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Dry winter skin is an unpleasant side effect of the fun of the season. Whether we’re doing the homestead chores, in the mountains snowshoeing, on the ski slope, or just hanging out at home in front of the fire, dry itchy skin can be a real problem. And it’s not just a vanity issue. Dry winter skin can be downright painful!
For most of my life, I lived in the Pacific Northwest where winter meant rain. The winter after I moved to Wyoming, where winter means cold, snow, wind, and sunshine, was amazing in many ways. Sunshine! I had no idea the weather could be so cold and the sun could still shine so brightly. I loved it. What I didn’t love were the chronic dry hands and chapped skin. Over the years I’ve learned to combat these issues with tips, tricks, and favorite products. When it comes to dry winter skin, the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true.
Natural Ways to Treat Dry Winter Skin
Living in a temperate climate, where there is often snow on the ground and below-freezing temperatures, requires skin-protecting clothing. Not only do our parkas, boots, and gloves keep us warm, but they also help prevent wind chap and dry winter skin. It’s important to keep boots and gloves dry. For our outdoor activities like snowshoeing, skiing, and working the homestead, we like to swap out our gloves when they start feeling wet inside. The buildup of moisture in the glove can cause skin breakdown and irritation. Wool socks have made a huge difference in helping with dry feet. I love these Farm to Feet socks made primarily from Merino wool.
When hands are excessively dry, they need extra care. Wearing gloves while doing dishes or cleaning with water is helpful. Even putting on light cotton gloves (after moisturizing) when folding laundry or working with paper can be helpful. I really hate the feeling of touching clothing or paper when my hands are dry! The gloves provide a helpful barrier.
Extra dry and cracked feet may need similar treatment, especially at night. When my husband had very cracked feet (before he switched to exclusively wearing wool socks), we’d lotion him up and cover his feet with socks or plastic wrap.
While a normally hydrated person may not notice a difference in their skin by increasing water consumption, if, like me, you tend to have trouble with getting enough during winter, it’s a good thing to focus on. How much water should we drink? For years, I heard “8 glasses a day.” Now there seems to be some disagreement on the proper amount. Eight glasses may be right for you, or you may need more or less. Another rule of thumb I’ve read is to drink half your body weight in ounces. A 150-pound person would need 75 ounces per day, or just over nine 8-ounce glasses.
To help with getting the water my body needs, I fill my Hydroflask in the morning and sip on it all day. When I lose interest in plain water, I switch to something more exciting. Oftentimes, this is water with apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and a dash of liquid stevia. I also like this gingery Good Girl Moonshine and this Lemonade Water.
I live in the high desert. The air is dry year-round. During the winter, with the woodstove burning 24 hours a day, it truly feels like the desert! We keep pots of water on top of the stove, but sometimes it’s still not enough.
One trick we’ve used to add moisture to the air, without using any electricity (essential when you are in an off-grid home with limited power), is to put a chair with a damp towel near the woodstove (not too close). The wet towel releases moisture into the air as it dries.
Now that we are connected to regular grid-supplied power and conserving electricity is no longer as essential, a plug-in humidifier really makes the air more comfortable.
During the winter months, you want to keep the natural oils your skin produces. This will help protect it and keep it healthy. Water and soap can strip this natural protection. When showering, avoid super hot water. And while a long, hot bath feels wonderful when the temps have dipped, it may be best to limit these.
Flakey skin is often a problem during the winter. Gently exfoliating helps remove dry patches. Because winter skin can be so fragile, it’s important to consider how you are exfoliating. Instead of using an abrasive scrub brush, go for something milder.
Dry brushing is a great option to effectively exfoliate while not aggravating delicate skin. New to dry brushing? Here’s an introductory video with more information. During winter, drying brushing should be limited to one or two times per week and never on broken skin. Choose a natural bristle brush and be sure to clean it regularly.
When exfoliating in the shower or bath, choose a gentle product and pay attention to your skin. Mechanical exfoliation may be too rough for sensitive skin. I love this raw silk washcloth and these bath gloves.
If you prefer a scrub, you have to try this coffee scrub from my friend Ivy at Adonai Soap (be sure to tell her Millie sent you). It’s absolutely scrumptious! This sea salt scrub is another great, gentle option. And it smells almost good enough to eat! No matter which product you choose, limit your exfoliating to three times per week to help maintain natural oils.
I start my moisturizing with a non-drying soap. Goats milk soap is a wonderful non-irritating option. Did you know goat milk contains natural alpha-hydroxy acids, which help in the removal of dead skin cells? It’s a great way to gently exfoliate without abrasives while cleansing. My friend Ivy from Adonai Soap has some great soap options also. This pumpkin spice one is an oil-based soap with an amazing aroma. I also love Dr. Bronner’s Castile liquid soap. It’s not only great for hand and body washing but it also doubles as a shampoo and for household cleaning, dishwashing, laundry, mopping, and more.
After bathing, it’s important to immediately moisturize. Bring on the Tamanu body butter! This is wonderfully hydrating and absorbs without leaving a greasy feel. If you prefer a floral scent, try this Rose body butter. You can even make your own whipped body butter and scent it with your favorite essential oil.
After washing my hands, before bed, or anytime during the day I feel a little dry, I reach for my tin of Beesilk lotion bar. Just three ingredients—and water isn’t one of them! The scented options are also great and add the benefits of essential oils. Before bed, I also pay special attention to my feet with this amazing foot rub lotion stick.
Now’s a great time to try Beesilk lotion bar and lotion stick! Renee from MadeOn Skin Care is offering my readers 15% off their entire order! Use coupon code homespun to get your discount. Check out my favorite skin nourishing bars from MadeOn Skin Care Products by clicking here.
You can also make your own hard lotion! Here’s a super easy recipe using your Instant Pot to make hard lotion bars and another version for tallow bars. Or check out My Buttered Life: Skin Care Series from MadeOn Skin Care for not only hard lotion bars but baby balm, toothpaste, and more.
A little TLC can go a long way toward alleviating dry winter skin.