Feathery snowflakes, crystalline patterns made by skates upon ice, and white-smothered landscapes that shine in the moonlight — winter is a time of wonder. But it is also a warzone. Dry, cold air that chaps the nose, winds that wind one’s hair into snarls, and moisture-sapping heated air forced through every available vent are this season’s weapons of choice. Take heart: there are ways to fight against chapped lips, brittle locks, and cracked skin on your knuckles! All you need is a balm squad.
Treat your tresses
For me, September 1 marked the end of swim season. No more salt water, no more chlorine, and no more sunshine beating down on my hair for hours at a time. If you didn’t take time in fall to reverse some of the havoc summer fun wreaked upon your hair, you best get on that before dry winter months turn your locks as brittle as the icicles sure to hang from my eaves this year.
A weekly treatment with a deep conditioning hair mask will saturate your hair with moisture to help fortify damaged strands. I fell in love with Re-Moist Intensive Hair Treatment from WEN by Chaz Dean the first time I used it. Whatever product you choose will have its own instructions, but if you aren’t leaving a treatment in for at least three minutes you aren’t getting any benefit. On days when a telltale halo makes it obvious my hair is still a little thirsty, I rub a pea-sized drop of Pure Argan Oil Light on my palms, then run my hands through my hair.
Soothing words: Wheat Protein, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis), Avocado Oil
Protect your pucker
Start by removing the outer layer of skin. A few gentle circles with a damp toothbrush will get the job done, but doesn’t taste nearly as good as a sugar scrub — homemade or otherwise.
If you’re already suffering from chapped lips, follow up with a medicated petroleum-based ointment. There’s a reason the classics such as Carmex and Blistex are still favored treatments: camphor and menthol numb and cool any soreness, while petroleum seals in the lips’ natural moisture. Over time, however, the same ingredients that help heal will begin to cause dryness, so be sure to switch to an unmedicated balm without petroleum.
Fresh has an indulgent scrub that does double duty as an exfoliant and moisturizer as well as an extensive line of tinted lip treatments designed to repair and protect. My personal favorite is the sheer pink Rosé.
Soothing words: Lanolin, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Oil, Shea Butter
Even oily skin is susceptible to the drying effects of the cold; don’t compound the problem by using a cleanser designed to control — i.e. strip — oil. Once a week, remove the layer of dried skin cells that dull your natural glow.
A moistened, soft wash cloth will do the trick, but there are several facial scrubs and peels that offer you a chance for the spa experience at home. I received Angels on Bare Skin as a Christmas gift two years ago and have never found its equal for leaving my skin silky soft. For everyday washing, put aside gel washes in favor of gentle cream cleansers such as Boscia Soothing Cleansing Cream.
Once you wash but before you dry is the time to apply moisturizer. Pat your face with a soft towel until it feels dewy, but has no visible water droplets; putting moisturizer on damp skin keeps the water from evaporating before it has time to soak in. Follow up with a rich moisturizer. As with your cleanser, gels and lotions need to be traded for creams. Don’t be shy about using more than one product. Start your day with a beauty balm containing SPF, then switch to a super-rich nighttime formula to promote your skin’s natural cell turnover while you sleep.
Soothing words: Chamomile, Licorice Root Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol
From the Neck Down
Everyone has their problem areas: scaly elbows, chapped hands, rough feet. Luckily, every problem has a solution!
Use warm — not hot — water to bathe and a gentle soap. Once to twice a week, exfoliate. Have you noted a running theme here? Sugar scrubs are great, but I prefer a quick once-over with a stiff, dry brush just before showering. Apply your favorite body lotion to your entire body post shower (remember to towel off until just dewy but not dry). Then, spot treat with a thick, penetrating product. Cocoa butter is an industry favorite because it melts at our exact body temperature and can start moisturizing as soon as it is applied. I am all but addicted to Peppermint Cooling Foot Rescue Treatment. The cooling effect of the locally-sourced peppermint oil is so soothing!
The secret ingredient in achieving intense hydration is…wait for it…cloth! Once you’ve slathered your tootsies, hands, knees, etc. with salve, get them under cover — socks, gloves, long johns, whatever — for at least 10 minutes. The clothing will trap the moisture against your skin and your body’s heat will cause your pores to open, leading to effective absorption and super soft appendages.
Soothing Words: Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin (Glycerol), Vitamin E
Even though you might only feel the effects of winter’s attack in one or two areas — just your face or hands — it is best to be prepared with a full arsenal. Your kit should at least contain deep conditioner for your hair, wax-based lip balm, gentle cream cleanser, a body butter, and a pure oil that works on hair, lips, and skin.
Photo credits: Eddy Van 3000, David Carreiro, Orofacial, Heather Katsoulis