07 Jan
2015

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Saving Winter Skin pt 2! Saving Face!

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on January 7, 2015   comments 0

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.

winter skin products

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!

04 Dec
2014

8 Comments

Saving Your Skin in Winter

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on December 4, 2014   comments 8

As much as some of us might dislike it, winter is officially here. And the combination of the harsh winter weather with exposed skin during winter riding equals dry, scaly, winter skin.  After years of working in the health and body care section at the Wedge, I’ve tried almost every natural weather resistant cream out there on the market. So in order to save you time, money, and the sampling of thousands of testers, my next few posts will be my two cents on the best ways to soothe and protect your skin during the winter riding season.

Best all purpose winter cream: Walexene

Waxelene

This product promotes itself as the natural alternative to petroleum jelly and I have to say that it’s has become my favorite go to cream for almost everything since I found it. It has a very thick texture (almost like whipped butter), smells like honey (there are only four 100% natural ingredients: soybean oil, beeswax, rosemary oil, vitamin E oil), and absorbs completely into the skin within a few minutes (avoiding the greasy feeling some oil based creams leave behind).

I primarily use this for hands, feet, elbows, knees, lips, and cuticles. This cream is great for any area of the body that needs a heavier and more protective layer during the winter months. And while you could absolutely use this on your face, I tend to break out easily so I think the heavy quality of this cream wouldn’t work well for my skin. (Exception: this would be perfect for protecting the sensitive skin around the nostrils that tend to irritate easily when you’re sick and blowing your nose frequently, or get irritated when breathing heavily through a wet scarf.)

Waxelene texture

The website lists several other possible uses for this petroleum jelly alternative, including: removing make-up, hairline skin protection when dying hair, cradle cap and diaper rash treatment for babies, hair styling aid for unruly flyaway’s and split ends, and many more.

While their list is impressive as is, I'd like to add a few cycling specific uses:

They state that you can use this as a weather protector for leather work-boots or baseball gloves, so I figure why not also use it to condition and protect leather saddles? I don’t have a Brooks saddle (insert wishful thinking here), so I haven’t tried out this theory yet, but I have used Waxalene on my beloved Frye harness boots and it worked great.

They also state that you can use Waxalene to prevent wet-suit rash by applying it to your neck and other tight spots. They write that the product won’t deteriorate wetsuits like petroleum products do. While wetsuits are made of neoprene and chamois are usually made of synthetic foam, this still got me thinking that maybe I could use it as a chamois cream. However, I’m somewhat skeptical. Someone once told me to discontinue using coconut oil as chamois cream because the oil will speed up the deterioration of the chamois over time. But since I found the Waxalene, I’ve done a bit of research and haven’t found any sources stating to specifically avoid oil based products on chamois. I even found a few other natural oil based chamois creams including, Booty Balm, so I’m tempted to try the Waxalene the next time I need a chamois cream. If not directly on the chamois, I think this cream would at least be great to prevent any inner thigh chaffing that occurs when riding in everyday clothes.

If any of you have insight into the oil based vs petroleum based chamois cream discussion I’d love to hear your thoughts.

So that’s my two cents, my love letter if you will, to my favorite all purpose winter skin protectant: Waxelene. But you might be wondering: What about the sensitive skin on my face? That’s the only part of me that deals with weather exposure when I’m riding! I promise I have more thoughts on that topic too, but that will have to wait until a later date…

 

21 Nov
2014

3 Comments

Hi, I'm Amy K

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on November 21, 2014   comments 3

Hi, I'm Amy K

Hi, let me introduce myself.

My name is Amy, but most people call me Amy K (due to one of those eastern European last names that no one can pronounce). I’m a female identified cyclist who enjoys cooking meals from scratch, hanging out with puppies, assembling puzzles, taking photographs, and poking people with needles (yes, really, I’m a licensed acupuncturist).  My first bike memory is riding on the back of my mom’s 1970’s Raleigh 3 speed cruiser, and my most accomplished moment on a bike occurred at age 9 when I figured out how to ride no-handed in my large circular neighborhood streets (I was super stoked about it!).

I’ve been attending Grease Rag events since the first winter skill share at Sunrise Cyclery several years ago and am a regular attendee at Grease Rag-NE at Recovery Bikes. But alas, I have missed many awesome GR events over the last several years due to a rigorous graduate school schedule. Now that I’ve completed my degree and have the flexibility to devise my own schedule (one of the pros of owning your own business), I look forward to becoming a more active member of the Grease Rag community, including writing for the Grease Rag blog.

Amy K Riding Riot Grrravel

(That's me at my first ever gravel race, Riot Grrravel - photo courtesy and credit to Kate Lockhart)

I’ve always been told: “Write what you know.”

Well, I know natural forms of healing. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune digestive disease at the age of 21, I found myself drastically underweight, malnourished, and with barely enough energy to get through each day, let alone ride a bike. While I give full credit to western medicine for bringing me back from the dead (more accurately a diet of only potato bread and applesauce), I slowly realized that the drugs that were miraculous for me when I was at my sickest were slowly doing their own damage to my body. It was at that point that I decided I had to take my health into my own hands: I drastically changed my diet, lifestyle, and attitude regarding my health and am proud to say that I am now three full years prescription drug free and have never felt healthier!

So, what does this have to do with my voice on the Grease Rag blog??

I plan on using this platform to share lots of health information that is geared specifically for female identified cyclists.

1. I want to replace the all the “fake food” that many cyclists bring on long rides (shot-blocks, energy bars, etc) with healthy snacks made with actual food that are just as easy to eat on two wheels! I am constantly brainstorming how to make my own version of popular processed foods. Earlier this summer I made my own version of Gatorade to stay hydrated during the Riot Grrravel race. Check out my recipe here!

2. I plan on sharing several stretches and mobility exercises to help combat and prevent common aches and pains many female identified cyclists experience. And for those of you who are already dealing with pain, I’ll share some of the most effective ways to live pain-free.

3. After working in the health and body care section of the Wedge Co-op for five years, I have lots of strong opinions about the products we put in and on our bodies. Get ready for some recommendations on how to protect your skin, hair, and nether regions (!!) from all the wacky weather that Mother Nature throws at us Minnesotans.

Thanks for letting me introduce myself! If you’re interested in learning more about natural health or acupuncture, please visit my acupuncture blog.

 

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