Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Winterizing your Skincare Routine
Google Chromecast is a great streaming device (not an endorsement, I’m just saying) because it does cool things, like allow you to customize a homepage of what you see on the television when you aren’t watching a show. One of those features is a basic weather tracker, based on your location. I live in central Mississippi, and when I put on my glasses this morning, my screen read 11 degrees. Eleven. Stranger things have occurred, sure (ha! see what I did?), but to all my southern women, I’m sure you’ll agree this cold is treacherous body-numbing torture.
I don’t have the cure for climate change, but I can lend humble advice on how winterizing your skin routine will save you from flaking, peeling and chapping in this tundra. In addition to it just being flat-out cold, our facial skin is accustomed to a relatively warm temperate and humid climate. The air in warmer seasons protects and preserve the natural barrier of our skin’s moisture. But in winter, the air dries out. Now that the milder days of fall are but a cozy memory, let’s dive into some of my personal faves, tips and products that cleanse, exfoliate, encourage cell-turnover, hydrate, moisturize (yes, there’s a difference) and keep you looking your best, even on the chilliest days.
Rub it in, why don’tcha? Moisturizing seems like the obvious solution to skin-related dryness, but sometimes we forget this step. Well, I do in my feverish attempts to hop into pajamas as fast as possible. Moisturize all over. Also, keep in mind that what works well as a moisturizer in the summer may need to be swapped for a heavier cream moisturizer or lotion in the winter months.
Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins. Getting proper nutrition from foods and supplements play a big role in maintaining hydrated skin. Deficiencies in biotin, Vitamins A, B, and C can cause conditions like dermatitis, chronic dryness and acne. The best way to ensure all your supplemental needs are met is by taking a daily multi. To give your skin an added boost of hydration, you can always take an omega-3 supplement or a multivitamin with added Omega-3s. These fatty acids are a crucial part of your skin’s lipid makeup and help to enhance its protective function, which, when working properly, acts like a seal that keeps moisture in but irritants and bacteria out. Olly’s Perfected Women’s Multi is a solid choice, packed with B vitamins, biotin and other essential minerals that fill in the nutritional gaps (if you’re like most of us who don’t eat enough veggie servings a day).
H2O. Hydrating your outer shell is important, but so is hydrating all your soft, squishy inside parts. We tend to drink less water in the winter because we don’t sweat as much, thusly, feeling less thirsty. Make sure you’re getting at least 8 glasses a day. More, if you can.
Hot showers are delicious, but … Hot water can cause our skin to lose a lot of moisture and natural oils. As tempting as it may be, try not to steam yourself like a green bean. Keeping shower temperatures warm and time spent in the tub short can help keep your skin supple too.
Sunscreen. Yes, you, sis. Have you ever heard the saying, “The sun will still rise?” It’s true. Obviously, the sun’s rays feel less intense in the winter, but UVA rays are as strong in winter as they are in the summer. Using a light-weight broad-spectrum sunscreen or SPF-containing moisturizer is vital year round. Although Black people and other persons of color do have a lesser risk of developing skin cancer, those who do, experience a significantly higher chance of death. This isn’t intended to scare, but if you don’t currently use an SPF-moisturizer or sunscreen in your daily routine, now’s the time to start.
A little sweat ain’t never hurt nobody. As a once-fit 5x-a-week-gym-goer who is just working herself back into a fitness routine, I know that winter can easily become a dormant season for many of us. Warm comfort foods, fuzzy socks, and Netflix originals are all great reasons to stay inside. But we do need to find ways to stay active, even if the walk from your home to the car seems like a death trek. Exercise increases your heart rate, which then circulates oxygen to your skin’s cells, encouraging skin cell turnover (new skin cell growth). If the gym isn’t an option, try a free app like Sworkit; it provides free routines that let you sweat it out from the comfort of your living room. Additionally, studies show even just 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise also lowers the risk of many illnesses. Remember to hydrate before and after exercise.
Sheet. Masks. I can’t sing the praises of sheet masks enough. Maybe you’ve heard about them in the current K-Beauty craze that’s taking the world of skincare by storm (more on K-Beauty later). If you haven’t, this is your year to get in formation. Sheet masks are a great, easy way to tackle your skincare concerns, as they come in all kinds of concentrations. Dryness? Dark spots? Fine lines? Pore minimizing? Sheet masks do it all. In the winter months especially, a good nourishing face mask will work wonders. This one from K-Beauty giant, Tony Moly, is full of skin-soothing avocado extract. *whispers* You can usually find these at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx for much cheaper than the big box beauty retailers.
Scrub a dub. Exfoliating helps slough away dead skin cells. There are several benefits to using an exfoliant and I consider it an important part of any skincare routine. Keep in mind, however, skin can be more delicate during the winter season. Abrasive scrubs with ingredients like walnut shell pieces are a no-no. Yes, I’m talking about you, Apricot Scrub. Opt instead for a gentler mechanical (you activate it with your hands) or chemical (acid) exfoliant, depending on your skin type — the best-suited exfoliant for you may require a bit of research. Maybe try a best-of-both-worlds option like Neo-Gen Lemon Gauze Pads. Depending on your skin’s sensitivity and type, you should exfoliate no more than twice weekly.
Switch it up (maybe)! Your current facial cleanser may work for year-round use, and if so, you’re lucky. If your skin is anything like my combination dry/oily/weird situation, however, you’ll need to switch to something that won’t strip your face of moisture when it’s chilly. Summer might call for a foaming or gel cleaner when sweating is at its peak, whereas the use of a foaming cleanser in January could seriously exacerbate dry skin. Oil cleansers and cleansing balms are truly skincare diamonds, in that they are oil-based and act similarly to the oils naturally produced by our skin. Oil clings to oil and these cleansers are effective at cutting through sebum, makeup, and other impurities without the drying effect or tight feeling that comes with some cleansers, and are especially suitable for drier skin types. E-Nature’s Moringa Cleansing Balm is affordable, smells fantastic, and leaves my face feeling soft, smooth, and not stripped. Cream cleansers can also be a thicker and more hydrating alternative to gels and foams.
My most important tip of all is to love and cherish the skin you’re in. The epidermis is your body’s largest organ and its first line of protection, so invest time in keeping it safe and healthy. Experiment, research and see what works best for your beautiful face. And while you’re at it, stay tuned for a column on all things K-Beauty for Black girls. Happy exploring!