Winter. The season of joy. Of Christmas and out-door concerts. Of family picnics and outdoor games with kids because it’s so bright and sunny. The season where you wrap up snugly in warm woolies and head out to brave the chill breeze that makes your nose go cold and red, just like the famous Rudolf, the red nose Reindeer.
But as outside temperatures plunge, so does the quality of your skin. As the dry winds bite into your skin, pulling out all the moisture, your skin becomes rough, dull and flaky. Sometimes, in more extreme cases, fine hairline cracks appear, making your skin look like a cracked porcelain vase. (Yes, the image is a bit disturbing!) This dry skin condition is commonly called ‘winter itch, but dermatologists refer to it as ‘Xerosis’ or ‘Asteatosis’. This is quite prevalent in extreme winter conditions and need to be taken care of.
Causes of Dry Skin in Winter
Imagine your skin as a multi-layered quilt. The top-most layer is called the ‘Stratum Corneum’, and comprises dead skin cells implanted in a mixture of natural oils called ‘lipids’. The lipids are actually constructed by the layers of living cells below the topmost layer, and their purpose is two-fold: one, to prevent the water inside our body from getting out and, two, to stop germs and other irritant substances from getting in.
Both the dead skin cells and the natural oils contain some amount of water, which keeps the skin smooth, soft and supple. In winter, the humidity in the environment drops, and the moisture trapped in the skin layer starts to escape. Moreover, even within the house, overly heated rooms and hot water baths also pull out the moisture, further dehydrating your skin.
The common solutions for soothing dry winter skin are many: use oil-based moisturizers and creams, do not use harsh soaps that upset the alkaline balance of the skin, bathe in tepid warm water as it is gentler on the skin, use a sunscreen outdoors (the winter sun can be just as harsh as in summer), install a humidifier at home in case the rooms are too warm because of central heating or spot heaters. But, the truth is that these are surface solutions.
Long-term Solutions for Dry Winter Skin
Remember, the skins outer layer and the lipids or natural oils contain some amount of moisture within them. Therefore, to keep your skin soft and supple in the long term, you need to also moisturize and nourish from within.
The best way to heal dry skin is from the inside out. Nourish not just your body but your skin with meals that will perk up your skin. Which is why, what you eat is as important as the moisturizers and creams that you use on your face and body. Moreover, there is enough research that points out that what you eat also impacts on the hormonal balance of the body, and eating right can delay skin aging.
[Also Read: 5 Ayurvedic Beauty Tips For Winters]
Top 6 Super Foods For Gorgeous Glowing Skin
Nature has gifted us many foods that can work wonders on our skin inside out. Some of them have high water content that build moisture from the inside, like celery, tomatoes, apples and oranges. Others contain natural oils that lubricate, like flax seeds, coconut and olive oil. Some fruits like grapefruit and oranges are loaded with vitamin C, that builds collagen, a protein with strong protective powers, that keeps skin strong and supple. Other vegetables like carrot and squash contain beta-carotene, a strong anti-oxidant, a necessary ingredient to protect skin from damage.
These super foods work hard to repair and restore the skins natural balance, and rebuild the soft suppleness of the upper skin layer. They can be consumed two ways: either you can make them a part of your daily winter diet, or you can create natural face and body masks, so that the skin can absorb the nutrients from the outside.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these super foods, and how they can be used.
An absolutely delicious vegetable, it has incredible powers of healing. In fact, ‘beta-carotene’ derives its name from this super-food! Carrots contain beta-carotene that converts to vitamin A, an antioxidant that protects skin from damage, and works to keep your skin glowing and healthy even in the harshest weather. It is also rich in vitamin A and potassium, that helps skin stay hydrated.
Cook up carrots in hearty winter stews, drink carrot juice daily, make carrot-based cakes and desserts. Or make a face mask with pureed carrots, honey, milk and olive oil. Apply and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before washing it off gently. Use this mask regularly for a new, revived, glowing you!
2. Olive Oil:
A great product any time of the year, but especially in the winter months. Rich in vitamins E and A, and a veritable storehouse of natural fatty acids, olive oil hydrates skin and maintains its elasticity. It also protects skin from damage caused by free radicals, and slows down signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles.
Use generous doses of virgin olive oil as a salad dressing, use it to saute vegetables and meats, even use it as your base for delicious dips. Or warm it gently, and rub it into your skin before a bath. Remember to use the purest extra-virgin oils.
This leafy vegetable is loaded with nutrients necessary for healthy skin. It has a high content of both vitamin A and vitamin C, both powerful antioxidants that protects and improve skin texture, and help repair skin cells. Moreover, its high iron content makes it an ideal veggie for combating pale, unhealthy skin.
An amazingly versatile vegetable, you can include spinach in winter salads, make a warming spinach soup, puree it for gravies or stir-fry it with meats and other veggies. You could also make a super-healthy spinach juice for protection from dry skin.
High in saturated fat, coconut oil keeps skin from drying out and getting wrinkly in winter. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties, making it ideal for protecting skin from damage. It is also rich in vitamin E and antioxidants.
Lather your skin generously with pure coconut oil before a bath. Dermatologists even suggest using it during the day as the base below makeup, or gently massaging it into your skin at night. Coconut oil is also extremely versatile for cooking – use it in smoothies, as the butter or oil substitute in cakes. Or, as they do in some cultures, slice the coconut and eat raw.
Certain fish like salmon or other fatty fish have a high content of Omega-3 fatty acids, which is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Equally important, Omega-3 fatty acids nourish skin from within, helping skin retain its moisture and plump texture.
Grilled fish, baked fish’n’chips, sautéed Asian stir-fries and gravies, the possibilities are practically endless! Remember, however, deep-fried fish may be tasty, but it takes away the nutritional value.
The vegetarian substitutes to fish are flaxseed and walnuts, both of which have a high Omega-3 fatty acid count.
Tomato is one of the many fruits that are a treasure trove for skin-boosting vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. To mention just a few, vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that protects skin damage, and vitamin C that builds collagen, a protein necessary to support the skin’s structure and keep it smooth. Other citrus fruits such as grapefruit and oranges are also abundant sources of vitamin C. Tomato, pink grapefruit and watermelon also contains Lycopene, a carotenoid that alleviates roughness and smoothens skin.
Soups, salads, juices, sauces, sandwiches, pizza toppings…the little red tomato has to be the most versatile fruit ever! And a freshly-squeezed citrus juice has to be one of the healthiest ways to start the day.
In addition to the few discussed above, there are many more that have equally powerful properties to care for winter skin. To name a few: avocado, pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, beets, sweet potatoes, kale, honey, aloe-vera, herbs like rosemary, green tea, oatmeal, soy, almonds and almond milk…in short, nature’s basket of offerings so that you and your skin stay healthy in the winter months!
Let Your Skin Party this Winter!
Winter is the season of joy and bonhomie with friends, of warmth and love at family gatherings. As you get ready for the festive madness, remember, it can be party-time for your skin too!
Treat your skin to soothing face masks, so that your skin sings. [Read: 2-Minute Guide to Finding the Best Face Mask for Your Skin Type]
And create delicious dishes with the long line-up of winter super-foods, make your skin happy.
An example of a super-food party menu – Start with a citrus salad, tossed together with walnut chunks and virgin olive oil. Follow with a grilled salmon with an avocado dressing. Finish off a great meal with a dark chocolate dessert or a home-made peanut-butter ice-cream? (Dark chocolate and peanut butter, too, are two amazing super-foods for boosting winter skin!)
We can already you see your skin smiling!