It’s already October and fall is underway. While you might be thinking about the leaves turning color and beautiful weather, it’s time to start thinking about how you can prepare your skin for winter.
Your skin would like you to live in a tropical rainforest. It wants to be shielded from the sun's damaging UV rays. It wants to be in a moist environment, not exposed to the drying heat from your furnace or the cold, dry winter winds. It would like you to reach up and pick a piece of tropical fruit and smear it all over your arms, legs, and face. But you don't need to live in a rainforest to have young, supple skin. Here’s what you can do to winterize your skin now.
Our skin changes and needs increased care as we age. That's when some of the fat in our face decreases and our face begins to sag and get more wrinkles. Collagen shrinks and our skin gets thinner. It loses some of its elasticity and has less oil. The combination of dry skin, heated rooms and cold outdoor weather makes it even more important to increase skin care now. Of all the seasons, your skin dislikes winter the most.
You can keep your skin from aging and repair some of the damage by winterizing your skin. This doesn’t mean slathering on moisturizers because your skin doesn't like too much moisturizer. But here are some better ways to protect your skin as winter approaches.
Step #1: Clean Without Soap
I don’t really like the feeling of soap on my face. Soap is drying and can inflame sensitive skin, and my skin is both dry and sensitive. Anything that dries your skin ages it. Using the right kind of cleanser is the first step in winterizing your skin.
Choosing a facial cleanser can be confusing, especially since the most popular brands touted by dermatologists, Cetaphil and Eucerin, contain sodium lauryl sulfate, a substance that can also dry and inflame sensitive skin. Cold cream-type cleansers can clog your pores and leave a film on your skin. This prevents moisturizers from penetrating.
Use a water-soluble liquid cleanser without sodium lauryl sulfate. It will clean your skin and remove makeup without being greasy or irritating. Buy a cleanser in a pump bottle. This prevents bacterial contamination from dirty hands and bathroom air found on soap. After cleansing, exfoliate and then moisturize your skin.
Step #2: Exfoliate
Exfoliating removes dead cells from your skin and leaves it ready for moisturizing, and exfoliants can be either gentle or harsh. Alcohol-based exfoliants burn off dead cells and are irritating. Fruit acids, such as alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), are fine if your skin is oily, but can be harsh for dry, sensitive skin.
You may want to use a facial scrub only once a week, and wash your face daily with a washcloth and warm water. The washcloth will gently exfoliate your face. Or make an inexpensive exfoliant by mixing a little baking soda into your liquid cleanser and rub it into your face with clean fingertips.
Avoid products with apricot kernels and walnut shells if they feel scratchy. They may be too coarse and irritating. Some gentler ingredients, such as jojoba meal or oats, can safely remove dead surface skin without causing any damage.
Step #3: Use the Right Moisturizer
Your skin would like you to rub avocado, papaya, and other tropical fruits all over it because they're high in antioxidants and essential fatty acids. The best moisturizers are packed with antioxidants. When you apply them to your skin, they reduce future damage and repair some existing damage as well.
Studies show that vitamins A, E, and C, and omega-3 fatty acids help the skin when used topically. You can find skin care products that contain one or more of these nutrients. Some products also include herbs that are beneficial to the skin.
If you think you can't afford a good moisturizer, I have good news for you. You can. Pick up a ripe avocado, mash it into a paste and gently massage some of it on your face. Allow its oils to penetrate your skin, then remove whatever remains with warm water and blot carefully. If your skin is too oily, rub a little fresh cucumber on it, instead.
Only moisturize dry skin or skin that shows signs of being dry in the winter. Oily skin doesn't need more oils!
Step #4: Nourish Your Skin From the Inside Out
Internally and externally, skin degeneration is caused by a lack of good oils and trace minerals. But you need to take them orally as well as use them topically. And you need to not only take them, but digest them. Often, I suggest that older women take enzymes along with fish oils for best absorption.
It's not enough to apply nutrients topically. You need to include them in your diet every day. Vitamin A and its carotenoids improve wrinkles and rough skin. They're found in yellow, orange, and green vegetables, egg yolks, and fish oils. Vitamin C, in vegetables and citrus, helps stabilize collagen. And vitamin E, in oils, nuts, and seeds, moisturizes and softens the skin.
Don't forget to take good quality vitamins. For an "all-in-one" product, consider Healthy Resolve, containing a balance of easily absorbed vitamins, minerals, and essential fats.
For more information on specific brands and the needs for various skin types, pick up a copy of The Beauty Bible, 2nd Edition, by Paula Begoun, available online.
"Adding vitamins to the mix: skin care products that can benefit the skin," American Academy of Dermatology, March 2000.
Begoun, Paula. The Beauty Bible, 2nd Edition, Beginning Press, 2002.
Sies, H. and W. Stahl. "Nutritional protection against skin damage from sunlight," Annu Rev Nutr, 2004.
Tavakkol, A., et al. "Delivery of vitamin E to the skin by a novel liquid skin cleanser: comparison of topical versus oral supplementation," J Cosmet Sci, March-April 2004.