by Heather Mundt
For many Colorado families, winter means ample outdoor fun, from skiing to snowboarding to sledding and more. But anyone who’s experienced Colorado’s dry, cold-weather knows it can also mean months of discomfort in the form of dry, itchy skin.
“The humidity here is so low, but then it’s cold,” says Dr. Kimberly Neyman, chief of dermatology at Colorado Skin & Vein in Englewood. “Then we turn up the heat, which dries up our internal environment in homes and offices even more so.”
To combat effects from harsh temperatures and dry air, local experts offer advice on maintaining supple skin. In addition to adding a humidifier to your home, as well as protecting your face with sunscreen and lip balm, here are five easy ways you can hydrate at home.
1. Shift your shower routine. The tendency in winter is to ramp up shower temperatures, which promotes dryness. “I love hot showers, especially when it’s cold outside,” Neyman says. “But that really takes out a lot of our skin’s natural oils.” Just as you use hot water to clean greasy dishes, she says, hot water strips the skin of the oils that keep it healthy.
Opt instead for a warm or lukewarm shower. If you just can’t deny yourself hot-water happiness, limit your shower to no more than five minutes. Afterward, blot your skin dry instead of wiping it down, leaving it slightly damp before immediately applying your moisturizer. If you’re prone to eczema and or allergies, Neyman says, it’s best to stick with fragrance-free brands.
2. Help for hands. Between hand sanitizers and germs, hands often become dry and cracked during winter months. “Like most moms, my hands take the hardest beating, especially when illness is going around,” says Angela Justis, family educational director and associate academy educator at the online Herbal Academy, and blogger at Mamarosemary. “I find myself washing my hands numerous times per day.”
Experts suggest moisturizing hands immediately after washing. For Justis that includes stocking her home with hand creams and salves made with shea butter, as well as using lanolin. “If my fingers split open, I put a heavy coat of lanolin on the splits before bed, and they usually heal by morning,” she says.
3. Exfoliate and hydrate at home. Getting rid of dead skin cells helps eliminate that “dry, dull look,” says Tawnya Hutchinson, aesthetician and owner of Wax & Lash in Denver’s Larimer Square. Of course, heading to a spa like hers is great for exfoliating skin, she says, in addition to helping parents recharge. But it’s even more important to maintain a home routine. “The spa is a great way to relax,” Hutchinson says. “But day-to-day care is best.”
The routine can include simple, inexpensive ingredients like coconut oil. Keep some in the shower and rub it on using a mesh bath sponge, she says, exfoliating two or three times per week. “You’re getting a mild exfoliant while hydrating your skin,” Hutchinson says. “Let the water run on you a bit longer if you don’t like the oily feel.”
Hutchinson also suggests applying a hydrating facial mask weekly with yet another simple product. “Honey is a fantastic, hydrating, anti-bacterial mask,” she says. Slather your face with the honey, and then wipe it off with a warm washcloth—an easy skincare task to complete weekly.
4. Hydrate from within. In addition to drinking enough water—most experts suggest at least 64 ounces per day—what you eat can be critical in promoting healthy winter skin. “Include good oils in your diet such as omega-3s,” Neyman says. “If you don’t eat fish, try supplementing about 1,000 mg of omega-3s per day.”
In addition, “foods like avocados, nuts and seeds, olive and coconut oils—plus fish, grass-feed beef, and dairy—are all high in good quality fats that help keep skin supple when consumed,” Justis says.
5. Let Yourself Soak. Experts say augmenting your wintertime routine with baths can also help promote healthy skin. “Add a couple of cups of whole milk or oatmeal bath to the water,” Neyman says.
Another option: “Just place a big handful of oatmeal along with herbs like chamomile, calendula, lavender, rose…in a sock or muslin bag, and toss it in the tub along with a couple cups of milk,” Justis says. “So nice!”
Heather Mundt is a Longmont-based freelance writer and mother of two.
Skin-Softening Bath Soak
Angela Justis, a family educational director and associate academy educator at the online Herbal Academy, blogger at Mamarosemary, and mother of two, shared this recipe for a skin-soothing bath brew. Mix a large batch, fill small muslin bags, and tie on the directions with a festive ribbon for a lovely hostess gift or present for each member of the book club.
1 cup oatmeal
½ cup herbs such as chamomile flowers, rose petals or lavender blossoms (optional)
¼ cup powdered milk (optional)
Place all ingredients in a sock, muslin bag or washcloth. To keep the herbs neatly tucked away, tie off the top of the sock or muslin bag, or bundle the washcloth shut with a rubber band. Fill the tub with your hottest water and toss in your bath bundle. Wait until the water cools to a comfortable temperature. While the water is cooling, the oatmeal will soften and begin to release mucilage into the water; the herbs will steep, making the water smell amazing. Slide in and enjoy your bath. Use the bath bundle as a gentle, moisturizing scrub.
NOTE: Those who are allergic to plants in the ragweed family may have a reaction to chamomile. Be sure to use gluten-free oatmeal if allergic or sensitive to gluten.