It’s winter out there, so I’m wearing many layers of clothing these days. But by far the most important protective layer between the warm, well-orchestrated environment inside each of us, and the winds and snows of January, is our skin, and the Wei Qi, or Defensive Energy, that circulates just inside it. If you’re like me, you may notice your skin is drier during the cold months, and so in need of some extra attention. Here are some ways you can nourish your skin and keep comfortable, now and throughout the year.
1. Food for your skin: We absorb what we put on our skin just as much as we absorb the foods we eat. So if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin! Avoid skincare products containing alcohol and other chemicals. Our Co-op Wellness department buyers carefully vet the products they carry. Read the labels, and you will find that many of the products on those shelves use only edible ingredients. The lotion might not taste good, so don’t eat it! But nothing in it would be toxic if eaten. When in doubt about an ingredient or product, look it up on the Environmental Working Group’s website.
2. Locally made lotions: The Co-op carries several lines of skin lotions made by small companies on or near the Palouse. I love Orchard Farm’s products, which I discovered when my son was a baby and I was looking for an all-natural, gentle but effective salve and moisturizer. We carried a tin of Orchard Farm Baby Care Balm in our diaper bag, and kept one in our stroller, and had one at home. It‘s great for soothing dry, irritated, or itchy skin, and though my son is no longer a baby, we still use it for his dry skin and my dry hands. Orchard Farm also makes several lotions for moisturizing and protecting the face: these days I’m using the Calendula Cream on a daily basis. Another great line of skin care products carried at the Co-op, Wild Carrot Herbals, is made in nearby Wallowa County, Oregon.
3. Nourish your skin from within: Most importantly, drink more water and herbal teas in winter. Cold air has a drying effect, so we need more fluids to stay hydrated. And eat more oils and oily foods: coconut oil, olive oil, fish oil, nuts, and seeds abound with Omega 3 fatty acids. Wolfberry/goji berries nourish yin (the “material” part of the body, in traditional Chinese medicine) and blood and benefit the skin. Avocado, honey, pumpkin, spinach, salmon, berries, plain yogurt, aloe juice, and yellow and orange vegetables such as sweet potatoes and carrots all nourish and moisten the skin.
4. Other Brands: Speaking of skin food, well, try Weleda Skin Food, a heavy-duty moisturizer made following the biodynamic principles on which this German company was founded. I carry a tube of it in my purse, and pull it out to soothe the dry skin on my hands. Weleda Calendula Weather Protection Cream makes a great extra layer on the face, when you are heading out for some winter outdoors fun. I find all of Weleda’s lotions and oils absorb easily and are deeply moisturizing without being greasy or heavy.
5. Sesame oil for dry feet: My feet stay inside cozy socks all winter and are not exposed to the elements, yet their skin also dries out. Ayurvedic medicine advises us to take a warm bath before bedtime, then slather the soles of our feet with sesame oil and put on warm socks to wear overnight. This treatment not only moisturizes the skin of our feet, it also helps soothe Vata (the Ayurvedic principle governing motion and flow in the body), leading us to sleep better and feel calmer and more grounded in general.
Inside our skin, we are all the same. We all need our skin to keep us safe from the elements. So, armed with these good ways to nourish your skin and protect your hard-working Wei qi, layer up, and go outside and commune with the wonders of winter.