Winter is probably the worst time of year for anyone’s skin. But for those of us with naturally dry skin, as well as skin that’s passed its fifth decade or so, the challenge of making it through the winter can be even greater.
And we’re not just talking about your face. Your skin is your largest organ and does much more than help you look good. It protects and nourishes the rest of you.
That means the dry winter air can leave your entire body feeling like the parched Sahara desert.
So, where do you begin? And how do you know what’s safe to use on your skin?
For starters, don’t limit your skincare to working at it from the outside in. There are some great, healthy foods that can nourish your skin through those cold months.
But first, let’s look at why this is important. And it’s not just for beauty’s sake.
What can cause dry skin?
Many of us just have naturally dry skin. But it’s all too easy to add to the problem in several ways.
Too much soap and hot water. Some soaps are harsher than others. But too much of any soap will strip your skin of its natural protective oils. This leaves your skin feeling tight, dry and itchy.
Same for long, hot showers. You might think the humidity is good for dry skin, but that hot water is also stripping the natural proteins and fats that protect your skin.
Chemicals in your skin care products. Two of the most common offenders here are alcohol and salicylic acid.
Salicylic acid is used in acne treatments, so it is meant to reduce oil in the skin. For older, drier skin, this is an ingredient to be avoided.
Why is dry skin a health problem?
As adolescents, many of us were plagued with oily skin and blackheads. We may feel lucky that, as we age, our skin tends to get drier. Unfortunately, that comes with its own set of problems.
Dry skin itches, which is not only inconvenient and uncomfortable but can cause you to scratch until your skin is open and raw, leaving it a target for bacterial infection, including the dreaded antibiotic-resistant staph.
Dryness can also lead to the inflamed, scaly skin of dermatitis and eczema, which often lead to more serious health conditions.
Nutrition for dry skin
As with every other health condition you can think of, the right food will go a long way to keeping your skin from drying, cracking and developing serious problems this winter.
As we go into “hibernation mode” for the winter, we tend to eat more comfort foods and fewer of the fruits and vegetables that are readily available in spring and summer.
For your dry skin, that’s bad news.
Here are 3 foods you should eat more of this winter to give your skin the nourishment it needs to make it through the cold.
Pomegranate seeds. The seeds of the pomegranate, also called arils, are packed with polyphenols that protect against sun damage and improve blood flow. They also contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant known to protect against UV rays.
Sweet potatoes. One medium sweet potato gives you 438 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin A, which aids in skin repair.
And, like all orange vegetables, the sweet potato is high in carotenoids that strengthen your skin’s protective layer.
Walnuts. The alpha-linolenic acid in walnuts is known to strengthen and protect skin cell membranes by locking in moisture. Walnuts also help control metabolic syndrome and have an unusual combination of antioxidants that have been shown to slow tumor growth in mice.
Natural skin care treatments for cold weather
Many of nature’s healthiest foods can also be applied directly to the skin to repair dryness and cracks and to hold in moisture.
Coconut oil. Is there anything that coconut oil isn’t good for? Studies have shown that it improves bone health and helps manage cholesterol. It may even help with cognitive problems and prevent Alzheimer’s.
For your skin, coconut oil is the ultimate moisturizer. Rich in fatty acids, it will protect and moisturize even the driest skin. Rub it into dry feet and then put on cotton socks. Same with dry hands. Rub some in at bedtime, then put on a pair of cotton gloves. The difference will amaze you!
Papaya. Mash some ripe papaya with a banana and honey, and apply the paste to your face and other dry spots. Papaya is rich in Vitamins A, C, and E, and is well-known as an anti-aging food.
Buttermilk. The lactic acid in buttermilk is a gentle exfoliant. It’s important to exfoliate dead skin so that moisturizers can do their work, but most commercial exfoliants, even the “gentle” ones, contain harsh agents that don’t agree with all skin types.
One precaution: do not use buttermilk if you have an allergy to milk products or lactose.
Avocado. Many commercial face masks claim to include avocado. But the best way to get its benefits is to mash it with honey and use it on your face and other skin areas.
Avocado is rich in healthy fats, as well as carotenoids that protect the skin from damage and keep it hydrated.
- Cocos nucifera (L.) (Arecaceae): A phytochemical and pharmacological review — Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research
- A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis — Dermatitis