Hello Everyone . . . fall has arrived quite early here in mid-coast Maine - extremely early, in fact! Many of the maples are already shocking red and orange - 3 weeks ahead of time. This does not bode well for winter weather lurking around the corner. Mother Nature may behave badly again this year with below zero temps, lots of ice, and arid wind chills that reach depths of minus 38F. BRRR! I certainly hope not . . . had way too much of that last year! Since we're on the subject of winter weather with its accompanying dry indoor heat and moisture-sapping outdoor environment, let's address how to take care of skin that often becomes sensitive at this time of year. Whether you have skin that is sensitive all-year-round, or is just seasonally sensitive, there are tips that you need to follow to keep it comfortable and moist.
Sensitive Skin - What Is It Exactly?
Environmentally reactive is how I like to refer to skin that is sensitive. It tends to overreact to outside forces such as commonly used skin and hair care products; over-use of something as simple as water; sunlight; fabric conditioners; detergents; and changes in temperature and humidity. Excessive stress and/or a poor diet can also contribute to sensitivity. This skin type easily blushes, sunburns, develops rashes, and becomes irritated. Especially when more mature, it typically displays couperose conditions - that is, it's characterized by dilated or expanded capillaries. A diffused redness, or erythema, is generally concentrated on the nose and cheeks. If not treated with an extremely gentle hand, sensitive skin will simply appear "unhappy" or "unsettled". This skin type loves warm air and humidity . . . which often doesn't occur in winter - unless you live along the southern coast or in the tropics.
Crisp, dry winter air can further upset already irritated, sensitive skin, leaving it drier and more prone to disturbances. Summer's heat, humidity, and increased exposure to sunlight can also wreak havoc, leading to itchy, blotchy skin, possible blemishes, and general ruddiness.
Sensitive Skin - How To Make It More Comfortable
When choosing any treatment product or ingredient for sensitive skin, gentle, calming, soothing, hydrating, non-abrasive, alcohol and fragrance-free are key words on which to focus.
You must avoid soap on your face and body at all costs (unless skin is oily - then only use a mild, unscented goat's milk soap or pure olive oil soap such as Kiss My Face brand or my absolute favorite olive oil soap, handmade in Greece by Olea Estates, www.oleaestates.com.) Using soap on normal, dry, and mature skin is much too drying, instead use a moisturizing lotion or creamy cleaner, such as Soothing Starflower Cleasing Milk by NYR Organic www.us.nyrorganic.com/shop/herbs (I recommend the entire Starflower line, actually!), or an extremely finely ground oat or sunflower seed or almond meal cleanser that you mix with water or yogurt. Never scrub your skin with a regular wash cloth or loofa pad . . . instead, I recommend purchasing a skin shammy or skin chamois cloth. You can find these online. They're just a thin, rubberized "wash cloth" that is ever-so-gentle on the skin - never abrasive - even slightly. Hospitals often use them to cleanse the skin of burn victims.
For toning and hydrating, use a classic herbal hydrosol such as lavender, rose, chamomile, or lemon balm to soothe and rehydrate skin. A quick spritz will alleviate thirsty skin any time of the day. Organic hydrosols are available from www.mountainroseherbs.com. NYR Organic's White Tea Facial Mist or Rose Water work wonderfully well, as does the Soothing Starflower Daily Essence which is loaded with intensely soothing and hydrating, ultra-moisturizing hyaluronic acid - which can hold up to 1,000x its weight in water!!!
Your moisturizer should be creamy, lightweight, and easily absorbed. Soothing Starflower Daily Moisture by NYR Organic is a good choice, but a simple application of pure jojoba oil is also a go-to ingredient to seal in moisture.
Never forget to moisturize your body, as well. A rich cream or lotion or your favorite organic body oil, applied while skin is still damp, provides a protective barrier against dehydration and keeps moisture in the skin - where it belongs. In winter, underneath my moisturizer and on top of my Soothing Starflower Daily Essence, I use a layer of NYR Organic's Rehydrating Rose Facial Oil. The natural rose essence is sooooooo lovely. When you've lived through a number of arid, cold, moisture-sapping New England winters as I have, you quickly learn to layer moisturizers, much as you layer clothing - the more layers, the more protection from the biting cold! Makes sense, doesn't it?
Special Intensive Treatments For Sensitive Skin
If you like to bathe in the tub, you can cleanse your body with a small, drawstring bath bag filled with ground oatmeal. Once wet, the oat flour covers your skin with moisturizing and soothing oat milk. Alternatively, you can purchase "colloidal oatmeal" in a box from the local drug store. It is very finely ground so that it practically dissolves in bath water.
A mucilaginous fennel seed, marshmallow root, or comfrey root facial steam once a week helps to hydrate the skin and cleanse the pores. Use a moisturizing mask once or twice a week as needed. For gentle facial exfoliation, try a weekly yogurt or fruit acid mask made from apple or raspberry pulp. At least once or twice per week, using a light touch, exfoliate your entire body (sans face) with a fine sugar scrub, or oat, nut, or seed scrub to remove buildup of dead skin cells. This is necessary to promote the absorption of your moisturizer, otherwise, all of the product's moisture/active ingredients remains on the surface of the skin and you'll wonder why it's not doing its job. The nightly use of an emollient eye cream or thin application of your favorite base oil such as jojoba or apricot kernel or hazelnut or rosehip seed, moisturizes the delicate tissue in this area, which is prone to premature wrinkling.
Drink Up!! I can't emphasize this enough . . . you must hydrate your body from the inside, too! If you're thirsty, then your skin will be wrinkle-prone and age before its time - guaranteed. Plus, it will be ultra-sensitive. Your best bets are lubricating herb teas that include such ingredients as fennel seed, marshmallow, oat seed, rosehips, raspberry leaves, nettle, and/or licorice. Plain water with a squeeze of lemon, lime, or cranberry juice is wonderful, as well.
I hope you find these tips useful for the upcoming winter season. May your skin remain calm, cool, hydrated, clear, and collected allowing your inner radiance to shine through! Until next time . . . be happy, healthy, and whole my friends!
NOTE: Blog is by Stephanie Tourles, Lic. Esthetician, author of the best-selling Organic Body Care Recipes (Storey Publishing, 2007). The information is true and complete to the best of her knowledge. All recommendation are made without guarantee on the part of Ms. Tourles. She disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information. It is for educational purposes only.