How to Keep Your Skin Protected in the Winter

I'm not sure if y'all are feeling the same way, but I'm not trying to harbor any Quarantine Ash this winter.

With the colder months coming in quick around the Midwest, I have been stocking up on my all-natural skincare in order to make sure that I can still stay moisturized while social distancing.  because I have a skin condition(eczema), I know all about the dry-skin dilemma that people face with the changing of seasons.  I've already been unpleasantly surprised by dry skin patches on my arms, hands, and feet, which require some extra TLC after my showers. Whether you have skin conditions or not, though, I'm sure that we all can benefit from some of the winter hacks to keep our skin baby smooth and hydrated! Let's go ahead and get into the good stuff;  here are some tips (and recommendations)  to keep your skin healthy and crack-free during this winter season.

1) You Can't Take the Heat; Stay Out of It!

 I am guilty of taking an extra-long, hot shower in order to warm my whole body up in the mornings. However, studies show that no matter what time of the year, hot showers and baths can produce inflammation and disrupt your skin's natural moisture balance, causing irritation and dryness.  If you notice that when you step out from your shower or bath that your skin dries quickly, feels itchy after moisturizing, or sucks up moisturizer surprisingly quick, then it may be a sign that it's time to turn the temperature down. You don't have to scale it back to cool or cold water (although that is proven to be healthy fr your skin and inner systems),  but try to manage with a lukewarm shower so you can preserve your skin’s integrity.

2) L-O-C it Up

 Do you use the LOC  method for your hair?  Well, guess what: applied to your skin, too! The LOC method (as well as the LCO method for some) holds its popularity in the natural hair community because of its ability to hydrate, moisturize, and seal moisture into the hair strand, which can aid in helping your hair remain pliable.  Similarly, if you use the LOC  method on your skin you are able to seal in all of that good moisture that your skin gets from the water running in the shower. While I've never done the LCO  method on my skin, I've gotten into the habit of putting on a lightly scented body oil as soon as I exit the shower. This immediately seals in any water (the “L”) that my skin has absorbed. Afterward, I lightly moisturize with a lotion, cream, or body butter in order to give my skin some extra nourishment.

Now, let’s think about this, y’all; I don't want to see any complaints of how you used 100% castor oil and pure shea butter on your skin and now you slip in and out of your clothes. I'm hoping that you guys will be practical about the products that you use on your body, though I will say that shea butter goes crazy for keeping your feet soft. I recommend a lightweight oil for your “O”,such as apricot, sweet almond, or sunflower oil; you could even grab one of these for a combination of oils with different moisturizing properties. As far as your “C”, I like to switch it up; I stick to a body butter in the colder months when I need the extra TLC, but if you continue this in the summer, you can use a  lightweight bottle of lotion.

3) Hydrate or Dry-drate

This step may be the most simple, yet sometimes it can be overlooked. While staying hydrated is usually emphasized in the warmer months to prevent dehydration, stroke, and the like,  it is just as important to remain hydrated in the winter, if not more so.  our skin is dealing with the sun’s UV rays (WITH sunscreen on, of course), the cold wind trying to chap our skin with every gust, our immune system is bracing for the cold winter season, and our bodies continuing to regulate our temperatures as we layer up for the winter. In order to help these operations run smoothly, we need to continue drinking water and fluids. If, like some of us, you don’t usually like to drink water in the winter because it’s cold and the water will make you colder, try drinking more hot tea and broth, or eat your water through fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, if you want to drink more water but don’t know where to start, take your body weight and divide it by two; the resulting number is the minimum number of ounces that is recommended for your daily water intake. 

4) Get the Goods

Now when it comes to stocking up on your skincare goodies for the season, you might not know exactly what to look for. While getting the products labeled “Deep Hydration” or “Sensitive Skin”  may have helped you out for the time being, it's important to know what to look for (as well as what to stay away from) so that your skin can remain supple all year long!  Here's a quick skincare Survival Guide for some of the top ingredients to look for (and avoid) in your products. 

  • Hyaluronic Acid: HA is the current “it girl” of certain skincare and cosmetic products.  While it is a humectant (and we’ll get to the problematic nature of humectants later), HA is a powerful sugar that holds over one thousand times its weight in water. This powerhouse is able to bring and hold water onto your skin; be sure to look for hyaluronic acid (or sodium hyaluronate) in your moisturizers, serums, and body creams.
  • Occlusives: “Occlusive”  is a term used to describe agents or ingredients that prevent water loss. The most popular occlusive out there is petrolatum, but lanolin, mineral oil, and silicones also serve as effective occlusives. While it is not a good idea to use this as your only moisturizing step in your routine (since having no moisture in your skin before applying it would only harm your cause),  occlusives can be a lifesaver for being your last step in a skincare routine; for example, putting a thin layer of Vaseline on your face before stepping out in the cold winds save you from getting dry skin or cracked lips when commuting. If this is the product for you, try using the LCO  method after the shower, and swap out your oil for Vaseline or a cream with an occlusive as one of the main ingredients!
  • Antioxidants: Of course, antioxidants are all-stars in every part of your body, but the extra boost in your routine may have you giving off that “lit from within” look despite the winter blues. Antioxidants come in many forms, but think of them as vitamins- Vitamin A (retinol), Vitamin C, and Vitamin E- or as the intimidating names that people may be scared of using, like coQ10, polyphenols, niacinamide, and glutathione, to name a few.  These have a wide range of benefits, from absorbing UV light from the sun two speeding up cell regeneration. When viewing the botanical antioxidants, these are the more general names, like green tea extract, blueberry extract, or carrot extract; natural antioxidants like these are the "secret ingredient" in our products, making sure that we have you covered from head to toe. When you see a different face cream mentioning these antioxidants, though, make sure to grab a bottle! (NOTE: Make sure to research antioxidants before purchasing blindly; some of them, like retinol or vitamin C, can leave your skin sensitive/requiring extra care after use. Please shop consciously!)
  • Plant Butters: As if we weren’t going to talk about Miss Shea! Plant butters have a natural amount of certain antioxidants and vitamins inside. While it won't be as much as a bottled serum or concentrated extract, the natural thickness of plant Butters can provide you with the extra protection from the wind that a serum cannot supply you with.  While Shea butter is a popular (and great) example,  mango butter and avocado butter alternatives for those who want something a bit thinner in texture. There are tons of butters out there, from hemp seed butter to kokum butter.  with the huge variety of textures, smells, and overall benefits, I know that the DIY crowd we'll have a great time looking up what butter is best for them!

What to Avoid (or at least be wary of):

  • Fragrances (varies): While not everyone is particularly sensitive to fragrance, sometimes people don't actually know that it is the fragrance that's causing the skin issues. Does your favorite scented lotion leave you constantly reapplying to ashy skin even though you made sure to moisturize in the morning? Ding-ding-ding! One reason for that could absolutely be a fragrance sensitivity. Try switching your scents so that they're made from botanical extracts, or opt for a scented-free version of your skincare instead.
  • Humectants: I know earlier I referred to hyaluronic acid, which is a strong humectant (a product that draws moisture from the air). A problem that could come from using humectants poorly in the winter is that it could result in your skin becoming drier, since there isn't much humidity/moisture in the air during the winter. If you do decide to use humectants, please make sure to seal your skin with that layer of cream/oil/occlusive!
  • Cortisone Creams: For those with skin difficulties, cortisone creams can be a very good temporary solution to breakouts that are especially bad. However, cortisone creams are steroids, meaning that they can cause particularly nasty withdrawal effects on your skin if you apply them for longer than the intended use. Unless advised otherwise by a dermatologist or skincare expert, try to stick to these for the situations that need a cortisone cream, not for the entire length of the winter. 

 With all of this information, I hope that there was something you found to help you avoid winter dryness! Here's a link to our high-quality, handmade occlusive. As far as other suggestions, Googling any of the key ingredients listed above is guaranteed to show you some hidden gems. Be sure to tell us about what y'all find (and extra points if they're Black-owned!)

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(Y'all know that I also write my own stuff, right? Check it out!)