry, there are natural solutions to help you with winter dry skin.
Moisturize your skin Applying moisturizing creams is an answer, but don’t use any creams. Preservatives and fragrances can dry and irritate sensitive skin, so it's best to look for creams that are fragrance-free and contain as few preservatives as possible.
Preservatives that seem to cause problems for many people include propylene glycol, quaternium-15, and imidazolidinyl urea.
Choose natural products instead or nourish your skin with pure oils, such as almond, avocado or jojoba oil.
Here are a few skin care tips for different parts of your body:
- Body & face: apply almond oil all over your body right after showering, when your skin is still a little bit wet.
- Scalp: if you suffer from dry scalp, apply jojoba oil on your scalp 15 minutes before your shower. Then shampoo your hair using a natural shampoo that contains neem oil. You could also add a few drops of tea trea and jojoba oil in your shampoo. Wear a hat evertime you go outside.
- Hands: choose a cream with a very high content of shea butter because it protects, nourishes and softens your hands. Also wear gloves...
In winter, always protect your skin even on a cloudy or snowy day. In ice and snow wear a hat, sunscreen, lip balm, and slip on sunglasses to cut down the sun's reflection. Don't forget snow is an even better reflector than water. 80% of the sun's rays get back to us, compared to less than 20% for sand.
Reach for a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 and reapply often, especially when using sunscreen with a natural sun protection agent, such as zinc oxide.
Never go out without your lipbalm (SPF 15)! Lips don't have oil glands and they can dry out easily causing chapped lips. When ski touring for example, try not to lick your lips and protect them as most as possible (behind a scarf).
In the shower The longer you're in water, the more protective oils you lose. This is why you should try to shower only every other day and limit showers to 5 minutes. Using warm water, rather than hot, is also best. Hot water removes the skin's natural oils more quickly than warm or cold water.A cloth helps exfoliate dead cells, which can help in most cases. The clearer the skin, the deeper a moisturizer can penetrate. But it may irritate your skin too. You should use your hands or a sponge instead if your skin is too sensitive.
Shaving can also leave your skin extra irritated so use a shaving cream and change blades in your shaver often.
After washing, moisturize immediately with oil to help trap water in the skin.
If you can’t help having a bath, add a few drops of essential oils and good moisturizing oil to bath water. Chamomile, Geranium, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Patchouly, Rosewood, Sandalwood essential oils are commonly used for dry skin.
Fluid When you’re touring or skiing, you are losing lots of fluid by sweating during exercise. The skin is often the outer reflection of the inner being. If you are dehydrated, your skin will be too.
To keep your body hydrated, drinking water is obvious. You should also avoid alcohol and caffeine (all kinds of diuretics). If you need to warm up in cold weather, drink herbal tea instead.
Nutrition Essential fatty acids (omega-3s and omega-6s) are most important. These healthy fats help retain natural oils in your cells and keep your skin well-hydrated.
You can find good fats in cold-water fish but also in poly-unsatured and unrefined vegetal oils, such as flax or hemp oil.
Because of unsafe levels of mercury with some kinds of fish, it is advisable to supplement your diet with good sources of EFAs instead, and alternate fish oil with vegetal oils.
In your house
Dry indoor air in your house or at work can really irritate your skin. Drinking lots of water is a solution, but also keep your house between 68 and 75 F, not too hot! Use a humidifier if possible, especially in your bedroom, to keep your skin well-hydrated as you sleep.
These tips should help you with dry skin and winter itch. However, some cases of dry skin really should be seen by a doctor. If your symptoms get worse, please contact a health care practitioner.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Josephine Toulemonde is a digestive care consultant. She is the founder of optiderma.com, a website on natural skin tips and remedies to help with skin disorders through nutrition advice, interviews with experts, articles, skin care recipes, and testimonials. www.optiderma.com