On my morning walk, as I was admiring the beautiful colors of fall, and watching the leaves float gracefully to the ground, it struck me that before long the cold weather would be rolling in. As much as I enjoy fall, I do love the cold and that feeling it brings as I anticipate spending time with family and friends, baking holiday goodies, and shopping for the perfect gifts. With so much anticipation ahead, there is always one thing that I don't look forward to... dry skin. That itchy, flaky skin that makes wearing my favorite sweaters a little less comfortable. I know I'm not alone here, so this month I thought I would share some ideas to keep your skin hydrated through the coming months.
Causes of Winter Dry Skin
Here in America, there are several different climates, and each can affect our skin differently. Now that I live in the south, my skin doesn't get near as dry and cracked as it did in my years in northern Wisconsin. Still, regardless of where we live, there is changing weather and with that, changing skincare needs. With weather being the biggest facet, let's dive into that first. As we enter into fall and winter not only does the temperature drop, but so does the humidity. When there is less moisture in the air it will draw moisture from things in the environment, including our skin. To add insult to injury, high winds can increase moisture loss when we are outdoors.
So it begins, our skin is starting to dry out due to weather conditions, but our personal habits can affect it for the better or worse. As the cold weather sneaks in we are apt to dietary changes that can result in water loss as well. If you are like me, comfort food and coffee are at the forefront of my mind. The problem with these things are that they often exclude the healthy fats that we might enjoy during the warmer months, and extra caffeine can be dehydrating. Further, our thirst response tends to slow down in the winter, as we are not typically perspiring at the same level. The good news is, now that you know this, you can take steps to keep your skin hydrated!
Treating Dry Skin from the Inside
If you've read this far, you probably can guess what's coming first! That's right, drink more water! Just because you don't feel thirsty doesn't mean your body has enough of this life-giving fluid. I carry a water bottle with me everywhere I go to ensure that I am getting enough to drink throughout the day, and it is a huge help!
As I mentioned above, there are substances that can really be dehydrating to our bodies. While I am all for a nice cup of coffee or tea on a cold day, and a glass of wine on a cold night, moderation is key. A trick to not letting these comforts wreak havoc on your skin is to follow up with water. If you have a 10-ounce glass of wine, follow with a 10-ounce glass of water, and the same for caffeinated treats.
Since we are addressing diet, let's talk about healthy fats. In the summer we are more likely to eat lighter foods like fish or salads that just don't hit the spot in cold weather. With that we are missing out on certain fats such as those found in avocados or olive oil on our salads, and the omega 3s found in fish. Instead, we are likely to eat heavier foods that might contain more butter or cream. (No shame, I love that stuff too.) Adding in things like a side salad with a healthy dressing or snacking on raw walnuts can provide some of those healthy fats that keeps your skin looking radiant and hydrated.
Treating Dry Skin from the Outside
Oftentimes we find skincare products that we love, and we stick with them year-round. But, if you find that your skin is becoming dry while using those products, it might be time to look into making a seasonal change. In the summer, our skin tends to stay better hydrated, and our concerns might be more around acne than dryness. In this case a more aggressive cleanser and a lightweight moisturizer might do the trick. When it comes to your winter skin, however, that approach may not cut it, or might even cause damage to already dry skin.
When it comes to cleansing your winter skin, gentle is best. We recommend a product with a high oil content that will not strip the skin, such as an oil cleanser for the face and a castile soap for the body. Exfoliating once a week will remove flaking skin and allow for better absorption of moisturizing products. For a moisturizer, it is important to use a product that has a good occlusive in it, such as beeswax, shea or cocoa butter, and certain oils including squalane, jojoba, and castor. Occlusives form a barrier on the skin that helps to prevent water loss, which is essential in the cold weather months. For the face, adding in an oil serum if you are not already using one can be very beneficial. Oil serums can offer more concentrated ingredients than a lotion or cream to help keep the fine lines at bay that are more prevalent in dry skin.
Even when we do all the right things, we might find that we need a little extra to combat the dry skin. When this happens, I turn to the herbal world. There are a number of gentle herbs that, when applied to the body, can help treat excessively dry skin or the skin problems that might be more prevalent during the winter like psoriasis and eczema. Some of my favorites include calendula, plantain, comfrey, chamomile, and rosemary.
Finally, here are a couple tips for keeping your skin hydrated that don't require lathering up with lotions! A humidifier can be a great addition to the house when the humidity outside starts to drop. This will put extra moisture in the air inside your house and can be a great refuge from the dry air outside. I like to keep one in my bedroom while I sleep, as I tend to spend the most time there. Lastly, as much as I hate to say it, this might be one of the most important things on the list. I love a nice hot shower on a cold winter day, it opens the sinuses and warms the body to the bone. Unfortunately, it also damages the skin and causes it to become dry. While it is good to stick with warm showers year-round, I find it is hardest and most important in the cold months. Plus, your skin will thank you!
Birch Sisters Recommendations
While it's nice to read about changing up your skincare products with the weather, it can still be hard to know what products would be best for you. Below is a list of some of our favorite products for the cold weather months, and how to best use them. As always, if you have any questions for us, reach out! We love to help people with their health and skincare goals, even if it isn't related to a product.
Herbal Body Butter
Our body butter is a thick, rich butter that is loaded with nourishing occlusive ingredients, as well as our healing blend of herbs. It can be used all over (except the face) or just on dry patches. I use it on my hands every night before bed, as they tend to get really dry in the winter. Being a butter, it absorbs slowly and locks in moisture, leaving your skin feeling super soft.
Healing Lip Balm
Made with the same blend of herbs, this lip balm is a must have for me in the winter, as my lips tend to crack and split. It also is scented with peppermint essential oil, which is a winter favorite!
Radiant Complexion Facial Mask
Sometimes clay masks can be too drying in the winter months, but this one is made with very gentle clays so as to not dehydrate the skin. It also includes some wonderful healing herbs such as birch bark, chaga mushrooms, comfrey root, and oats that are wonderful for dry skin. As a dry mask, you can add in any wet ingredients you desire for additional healing benefits. We recommend using a mask 1-2 times a week depending on your skin. For extremely dry skin, use every other week.
CoQ10 Night Oil Serum
When it comes to oil serums, this one is perfect for winter. The oils in it are very high in all the best fats, making it a thick heavy moisturizer that does not clog the pores. It also contains CoQ10, and amazing antioxidant that not only offers anti-aging benefits, but also helps to improve skin barrier repair which what causes dry skin to crack and turn red. This is best used at night to give it plenty of time to absorb and get to work! It can be used morning and night, as desired, on certain skin types. Personally, I use it morning and night in the winter, but only at night the rest of the year.
Body Glow Dry Oil Spray
We usually tout this product during the spring and summer months, as it is lightweight and absorbs quickly while providing deep moisture. However, if you suffer from very dry skin, it can be great to apply before a lotion in the drier months. Since your skin will drink it in so quickly, you can apply a lotion immediately over top for more healing benefits. The jojoba oil and squalane in this oil spray provide additional occlusive properties to help lock in moisture all day long.
Cuticle & Nail Balm
Having my hands in and out of water all day every day, I swear by this cuticle and nail balm. Come winter, though, I simply cannot live without it. It contains mango butter and beeswax, two important occlusives, but just as beneficial is the carrot root extract that is amazing for dry, chapped skin. This can be used as often as needed but is recommended at least once a day.