Hello again! I hope that everyone is ready to delve further into the winter skin care discussion with part two of my Saving Winter Skin blog posts. If you missed part one you can read it here. Today’s post is about saving your face from the harsh elements - which we all desperately need this week! I’m going to talk about the science of skin sebum, mention a few of my favorite products, and leave you with some dietary suggestions to help improve your skin.
Why our skin dries out in winter:
Winter is rough. There’s very little moisture in the air, our indoor heating systems continuously blow more hot, dry air through our homes and offices, and us cyclists expose our faces to whipping winds on a daily basis. All this dryness sucks the moisture right out of our skin, leaving us with dry, flaky, and even chapped skin. These weather conditions will especially exacerbate certain skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.
You would think that simply hydrating our skin more would combat all that dryness. While that is entirely true, the key here is that we need to hydrate our skin with water AND oil. Oil? Yes, oil.
You might have heard in commercials or magazines that people tend to either have dry, oily, or combination skin. Well, oily isn’t the most accurate term for it. Technically our skin doesn’t produce oil - it produces sebum. Sebum is primarily composed of tryglycerides (~41%), wax esters (~26%), squalene (~12%), and free fatty acids (~16%)[i]. So the key to winter facial skin care is to replace the lost water AND sebum content.
Above are some of my favorite products that keep my skin healthy in winter.
How to keep your skin hydrated:
Ditch the Soap: Soap is notorius for dying out the delicate skin on the face. There's no reason your face should feel tight or raw after washing. A better method is to try oil cleansing. The oil cleansing method is based upon the theory that “like dissolves like”. Therefore instead of using harsh soap based face washes (or even gentle cleansers such as Cetaphil that are filled with propylene glycol and parabens), you use a mix of cleansing oils such as caster, jojoba, almond, or coconut to break down the dirt, make-up, and extra oil deposits in the skin, and then use a hot washcloth to steam the pores open and wipe away the excess oil. This method doesn’t destroy your natural sebum production like traditional face washes, and therefore leaves your skin more naturally hydrated. More detailed instructions on the oil cleansing method and how to mix up the best oil cleanser for your skin type can be found here.
My personal mix is 2 parts Heritage products band castor oil, 1 part Heather Loraine brand almond oil, 1 part Heather Lorraine jojoba oil, plus 10 drops each of Veriditas Botanicals brand tea tree and lavender essential oils. I mix them together and refill an empty jojoba oil pump top bottle. Then I put it in a cute owl planter that I never planted anything in it ;) I started using this method a 1.5 years ago and my skin has never been softer or smoother.
Water + Oil = Love: Another thing I did after switching to the oil cleansing method, was start moisturizing with a combination of hydrosol and oil. Since our skin is made up of oil and water together, the best way to replenish lost moisture is with oil and water together. Seems almost too simple, right? You might be wondering what a hydrosol is. They are the water byproducts from essential oil production[ii]. They have many of the same benefits of essential oils, but in a milder, water based concentration. Many of the best natural estheticians recommend spritzing your face with hydrosol before applying your favorite skin care oil to damp skin. The combination of water and oil help protect the sebaceous layer of tissue better than oil-free moisturizers or plain oil alone. Lots of people have recently been turned on to jojoba oil because technically it’s not even oil - it’s a wax ester - which makes it more similar in chemical makeup to our skin’s sebum than traditional carrier oils like almond or coconut oil. This filtered organic jojoba oil might be a good one to try if you tend to have “oily” skin and are afraid to try using an oil for a moisturizer. It is lighter and absorbs more quickly.
My favorite products are the Veriditas Botanicals brand lavendar hydrosol mixed with Aura Cacia brand rosehip seed oil. The lavender helps calm my sensitive skin and the rosehip seed oil contains a high amount of free fatty acids (those things that help make up sebum!) and is good for dry skin.
Moisturize from the inside out: If we’re dehydrated on the inside, it’s going to show on the outside. This means drinking enough water (especially if you’re riding long distances daily), eating foods high in water content (fruits and veggies), and eating enough dietary fat. Essential fatty acids and cholesterol are of vital importance to the integrity of the skin barrier[iii]. Some foods that are helpful for moisturizing and protecting your skin: salmon, mackerel, walnuts, free-range eggs, butter from grass-fed cows, and flax and safflower oil. Taking an omega-3 supplement such as fish oil can also be helpful.
My favorite supplements are the Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil for fish oils, and wheat germ oil for a vegetarian alternative.
Protection: One of the best ways to save your face is to protect it. I'm a big fan of merino wool neck tubes worn up and over my nose during the briskest of days. They're breathable, lightweight, and incredibly warm. I hate having my neck exposed when I'm riding (my Chinese medical fear of wind exposure causing frequent colds and flus) so my merino tubes is my best friend. I also make a point to keep extra rosehip seed oil or Waxalene at work so that if my face feels chapped after riding, I can apply some as soon as I'm inside.
I hope that some of these tips are helpful for you. If you have any questions about the body care products or supplements i mentioned above, please feel free to comment here. Thanks and happy riding everyone!