Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Winter Skin Repair

I've had problem skin most of my life. Even at age 42, I still get breakouts. This time, though, instead of getting random skin care products, I thought about what was wrong and what I needed. I experimented a bit, and even after just a few days, my skin is looking a lot better. Here's my take on dry, flaky winter skin and what to do about it. Your skin gets dry, maybe because you don't drink as much water in the winter, or maybe because you sweat less. (There are enzymes in sweat; perhaps they break down dead skin.) Your skin gets flaky, and if you're prone to acne, your pores get clogged and you break out. Meantime, your fingers can get so hard and dry that they crack and split.

Solutions:

Cleanse. Obvious, but we all need to find a good cleanser. Different people swear by cold cream, coconut oil, or olive oil, but those are all too heavy for me. I've started using Burt's Bees Natural Acne Solutions Purifying Gel Cleanser. The salicylic acid comes from willow bark.

Exfoliate. The dry skin has to go, either mechanically (by scraping it off) or chemically (letting a substance do the work for you, aka the easy way). Being protein, dead skin can be broken down with enzymes. Raw pineapple and raw papaya are rich sources of enzymes, or you can get a bottled enzyme mask such as Alba Botanicals papaya enzyme mask. For me, it's done a better job of exfoliation with less skin irritation than scrubs. It's a cool gel you leave on for five minutes and rinse off.

Dry up breakouts. Use Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask after you exfoliate, then put a dab of it on blemishes and leave overnight.
Moisturize. If you haven't found a good moisturizer, perhaps a subscription to receive beauty samples is up your alley. Birchbox.com and newbeauty.com are a couple out there; I haven't tried any of these services. I use a moisturizer from Burt's Bees that's a medium weight. What I don't want is something with vitamins C or E: they're antioxidants, and acne bacteria need to be oxidized to prevent breakouts.

Heal cracked skin. The best thing I've found is Carmex. Apply frequently.

Prevention:

Sufficient fat in your diet. Vitamin A is great for your skin--and as a fat soluble vitamin, it's far better absorbed with dietary fat. Good sources are liver and cod liver oil.

Drink plenty of water and get some exercise. Heaven knows I hate cliches, but they do apply here. 

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