Our skin has a strong relationship with the external environment, which is why the winter takes a toll on our complexions. Between the harsh, dry weather and the overzealous indoor heating, we can easily become dehydrated and depleted, which can translate into imbalances in the skin.
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For vibrant, glowing winter skin, follow these four, easy, natural, health-inspired tips.
Sing an ode to natural oils
Dehydrated skin is extremely prevalent during this cold, dry season. The solution? Change your skincare like you do your wardrobe: bundle up. This means using nourishing natural oil on top of your regular moisturizer. This will seal in hydration and protect skin against the harsh climate. The best oils for this season are heavy and emollient such as avocado, sesame, and evening primrose.
But using oils is not only excellent for combating dryness, it is also good for clearing up wintertime breakouts. When our skin is dry, it also dries out our sebum causing clogged pores and bumps. Though it may be counterintuitive treating pimples with oil, applying a natural vegetable oil prevents pore buildup and loosens current impurities. Those with acne-prone skin should opt for oil that is light in texture and has anti-inflammatory properties such as coconut and jojoba.
While oil can be good for treating the complexion, we also need to remember to oil ourselves all over. Often we focus on our facial skin alone and neglect to treat our bodies. Remember, the skin is a singular organ and oiling the body will help the moisture-content in our complexion. This also helps treat dehydration from head-to-toe. For example, oiling the scalp banishes any sign of dry scalp and leaves the hair soft and conditioned. All-over oiling with quick, invigorating motions will also help warm your body during this cold time of year as well as increase blood circulation in your hands and feet.
Go with the blood flow: increase circulation
The cold weather constricts our blood vessels so many have restricted circulation during the winter season. Poor circulation results in a dull look to our skin because our blood nourishes it, bringing oxygen to our skin cells and transporting wastes away from them. Proper blood flow keeps our complexions healthy, detoxified and bright.
To stimulate circulation and combat pastiness, you should use skincare containing blood-invigorating ingredients. Natural additives such as ginseng, lemon oil, Vitamin C, and ginger are all excellent for encouraging circulation, and incorporating them into your beauty routine helps bring color back to your complexion. You will find these active ingredients in many anti-aging products as increased circulation also promotes collagen production. This collagen production along with the fact that our blood feeds and detoxifies our skin tissue makes circulation vital for healthy skin and damage repair.
Increasing blood flow can also help with alleviating water retention. While this can be seen in the form of a little extra body weight and body swelling, water retention also shows up in our complexion as puffiness. Better blood flow helps move stagnation and alleviate water retention. Lymphatic drainage massage is a wonderful way to encourage blood flow. To do this, simply place your fingertips on the surface of your complexion and press gently in rows down the face. Incorporating this during skin cleansing or moisturizer application saves time and makes therapeutic massage part of your daily routine. This helps to maintain good blood circulation, which nourishes and supports healthy, beautiful skin.
Hydrating from the inside out is extremely important. A holistic view of beauty aims to address our skin and bodies both inside and out, for real, long-lasting results. Re-hydration of the body can be done by drinking more water, eating a hydrating diet, and avoiding dehydrating substances (such as caffeine and alcohol). While most of us know the benefits of increasing out water intake, we often forget to eat hydrating meals. Water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables as well as water-rich dishes such as soups and stews are excellent additions to your diet along with taking essential fatty acids. Avoiding alcohol is also important to avoid moisture depletion. This can be difficult during the holiday season! But try your best and opt for hot apple cider laced with cinnamon instead of alcohol – your skin will thank you for it.
Another helpful practice beyond topical skincare is the use of a humidifier. By infusing more moisture into your office or home environment, you can mimic a humid climate. This will help your body re-balance and boost moisture.
Renew and rejuvenate
In winter our skin easily becomes dried out and damaged by the elements. This is why you should slough off dead skin cells regularly through exfoliation. Removing this buildup not only smoothens roughness and flakes, but also helps our skin to absorb moisturizers as this surface barrier has been removed. Along with this, peeling away surface skin cells help to promote cell turnover, oxygenate the skin, encouraging tissue repair.
While renewing through exfoliation can be done with a natural peel or with the help of a professional esthetician, you can also do this with ingredients from your very own kitchen. Many fruits and vegetables contain enzymes that gently digest dead skin cells and brighten the complexion. Try making an exfoliating mask with a recipe comprising of 1 teaspoon of crushed apple, 1 teaspoon of crushed banana and 1 teaspoon of plain organic yogurt. Apply this to clean skin for ten minutes before rinsing with cool water.
Exfoliating once per week with this poultice or another peel helps to smooth out texture and rejuvenates the skin. Saying this, if you have sensitive skin, you should always do a test patch before using an exfoliant on the entire face.
These four natural principles are simple, healthy ways to prepare your skin for the wintertime. So, treat yourself topically by exfoliating and oiling skin and internally by increasing circulation and internal hydration. This way you will maintain balance and beauty and be able to enjoy this wonderful season to the fullest!
Kristen Ma is the author of Beauty Pure and Simple: The Ayurvedic Approach to Beautiful Skin. She is co-owner of Pure + Simple Inc., a group of holistic spas in Toronto with its own line of natural skincare and mineral make-up. She is an Ayurvedic practitioner and aesthetician who writes and lectures on the subject of holistic beauty.