By the time you read this we'll be in the heart of winter. Had enough of dry skin, stiff joints, weight gain or depressed mood? Or are you enjoying the beauty of the season, thriving on the bounty of its gifts?
If you’ve learned the wisdom of living with the seasons, you’re probably doing pretty well or just need a few tweaks.
If you hate winter and spend your time wishing it was spring, it may be that you’re depleting your resources and need to look at how to get the most out of this season for your wellbeing.
Winter is a time of dormancy in nature. There is little or no growth; energies are slow. Its nature’s time to rest and rejuvenate. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that to live wisely with the seasons means to slow down, meditate, reflected and rest. This is to fulfill the goal of winter in TCM - to restore energies for the coming seasons and strengthen health.
Some people suffer more in winter because their health and skin change in ways that they would rather not. Common complaints include;
- Stiff joints - cold makes muscles tighten; circulation is deeper in core of body to help keep your core warm, which leaves your extremities out in the cold - literally!
- Depressed mood - shorter days and cold weather keeping you indoors mean less natural light. Without sunlight, less of the hormones like serotonin (mood booster) and melanin (sleep enhancer) are produced
- Skin dryness and sometimes rashes (flares of eczema or rosacea). Less sebum is produced, leaving skin’s barrier weakened. Movement of fluids like blood and lymph slow, which leaves skin feeling devitalized and dehydrated. Skin needs proper movement of fluids to detoxify and bring needed nutrition and moisture to skin.
- Cystic acne, colds and flu - Staying inside has us breathing stagnant air so toxin levels build, fluids don’t keep up with clearing functions, mood depresses further depressing immunity. In cases of cystic acne, hormones are altered with toxin increase, and we get less exercise to help detoxify the system and balance those hormones.
- Weight gain, low energy, stiff joints and mood - we move less if are joints are stiff, and don’t want to go out into the cold so we become more sedentary. Weight gain can make you feel tired and feel depressed, creating a vicious circle.
Pollution and Immunity
Cold air is trapped near the earth’s surface by a layer of warm air above it. This cold air moves at a slower rate, making pollution more concentrated. Pollution is also increased by our use of fireplaces; idling cars in traffic slowed by icy conditions. Immunity is diminished (white blood cells decrease making you more prone to viral attacks) and lethargy increases when pollution increases. Cystic acne, rosacea and eczema are exacerbated in these circumstances.
We use hot showers and baths to feel warmer but this removes sebum and dries skin. You might notice that in your facial I’m very careful with steam. If you’re oilier I can use it, but for no more than 10 minutes. If you’re drier, I use it for a very short time or not at all.
We drink hot drinks like coffee, but caffeine further depletes our moisture because its a diuretic. Ventilation systems give us heat, but they make the air dryer and skin loses moisture by a process known to estheticians as TEWL - trans-epidermal water loss. The air is pulling the water out of your skin to try to balance the dryness in the air.
What to do
Simple changes can help you feel better in winter.
- Outside air is actually better than inside because ventilation is poor indoors in winter - get outdoors when you can.
- Lower temperature of water in your shower or bath; keep water exposure short and follow with a good moisturizer or oil over damp skin - seal in the water.
- Drink water - General guidelines are considered to be half your body weight in ounces. Your water can be room temperature, but if you prefer, drink it warm. Add some lemon if it helps you drink enough.
- Consider supplements like Vitamin C for germ fighting and collagen preservation. Probiotics help counteract bad bacteria and promote good bacteria, which helps acne and rosacea. Vitamin B is helpful for stress and immunity problems. Your doctor can make recommendations on amounts needed.
- Humidify the air. I find that humidifiers are difficult to clean, which may cause germs to proliferate. Here’s a crock pot trick to try. Fill a crock pot with water then add 40 drops of organic essential oil like tea tree, rosemary or eucalyptus (can be combined if you prefer). Set on low and run in a small room with the door closed. This works better for me when I sit in a small room like my office. To keep kids and pets safe, put in a place not accessible. Essential oils should not be ingested by anyone, human or animal, without the supervision of a clinically trained aromatherapist. Pets and children can be harmed if they get into hot water or essential oils.
- Limit facial exfoliation. Cut back on exfoliation to no more than 2 times a week, or once for drier skins. Avoid harsh acids, large particles and mechanical methods like motorized brushes. Enzymes and lactic acid (an exfoliant that provides moisture) are best, and only at low concentrations.
- Increase the oil density of your skin care moisturizer. All creams are some combination of generally oil and water. In winter, we want a higher concentration of oil which results in a richer moisturizer. You can also use a facial oil, but it must be applied over damp skin. Remember, its the water we need IN the skin, so seal it in.
- Reduce stress to protect immunity. Strong immunity helps with skin conditions like acne and rosacea. Exercises like stretching or yoga fit nicely with the quietness of the season. Mediation is medically proven to enhance immunity and feelings of wellbeing. Make sure to warm up before vigorous exercise like skiing, snow shoeing, ice skating.
- Rest! This is a time of rest, reflection and conserving energies in Traditional Chinese Medicine,
- Don't forget your hands! More frequent hand washing in flu season means thinner, drier skin. Always wear gloves for housework, and follow hand washing with a protective moisturizer.
Enjoy the winter, and contact me if you need some deep moisturizing for your skin. I'll bundle you up in cozy blankets for a long winter nap, bring moisture and circulation to your skin with nourishing essences, butters and oils, and even massage your neck and shoulders with hot stones. Special treatments are also available for hands that need repair.
See, winter doesn't have to be so bad.
calm beauty brooklyn