While summer is the season most associated with skin damage, a bright winter day, accompanied by bitter winds can be just as harmful. Even though the temperature may be freezing, the winter sun’s rays (though more discreet than summer’s scorching sun) can still wreak havoc on the skin.

Despite the dangers winter presents to our skin, the body’s largest organ, it is not the season to hibernate. In fact, winter is a great time to indulge in many outdoor activities like skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, or just taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Whether you are a winter sports nut or just enjoy going outside to build a snowman, you’ll need to defend your skin against the elements of nature – snow, wind, rain, sun, and environmental toxins. Use heavier, but not oilier, creams and moisturizers in the winter to protect your skin from the harsh elements and changing conditions between the indoors and outdoors.

Remember that your skin reveals your age at first glance, and abused skin can make you look older than your years. Unfortunately, most skin damage – an estimated 85 percent – actually takes place before the age of 20; however, the damage does not usually manifest until age 40 or beyond. While you can’t undo the damage that’s already been done, you can minimize some signs of aging and prevent further damage by taking better care of your skin all year long.

Here are a few winter skin-care tips for you to try:

Body Brushing. Body brushing is one treatment that should be part of every skin-care program. All you need is a special bath brush (which can be purchased at your natural products store) and 10 to 15 minutes each morning to give yourself an energizing and stimulating treatment to prepare for the day.

When brushing, use short brush strokes and brush skin toward the heart. Brush in a clockwise direction, starting on your right side. As the blood moves to the surface of the skin, your skin will begin to turn a pinkish color. Brush each area of the body seven to 10 times.

Follow this order of techniques, repeating steps as needed:

Start on the bottom of your left foot and work your way up the entire left side of your body. Then work the right side, starting at the right foot. Use circular movements on buttocks. Brush palms and arms, lightly brushing shoulders and chest toward the heart area.

Here are some precautions to follow:

* Only use this procedure in the morning since it is very stimulating.

* Do not brush over open or damaged skin.

* Do not brush directly over varicose veins.

Sunscreens. Yes, in the wintertime tool In fact, in some regions, the sun can actually be more damaging in the winter than it is in the summer. So apply sunscreen on your face and any other exposed parts of your body before heading outside.

Remember that water, concrete, and snow/ice reflect and intensify the sun’s harmful rays. So use a broad-spectrum sunscreen in your daily skincare routine, under makeup or alone, and on all skin that is exposed. You may still receive ultraviolet rays in the shade, under umbrellas or through windows, especially in your car, so be cautious.

Apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater for maximum protection. Use it liberally, apply it at least on-half hour before going outdoors, and reapply every two hours.

Select an all-natural sunscreeen that is PABA- and fragrancefree to avoid possible skin irritation.

And don’t forget to protect your eyes with sunglasses. Studies have proven that if your eyes are exposed to the harmful rays of the sun for long periods of time, your risk of developing cataracts may increase.

At-Home Skin-Care Program. Successful skin care begins with an individual cleansing, toning, and moisturizing plan designed for your particular skin type – normal, oily, or dry. See a professional cosmetologist if you need help establishing a regular skin-care routine.

Cleanse face, neck, and shoulders in the morning and evening. Use a protective day cream and a nourishing, moisturizing cream at night. For maximum all-over moisturizing, apply creams to your face and body immediately after cleansing and bathing. Leave skin a little damp so that you can lock in some moisture when you apply creams and lotions.

A good skincare program should also include lip-care products. Lips get thinner with age and need conditioning, moisturizing, and sun protection. Some products now available at your local health food store offer all three of these benefits.

Diet Tips. Here we can apply the old adage of “you are what you eat.” Your skin is a mirror to what is going on inside your body. A proper diet can assist in the skin’s defenses against the harmful elements of nature. Yo-yo dieting may be one of the most detrimental influences on otherwise healthy skin.

A healthful diet should include plenty of great, fresh winter vegetables that are high in antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene. Spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, oranges, and tomatoes are proven to be some of the foods important to the body’s cell-protection system.

For more dietary assistance to supplement your skin-care program, you may want to include supplements of beta-carotene, 10,000-20,000 IUs daily along with your multivitamin supplement; the mineral, zinc, 50 mg; and the amino acid, L-lysine, 500 mg daily. Also, consider increasing your intake of unsaturated fatty acids in the form of wheat germ or wheat germ oil, sunflower and safflower oils are also high in unsaturated fatty acids.

Drink plenty of water, at least 96 ounces per day (12, eight-ounce glasses) up to 144 ounces per day (12 twelve-ounce glasses), to keep your skin and your system clean from the inside out. Water helps flush out the impurities in your system and gives your skin a healthy glow.

Spa Pampering. Spas provide a break from busy lifestyles and a fresh start for self-care. Spa programs and treatments are designed to educate participants and provide a routine for effective long-term self-care and well-being, not just quick results. And nothing can provide more relief for winter cabin fever than a spa.

Here are some popular spa treatments:

Aromatherapy: This involves the use of oils from the essences of plants and flowers to affect the nervous, circulatory, and lymph systems. Treatments may involve baths, massage, compresses, and inhalation.

Thalassotherapy: This involves the use of seaweed and seawater to mineralize the body, help circulation, and tone the skin. Seaweed body masks or seaweed herbal baths, which contain trace elements, vitamins, and minerals, are heated to stimulate blood circulation, eliminate toxins, and tone skin.

Exfoliating treatments: These usually include a 100-fall body scrub, body polish, dry skin body brushing, or a salt glow. All of these treatments remove dead skin and stimulate circulation.

Do-It-Yourself Spa Care. Of course, for those of us who don’t have the resources or the time to visit a spa, we can give ourselves a pampered feeling by creating our own home spa.

Body brushing, as discussed previously, can be done at home with an all-natural bristle body brush.

Many aromatherapy-based treatments for the face and body are available at your local health food store and can usually be administered yourself.

Salt from the Dead Sea, which can be obtained in products at your favorite natural foods store, can be used at home to give yourself a body polish. Before a bath, rub the dry salt all over your body; this will exfoliate dead skin cells and give you a glow. (Do not use this salt on open wounds or damaged skin.)

Facials and masques can also be administered at home. A facial or masque is the best way to revive over-dry winter skin and uncover that radiant skin you enjoyed all summer.

Look for all-natural masques that contain clay (such as Dead Sea mud) and all-natural oils like olive, apricot, and almond (to help moisturize). Also look for masques that peel off once they are dry; these serve to really accelerate the exfoliation process.

Steer clear of pore-clogging petroleum jellies, mineral oils, and baby oils. They are all made with petroleum by-products. Contrary to what many might think, cold-pressed vegetable oils used externally as moisturizers do not aggravate acne or clog pores; they are absorbed only slightly into the upper layer of the skin.

Be sure to start out with a clean face to avoid aggravating any conditions with dirt or makeup mixed with skin oils and perspiration. Cleanse after exercising as well.

Winter daily skin-care routine

Mornings:

  1. Splash face with warm water;
  2. Apply cold-pressed oil with upward and outward light massaging strokes;
  3. Cleanse with a light exfoliant (something containing oatmeal or ground almonds);
  4. Rinse thoroughly with warm water;
  5. Tone with an all-natural, alcohol-free toner;
  6. Apply your day-cream, lotion, or moisturizer.

Evenings:

  1. Remove all makeup with light cold-pressed oil and moistened cotton pads;
  2. Apply a little more oil and lightly massage face and neck using upward and outward strokes;
  3. Deep cleanse using a skin-peel masque (once a week)
  4. Tone, as you did in the morning, using 100-percent cotton pads;
  5. Apply night cream and light moisturizer under the eyes (only use a moisturizer especially formulated for under the eyes).

While wintertime poses a few challenges for maintaining healthy skin, it can also be a time to spend caring for your skin by developing a routine that you can follow all year.

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