As winter approaches, many of us will notice changes on our skin. Central heating, cold temperatures and harsh winds can lead to dry, rough, tight or even cracked skin. Sometimes our skin can feel downright painful when dry skin becomes chronic or severe. Even people with combination or oily skin can occasionally experience dry skin during the winter months. Seasonal dry skin often affects the whole body. Not only do our faces and lips become drier, but also our elbows, feet, and thighs can become dry as well. All of these areas must be treated properly so that moisture levels can be restored. Safe and non-toxic natural skin care is your best bet for optimizing your beauty routine by keeping your skin smooth, soft and hydrated. The following tips can help soothe, nourish and even heal dry skin:
CLEANSERS Never use detergent cleansers. Most detergent cleansers, particularly foaming cleansers, are usually very alkaline, and therefore drying. Because they can disrupt the acid mantle of your skin, you may lose the ability to fight off bacteria and infection which can lead to breakouts. Use either a natural moisturizing gel based cleanser, or a milky cleanser for the face. When bathing or showering, use a mild all natural soap or body wash, preferably fragrance free. Avoid essential oils which can be irritating for some skin types. Some of these include peppermint, menthol and eucalyptus.
HAND SANITIZERS Try to avoid alcohol based, anti-bacterial hand sanitizers since they can be very drying. Additionally, most commercial brands contain triclosan, an ingredient used to kill bacteria. Research shows that triclosan may be linked with dioxins which are highly carcinogenic chemicals. Studies have shown that washing hands with mild soap and water, for at least twenty seconds, is just as effective at warding off germs and bacteria as products containing triclosan. When on the go, use naturally based hand sanitizers which do not contain alcohol or triclosan. Some use Thymus Oil as the active ingredient. Some companies claim this ingredient will kill 99.99% of all germs. Many come in convenient small plastic containers you can slip in your handbag or pocket. You can find these products in your local health food store.
FACIAL TONERS Avoid facial toners with alcohol. Toners with alcohol, such as SD Alcohol 40, can be very drying. Look for labels that say "alcohol-free." Look for high quality toners which also include moisturizing ingredients such as aloe vera and apple extract. Long gone are the days when a facial toner only provided additional cleansing after washing ---they should now include anti-aging ingredients such as protective antioxidants which can help you further accomplish your beauty goals (e.g. younger looking skin).
NATURAL OILS Opt for natural oils in your skincare. Avoid petro-chemicals such as mineral oil, petroleum, lanolin, and propylene glycol. Not only are these ingredients potentially toxic, but they can prevent your skin from breathing. Petroleum based products leave an occlusive barrier on your skin which may help it feel better temporarily. However, this barrier can hinder your body's ability to release toxins through the skin. And because petroleum based products form a film on the surface on the skin, they may clog pores in some people. This can lead to breakouts or blemishes.
Choose natural oils which are not only hydrating, but that easily penetrate. Some good choices include almond oil, avocado, macadamia, rosehip oil, evening primrose oil, extra virgin olive oil and shea butter (a nut butter which is extremely hydrating). Oily or combination skin may opt for jojoba oil, sesame seed oil, and apricot kernel oil as well as some of the above. Listen to your skin to determine what best suits your needs. Many natural oils can be found in high quality face or skin creams. Look for ones that easily absorb. Hydrating creams should not feel greasy. Most natural oils are reported to be non-comedogenic (low risk for breakouts). However, some natural oils may be comedogenic. If you are prone to break outs, you may want to avoid wheat germ oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and soybean oil. For oily or combination skin types, these may be better choices for the body, rather than the face. Always moisturize when your skin is slightly damp.
LIP BALMS FOR DRY LIPS Avoid commercial petroleum based lip balms for all of the reasons stated above. They may feel as if they are hydrating your lips, but many find they have to apply them frequently throughout the day. Some have reported that these products actually make their lips feel drier with excessive use. Most of these products contain heavy waxes, petroleum, mineral oil, and lanolin. Stay away from added ingredients intended to impart a cooling, refreshing feeling, such as peppermint or menthol. These may have the opposite effect by causing burning and irritation. Look for all natural lip balms that steer clear of these ingredients. Many contain nourishing oils which can help hydrate and soothe. They are available at any health food store. Also, try to avoid licking your lips as saliva can be drying.
Exfoliating with gentle, yet effective products can help slough off dead skin cells which can help keep skin smooth and moist. Gentle products used for manual exfoliation can be helpful. Use ingredients such as jojoba beads or finely ground bamboo grains. You could even make a paste using honey and sugar. This can be used to exfoliate your face as well as your lips. Avoid larger, uneven particles which may irritate skin. A chemical exfoliator, such as Alpha Hydroxy Acid (e.g. glycolic or lactic acid) can be helpful as well. Try to avoid products with excessively high percentages and very low ph levels, as they may be too drying and irritating for facial skin. A very gentle loofah sponge can also be effective for exfoliating the body and releasing toxins (avoid the face area) while in the shower or bath.
While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, the above can go a long way in helping your skin look noticeably softer, smoother and more hydrated.