If your skin has been dry lately, you’re not alone. Cold weather, harsh winds, and dry indoor air all conspire to suck the moisture out of skin during the winter months, leaving it dry, cracked, and scaly. “Winter dryness strikes where your oil glands are weakest,” explains Janice Cox, author of Natural Beauty for All Seasons. “Cheeks, arms, and legs have almost no sebaceous oil glands and are therefore drier in winter months.” And since the skin on your hands is thinner than in other places it needs extra protection and care. To keep your skin smooth and hydrated, follow these simple steps daily:
5 Natural Skin Soothers
When you take a bath, add a few drops of essential oil to the water to help moisturize the skin. Choose a scent according to your dominant dosha (or subtle mind-body force): vata, pitta, or kapha. Neroli, lemon, or geranium is optimal for vatas; jasmine, chamomile, or ylang-ylang is good for pittas; and rosemary, peppermint, or clary sage is ideal for kaphas. (Take an ayurvedic skin analysis quiz).
Avoid taking long hot baths or showers, or using saunas, during the winter months. Hot water can rob the skin of its moisture. Instead, use moderate-temperature water for shorter periods of time.
Lubricate skin with organic, unrefined oils or pure cocoa butter after showering or bathing. Cocoa butter is a natural alternative to petroleum-based moisturizers. Apply the oils or moisturizer to the skin when it’s slightly damp. That way, moisture becomes trapped in the skin rather than evaporating in the air.
Use a humidifier to keep moisture in your home and office. Or keep a bowl of water on your radiators to add moisture to the air.
Check the labels on your skin-care products, and avoid toners and other products that contain alcohol, which can dry out the skin. Opt instead for products that contain less drying astringent ingredients such as witch hazel.
Sometimes skin dryness is attributed to more than just a seasonal change. When it’s red, itchy, and irritated, despite daily care, you may have a chronic skin condition. The most common ones—eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea—are triggered by dosha imbalances. (Eczema and psoriasis can be triggered by an imbalance of vata and pitta, while rosacea is the result of a pitta imbalance.) And all are aggravated by stress. Stress aggravates and increases vata (the dosha most prone to dry, itchy skin), thereby increasing symptoms of that imbalance. To help keep these skin conditions under control, practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi, regularly.
No matter how well you take care of your skin during the winter months, if you’re not eating the right foods your skin still won’t be soft, smooth, and healthy looking. What you need:
Drink at least 9 cups of hydrating fluids daily (including water). Coffee, tea, and soda don’t count.
Indulge in watery foods such as soups—and avoid dry, crunchy, salty foods as often as possible. Dry foods may help further dehydrate the skin.
Make sure you’re getting enough good fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. They are found in flaxseed oil, walnuts and walnut oil (omega-3), evening primrose oil, borage oil, and black currant oil (omega-6). A diet that’s too low in fat—particularly these essential fatty acids—will result in skin that’s lackluster, dry, and prone to chronic skin problems such as eczema.
Got Dry, Itchy Skin?
When your skin is dry and itchy—and in need of some relief—add some licorice tea to your bathwater, suggests ayurvedic beauty expert Pratima Raichur, author of Absolute Beauty. The licorice acts as a natural cortisone treatment. You can also add neem or comfrey decoctions (tea) to bathwater, as they can also help soothe the skin.