At winter’s harshest, we take extra steps to protect ourselves. We may get a flu shot. We try to keep ourselves and our little ones cozy with sweaters and layers and blankets. We warm up from being outdoors with a steaming hot mug of cider or cocoa, or some chicken noodle soup. But amid the bustle of the busy season, we might forget that our skin also needs soothing and protection.
The cold, crisp air and biting wind outside, combined with the dry, brittle air inside this time of year can make skin itchy, flaky, ashy, and rough. It’s important to protect and nurture your skin, no matter what the season. These simple steps can truly make a difference.
Use Water Wisely: Since water can actually dry out skin more by stripping natural oils, taking shorter baths and showers during winter can help. Staying hydrated by drinking six to eight glasses of water a day (more depending on your activity level) flushes out impurities and keeps skin supple.
Exfoliate Gently: Opt for a softer body puff to lather up. Washcloths and loofahs can be too irritating for dry skin this time of year. The same goes for exfoliating facial cleansers and body washes—forgo the larger-grained scrubs and instead slough off rough spots by adding a bit of baking soda to your usual facial cleanser or body wash for a finer, gentler exfoliation experience.
Block Out the Sun: We don’t get a break from the sun’s damaging UV rays during winter. Sunlight bouncing off of snow only intensifies them. Experts advise using a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or more on all exposed skin before going outside in the winter. If you’re planning on skiing or snowboarding, it’s important to remember that UV rays are more intense at higher altitudes, so don’t hesitate to slather it on. Don’t forget lip balm with an SPF, too. This delicate, easily chapped skin needs extra TLC when the temperatures fall.
While these steps will ease itchy, rough winter skin, some degree of dryness, for most of us, is inevitable. Winter is the perfect time to experiment with natural home moisturizing remedies. A good recipe can smell and feel amazingly fresh and luxurious, while bringing life and much-needed moisture back to skin. An added bonus—you know exactly what’s in it and can avoid drying ingredients like alcohol or other harsh chemicals.
Many home moisturizing remedies can be created from products purchased at your local grocery or big box store. I selected four recipes to test and headed off to the grocery store for my first round of ingredients.
Avocado face mask: ½ soft avocado (outside is a dark color and gives a little to the touch); ½ banana; and 1 egg yolk. Cost: $0.90 per mask.
Instructions: Mash avocado and banana, add egg yolk and mix well. Apply to face using your fingers, avoiding your eyes and mouth. Wash off after 10 minutes.
Comments: This is not a glamorous process. My husband says when I do a face mask it “freaks him out,” so I’m sure he was relieved I decided to try this recipe after he had gone to bed. It smelled fresh and felt even better. And, it was super easy. After I rinsed it off, my face felt soft and moisturized—not oily or sticky. It tackled any trace of dryness, and I would definitely try this again.
Oatmeal, milk, and honey bath: 1 ½ cups whole milk; 1/3 cup honey; 1 cup oats, (I used old-fashioned oats, but unflavored instant oatmeal or quick oats will work just as well); and 10 drops lavender or other essential oil for aroma (optional). Cost: $2.10.
Instructions: Blend oats in a blender or food processor on the highest setting until you have a very fine, consistent powder. Set aside. Mix together milk and honey in a liquid measuring cup (add essential oil if you like). Sprinkle all the oatmeal into the tub as the water is running. Stir the water with your hand or foot to evenly distribute the oatmeal, breaking up any clumps. Add the milk and honey mixture to the bath and stir the water again. The original recipe calls for using only half the milk and honey per bath, but I found that the two ingredients didn’t really mix together very well, so I used the entire amount, which didn’t feel like too much to me. Adjust the amount to your liking. Soak for at least 15-20 minutes, then pat dry with a towel. Try not to rub the skin. Store any unused milk and honey mixture in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Comments: This recipe felt luxurious and rich, and I didn’t want to get out of the bath. The only drawback was having to rinse the oatmeal remnants down the drain after, but this wasn’t a huge deal. My skin felt soft, and I will keep this recipe on hand for the winter months ahead.
Homemade body butter: 7 tablespoons olive oil (you can try others, like jojoba, almond, sesame, macadamia, or grape seed); ¼ cup aloe vera gel; ¼ cup water; 1 tsp. Vitamin E for natural preservative; 6 tablespoons cocoa butter; and essential oils (optional), lavender or lemon are good choices. Cost: $9.68.
Instructions: You’ll need a glass measuring cup, a heavy glass bowl to mix butter and oils, a larger bowl to create an ice bath, a hand mixer, and a storage container for the finished butter. Melt the cocoa butter in the microwave in a glass, liquid measuring cup. This takes about four to five minutes. As that is melting, combine the other ingredients—olive oil, aloe vera gel, Vitamin E, and water, in the heavy glass bowl. Prepare an ice bath by filling the larger bowl with ice. When the cocoa butter has finished melting, set the glass bowl into the larger bowl, with ice in between. Add the hot, melted cocoa butter to the cool ingredients in the glass bowl. The ice bath helps the mixture to solidify faster. Use a hand mixer to blend until emulsified—10 to 15 minutes. Turn glass bowl as you are mixing. Keep mixing until thick. Transfer finished mixture to a storage container with a lid. Makes about one cup.
Comments: This was the most ambitious endeavor during my venture into home moisturizing remedies, but was still a relatively simple process. I can’t say it resembled what the original recipe said it would. If I were to make it again, I would adjust the amounts, perhaps using less olive oil, or a lighter oil, especially after having my husband try it on his hands. His blunt assessment: “greasy.” I’d also perhaps reduce or leave out the water. The original recipe said I should stop blending the mixture when it turned from yellow to cream-colored, and the consistency resembled cake frosting. Despite 15 minutes of blending with a hand mixer, it never lost its golden hue, and the consistency was more like a pudding or a whipped lotion, rather than a thick body butter. That doesn’t mean this isn’t a potent moisturizer. I used it sparingly after an oatmeal, milk, and honey bath, and it was more than enough. I would recommend taking it easy until you know how much you need.
These are just a few ideas among endless homemade recipes you can use to beat dry winter skin. The flexibility of using all-natural, homemade recipes means you can experiment and adjust, and find what works best for you. Have fun and stay warm!
Heidi Tetzman Roepke is a freelance writer and copy editor/page designer at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. She lives in Fargo with her husband, Dave, and their cat, Sahara.
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