Winter brings with it drier, rougher skin, flakiness and itchiness and chapped sore lips. Combat winter skin woes with these tips from the ancient healing tradition of ayurveda:
Drink lots of water. Internal hydration keeps skin cells plump and healthy. Water also helps transport nutrients to skin cells, keeping them nourished. According to ayurvedic healers, water should be at room temperature or slightly warm to avoid hampering digestion. Water-rich vegetables like leafy greens and green-skinned squashes are great for internal hydration as well as skin nourishment. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks, which are dehydrating.
Cold weather can cause the body’s systems to stagnate. Eating warm cooked foods, drinking warm water or herb/spice teas and moderate daily exercise can help improve circulation, digestion and elimination, keeping skin healthy and clear.
Heated homes, workplaces and automobiles can wreak havoc on skin. Turn heat down to the lowest level that you are comfortable with. Supplement moisture balance in your environment with the use of room humidifiers. Moisture balance in the environment also helps prevent dry nasal passages and eyes.
The rough, dry nature of Vata dosha, winter’s dominant energy, can be pacified by including some healthy fats in your daily diet. Ayurvedic healers recommend ghee (clarified butter). Olive oil is another excellent choice. Blanched, soaked almonds offer lipid support as well as nourishment.
The thought of a long, hot bath on a cold winter day can be appealing, but over-exposure to hot water can dry skin out even more. Keep baths or showers short, limit them to one per day and use lukewarm, not hot, water. If you have Vata skin, add a few drops of bath oil to your bath.
Put away that bar of soap or shower gel, and switch to a milder, gentler cleanser for both face and body. Soap can irritate and exacerbate dry skin conditions. Ayurvedic healers recommend ground oatmeal or chickpea flour mixed with a little milk. If your skin is naturally dry, add some almond meal and a few drops of aloe vera or sesame oil. Don’t scrub excessively, and dab skin with a soft towel after the bath or shower–just enough to remove excess moisture.
A good moisturizer, suitable for your skin type, is a must in winter, to keep skin lubricated. For best results, apply the moisturizer to damp skin immediately after cleansing, to help lock in surface moisture. Pay attention to knees, elbows, hands and feet, which tend to be drier than the rest of the body. If your skin is naturally oily, a light application is best to avoid clogging pores. Dry Vata skin benefits from deep-layer lipid support several times a week. Ayurvedic healers recommend facial oils blended especially for Vata skin that nourish and protect while they lubricate.
Pay extra attention to hands and feet, where skin can crack and peel when dry. Always apply moisturizer after you wash your hands. Limit exposure to water by wearing gloves when you do chores such as washing dishes. A light application of massage oil right before you go to bed can keep skin on extremities lubricated and also help you fall asleep faster. If your skin is naturally dry, soak feet in warm water for 10 minutes, then apply shea butter to heels and soles and wear socks before you go to bed.
Do not forget adequate sun protection for exposed skin, even if the sun feels milder during the winter. If you’re out on the slopes, remember that snow reflects the sunlight, doubling the damaging effect of the sun’s rays. Wear a natural lip balm to protect your lips.
Weekly exfoliation is important to remove dead skin cells and prevent skin from looking dull. But make sure you use a very gentle exfoliating product, and don’t scrub too hard or too long. Follow exfoliation with a hydrating mask.
Note: This ayurvedic information is educational, and is not intended to replace standard medical care or advice. Consult your physician before making changes to your diet or lifestyle.
Shreelata Suresh is a yoga instructor from the Bay Area. She writes on yoga and ayurveda. For more information on ayurveda, please visit http://www.ayurbalance.com.