As the temperature starts to drop, our skin can suffer from constant exposure to artificial heating and drying winter winds. Dry air strips away the oily layer that traps moisture in the skin, which can exacerbate dryness and result in cracking of the skin. In those susceptible to conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, dryness and cracking of the skin triggers an inflammatory response which often results in a flare up of their skin condition. Here are some healthy tips to help keep your skin radiant and hydrated this winter.
Avoid super-hot baths and showers
While soaking in a steaming hot bath or taking a long, hot shower after being out in the cold can seem like the perfect way to warm up and relax, unfortunately the hot water breaks down the protective oily layer on the skin and results in a loss of moisture. Warm, shorter showers are preferable to help retain skin moisture. Avoid harsh soaps and opt for natural options or, for skin which has become dry and itchy, a therapeutic luke-warm bath with baking soda or oatmeal can help relieve and restore the skin. Gently patting yourself dry after your bath or shower rather than rubbing the skin will also help reduce irritation.
Soothing & hydrating bath for eczema and itchy skin
Combine 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 4 drops of lavender oil & 10 drops of grapeseed oil. Blend the oils and add to 2-3 cups whole large flake oats. Stir to coat the oats with the oil. Pour the oats into a muslin bag & suspend the bag under the hot tap as you run the bath to allow the water to run through it while the bath is filling. The muslin bag can be tied off when you get in the bath and used as a sponge to wash the skin. Soak for 10-20 minutes. Take care when getting into and out of the bath as the oils and oats will make it more slippery.
Moisturise moisturise moisturise
Replacing lost moisture in the skin is vital, and in winter, an oil-based ointment moisturiser which will create a protective layer on the skin will trap and retain more moisture than a water-based cream or lotion that might be more suitable in summer. Moisturising your skin immediately after a bath or shower when the skin is still damp will also improve the vitality of the skin.
Natural oils such as olive and coconut oil help retain and restore vital skin moisture and can also help repair damage caused by exposure to dry winter air. When combined with healing herbs such as Chamomile, Calendula and Koromiko (NZ native Hebe), you get a fantastic gentle healing and hydrating balm, suitable for any skin dryness or irritation, including chapped lips or cracked skin.
Eat foods high in antioxidants
Antioxidants help neutralise free radicals and inflammation in the body & are natural anti-ageing foods. When we think of power packed antioxidant foods, many of us automatically think of the dark, summer berries (blueberries, cherries, grapes, strawberries and raspberries), but there are many other antioxidant rich foods more readily available in winter, including granny smith apples, beetroot and prunes. Orange fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids which also act as antioxidants in the body so stock up on your oranges, pumpkin, carrots and orange or golden kumara. Beans are also an excellent source of antioxidants, particularly kidney, pinto and black beans – try a big bowl of vegetarian chilli on a cold winter’s night to help warm you up and boost your antioxidant levels. Black rice is also an excellent source of antioxidants – ¾ of a cup of black rice provides the same antioxidant value as ½ cup of blueberries. And for the chocolate lovers, the good news is that high cocoa dark chocolate is also good source of antioxidants.
Reduce stress and stay healthy
Emotional and mental stress are common triggers for eczema and psoriasis, and clinical studies have shown stress reduces the skin’s ability to retain moisture, so it’s important to keep up your stress-relieving regime in winter.
Both psoriasis and eczema are characterised by immune involvement, and because of this, many dermatologists believe viral, bacterial or fungal infections can make them worse. Boost your immune system daily with a good herbal immune tonic to help keep the winter bugs at bay.
Harness the healing power of herbs
There are many herbs which can help support good skin health in winter. Echinacea root not only boosts the immune system to ward off winter ills and chills and support general wellbeing, but also helps cleanse the blood and support the healing of the skin.
Calendula (aka Marigold) has a long history use for a wide range of skin complaints. What makes this little herb so big in value and versatility is the fact that it possesses a mild, gentle soothing action alongside its naturally potent healing properties. Records of its use for wound healing date back to the 13th Century, and it was used as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent during the North American civil war and World War 1. Modern research confirms that the secret to Calendula’s curative powers comes from its naturally high carotenoid content; also that the herb possesses special anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, all of which help repair damaged skin by supporting the skin’s natural healing process. In vitro studies have demonstrated significant free radical scavenging abilities for Calendula extracts, an action which protects against oxidative stress.
Kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum), is one of the most distinctive New Zealand native plants. It was also one of the most important healing herbs in Rongoa Maori (Traditional Maori medicine). Kawakawa leaf applications such as poultices or juice applications were used by Maori for a variety of skin conditions, including eczema.
As well as producing supplements, Kiwiherb also produce a range of skincare and healing cream products including Calendula Ointment, Comfrey Ointment, Baby Balm, DermaCare Cream and more. View the entire Kiwiherb range now at our secure online shop.
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Adams, O. Maori Medicinal Plants. Auckland Botanical Society, 1945.
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Ichikawa H, Ichiyanago T et al. Antioxidant activity of anthocyanin extract from purple black rice. J. Med. Food. 2001 Winter 4(4):211-218.
Rasmussen PL, Phytonews 4, ISSN 1175-0251, published by Phytomed Medicinal Herbs Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand, Aug 1999.