Help For Winter-Weary Skin

100% Natural African Shea Butter
Image by daveynin via Flickr

It happens every winter. With the cold temperatures, wind, and dry air, my hands start to look like my old leather gloves. And they don’t feel much better either.

I did some research to see why my hands became so afflicted during this season of joy and merry-making, and here are a few tips I found by Julyne Derreck with my own suggestions added in parenthesis.

In winter, low temperatures, low humidity and strong, harsh winds deplete skin of its natural lipid layer, which keeps the skin from drying out. The dry air from furnaces and other heating sources also suck the moisture out of skin. To keep skin soft and supple, your goal is not to add moisture to skin, but to keep moisture in.  Here are a few tips I found (with my own (realistic) commentary added to each)  to help with winter-weary skin.

Keep Water Lukewarm, Not Hot

Hot water robs skin of moisture causing dry skin, so it’s best to shower in lukewarm water.  (Maybe I’ll try that tip NEXT year.)The same rule applies to hand-washing: Wash hands in lukewarm, never hot, water.  (If I didn’t have to spend so much time washing milk buckets, stainless totes, and containers with hot bleach water, this might be a little easier.  Gloves are great…when I remember to wear them and they don’t have holes.)

Dry Skin Tip: Moisturize After Showers or Hand Washing

Moisturizer is the key to soft, supple skin. Apply product when skin is slightly damp. For best effect, pat skin dry instead of rubbing with your towel before application. (Patting dry sounds fine for the summer…but not in this old drafty house during the winter…The water would freeze on me if I didn’t get it off as fast as I can!)

Massage  coconut oil all over the body. Trust me, this will get rid of dry, itchy skin and the oil isn’t sticky like lotion tends to be. (This sounds great if I can then run naked for 2 hours while my skin absorbs the oil.  So far, I haven’t invested in any oil-application-wear-while-it-soaks-in-sweat-suits.  But I think that might be what I need…although the only area of my body that suffers from dryness in winter are my hands.  Well, hopefully these tips will be helpful for that too.)

Love lotion? Consider 100 percent shea butter. Gambian model Fatma Dabo swears by shea butter from West Africa. She even puts it on her hair! (Shea butter is great and I have about 5 pounds of it if anyone would like to try some.  We use it in all the soaps we make.  It’s fair-trade, unrefined, African shea butter.  I don’t think your husband will love on you much while you wear this.  Sorry.)Antibacterial soap in public places can be harsh on hands, so I keep hand salve in my purse (my hands-down favorite is Kiehls). To keep cuticles soft, massage in olive oil.  (This is true, I can vouch for it, unfortunately, I often need to use public soap to get  stinky horse feet off my hands,  (I’m a farrier), before I can eat.  Since I only make bar soap, I haven’t tried carrying any in my purse although I should.)

Dry Skin Tip: Exfoliate on a Weekly or Semi-Weekly Basis

Moisturizer is much more effective on properly exfoliated skin. Use a salt or sugar scrub in the shower and exfoliate your face with a mild scrub made for the face.   (I don’t make either of these, although do make several varieties of salt bars and dead sea salt bars.  People seem to especially love the spearmint dead sea salt bar in the winter. )
It’s best to scrub skin when it’s dry, according to Marcia Kilgore, the founder of Bliss Spa in New York, in InStyle Magazine. Apply scrub to dry skin before you turn on the water (mix with lotion if it’s not moist enough). Massage the scrub into skin for a few minutes for best results.  (Again, if your house feels anything like mine…you better hurry up doing this, or stand in front of the wood stove!)

Dry Skin Tip: Invest in a Humidifier

Ever notice how older people in desert climates look like leather? The moisture in the air is actually good for skin. If you live in a low-humidity climate or you are around furnaces in the winter, invest in a humidifier. (I’ve thought about that a lot.  We do have a big pan of water sitting on the wood heater at all times.  We’re hoping this helps.)
I once read that your skin needs more than 30 percent humidity to stay properly moisturized. A room heated by a furnace can have as little as 10 percent moisture. In the winter, consider sleeping with a humidifier in your bedroom. Keep doors closed so the moist air doesn’t escape the room.  (Oh heck, here she goes trying to freeze a person to death again.  I’m beginning to see why my hands are so dry in the winter.)

Dry Skin Tip: Hands and feet can suffer terribly from dry, itchy skin. Put on moisturizer and gloves BEFORE you head outdoors in the winter, and consider lathering up your feet in thick moisturizer and sleeping in cotton socks at night.
(That’s only if you don’t actually have to DO anything while outside.  I’ve found that lotion and hand cream  makes hay seeds stick to my hands like ticks, and no matter how I try, I can’t get a grip on a frozen water hose when my hands are covered in slather. Gloves work great…until you actually need to use your hands to do things….)

Extra tip: Cover feet in a thick moisturizer, wrap feet in Saran Wrap, then pull on a pair of socks for a couple hours. Try to sit or lie down while the moisturizer soaks in or risk sliding into a full split and pulling your groin muscles. The same treatment can be done on hands, except try plastic bags and keep hands in a pair of socks. A half-hour should do you.  (This sounds fairly do-able if done indoors and I don’t have to actually do anything for awhile.)

Dry Skin Tip: Stay Hydrated But Don’t Go Overboard

Many people believe if they drink more water, they’ll hydrate skin. But I’ve read time and time again that this is a myth and you simply cannot moisturize skin from the inside out.That said, a small study recently published by the University of Hamburg (and reported in Allure magazine), suggests people who drink relatively little water could see a significant benefit in skin hydration if they started drinking nine eight-ounce glasses of water per day. What does this mean? Probably that dehydration does affect skin, but a normally hydrated person isn’t going to see major benefits by drinking even more water.  (We feed horses with dry, rough looking coats a cup or two a day of corn or olive oil. It works beautifully and they are sleek and shiny in no time.  Wonder if that works for humans too?)

My advice: don’t expect bottled water to save you from dry skin and the winter itch.  (But maybe bottled vegetable oil will?)

I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of hints.  It was copied from another site and I added my own two cents worth.  I did learn the secret to soft, uncracked, winter hands though…always wear gloves, DO NOT expose hands to bleach water, and oh…always wear gloves…………goats milk soaps and lotions help too.



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3 thoughts on “Help For Winter-Weary Skin

Add yours

  1. I combine olive oil and lotion on my hands, then put on my gloves. By the time I need to remove my gloves (at my destination), my hands are soft and not oily. I’ll also do this just before going to bed. No need for gloves then, as it isn’t so oily that you can’t get into bed.

    I have shredded a small bar of goat soap into a zip bag, and carry that with me. I never use antibacterial soaps, if I can avoid them. Not only do they rob skin of necessary good bacteria, and dry it out, the odor drives me up a wall for the rest of the day until I can successfully wash it away.


  2. I LOVE those ideas. Especially about shredding up the goat soap. Yep, I can relate to how bad those public restroom soaps make your hands smell. Only a little bit better than horse feet. LOL I think I’ll do those shreds. Got lots of soap that I can use.


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