Brace yourselves, winter is coming. Chilly temperatures can be damaging to your hair, skin and nails. The cold air outside coupled with an electric heating apparatus inside can remove moisture from strands and pores, making hair rough, skin itchy and dry and nails brittle. Don’t worry though, there should be every day household items in your kitchen cupboards that could help prevent this wear and tear.
Hair and skin are required for specific bodily functions. Hair on our heads keep the head warm and protect it. Skin is a living organ that’s responsible for keeping the body cool, protecting it against germs and “invaders,” and many other metabolic processes. It’s important to keep these tissues in good condition and working well all year long so they can do their jobs and keep us healthy and safe. Other than some more serious issues that can occur such as red, scaly or itchy skin that stays for longer (in this case you should consult a dermatologist), there are some things you can do to take care of your body when winter comes:
- A long, boiling-hot shower does feel good when it’s cold outside. However, try to limit this to once in a while and stick to warm or lukewarm water for 10 minutes or less. Hot water for a long time can remove moisture from hair and skin.
- Consume healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, olive oil, flax, sardines, and avocados. Omega-3 fatty acids keep your skin healthy.
- Load up on vitamin C-rich produce like citrus fruits such as grapefruit, lemons and oranges as well as dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach. Vitamin C can help boost the body’s production of collagen, a protein that maintains skin and other connective tissues.
- It’s a good idea to drink plenty of water during winter, but there is actually no scientific proof that guzzling water can rehydrate scaly skin.
For some specific preventative measure, read on.
To cure dry skin all over the body, mix a few drops of olive or grape seed oil in bathwater and get in, or apply a thin layer of oil to the body after. Another option is adding a few cups of whole milk to bathwater which can also moisturize skin. The proteins, fats, and vitamins in milk can help soothe rough skin. Immediately after an oil/milk bath, apply plenty of thick cream (or even Vaseline for seriously damaged skin). Putting on lotion immediately after this type of bath or shower can keep moisture in on your skin.
During winter, avoid any face products with alcohol, and switch to a milder face wash and a thicker moisturizer. Wash your face once a week with Greek yogurt. It contains lactic acid which works as an exfoliator. For a moisturizing face mask, bananas, avocado, egg yolk, and milk can all make great moisturizing face treatments. Another good option? Whole grains and aromatic veggies contain selenium, a compound that gives skin some elasticity. Munch on quinoa, brown rice, onions, or garlic when skin gets tight and dry.
To prevent hands from drying out, apply moisturizer after hand washing and at least several times throughout the day. If your hands are very dry, use cream instead of lotion because cream has more oil than water.
Rough and Cracked Feet
Do you get calluses on your feet with cracked heels? Scrub calluses with a pumice stone in the shower once per week to slough off rough, dead skin. Moisturize feet, especially the heels, every day with thick cream with lotions containing lactic acid are especially effective then wear cotton socks to bed. Wearing socks while sleeping can help creams absorb moisture and moisturizers are most effective when applied to warm, damp skin.
Itchy Dry Scalp
A dry, flaky scalp (or dandruff in other words) can be uncomfortable as well as embarrassing. To prevent dandruff, take a cooler, quicker shower to reduce the scalp’s exposure to drying hot water. Also, switch to a dandruff or dry scalp specific shampoo. Before taking a shower, massage the scalp with olive or coconut oil. These oils replenish natural scalp oils and can moisturize dry hair, too. Tea tree oil is also a popular treatment for fungal and bacterial infections like dandruff. Wash the hair and scalp with tea tree oil daily to cure a dry, itchy head naturally.
Shampooing strips moisture from the scalp and hair, so wash strands every other day.Also, don’t skip the conditioner, you can skip the shampoo and opt for a quick rinse and conditioning treatment which works just fine to keep hair clean and moisturized. To prevent breakage or other damage, avoid blow-drying and brushing hair when wet because those locks are most delicate when waterlogged.
A dried-out scalp produces fewer oils, which can make hair full of static. Don’t skip the conditioner, and make sure you simulate natural scalp oils by combing a bit of vitamin E oil through the hair before bed to replenish moisture. Brushes with natural bristles help redistribute oils from the scalp to the rest of the hair and also conduct less static than plastic brushes and combs. You can also run a bit of lotion through strands.
Keeping a tube of lip balm in an easily accessible pocket is a good first step. If lips are flaky, take a clean toothbrush and very gently exfoliate the skin to remove excess skin. Slather on beeswax or a lip balm with lanolin (it is a natural oily wax that is extracted from sheep’s wool) and keep reapplying throughout the day. Lanolin is a natural moisturizer that softens skin and reduces evaporation, keeping the skin hydrated. For seriously dry lips, apply honey or Vaseline to the lips for 15 minutes and then remove with a cotton swab dipped in hot water.
Dry air takes away the moisture right out of nails and leaves them delicate and susceptible to breaks and tears. To treat them, apply olive oil or lotion containing lanolin to nails before bed and sleep with gloves on to help aid absorption. Also consider adding biotin-rich foods (also called Vitamin B7) to the diet — this essential vitamin helps the body process amino acids and produce fatty acids. Vegetables, including carrots and protein sources including nuts and fish are good ways to pack in enough of the vitamin. Biotin is also very effective when taken in supplement form.
The key to keeping elbows soft is to exfoliate once or twice per week and moisturize every day. Combine a scoop of sugar, a few drops of olive oil and some lemon juice to make a quick scrub. Another quick way is to cut a lemon in half, add a few pinches of sugar or salt on it, and rub the surface over rough skin. After exfoliating, rinse the skin and moisturize with a thick cream. If the dryness situation is really dire, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the area before bed. When elbows are really itchy, soak them in milk or apply cold compresses.