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Health Corner - Dry Winter Skin

Pratibha Shah
01/06/2009

Dry Winter Skin

Greetings people! Hope you were not amongst the unfortunate who suffered a power outage.  A good time to appreciate all the conveniences and comforts we take for granted.

Well friends, in this issue, I’ll share with you some simple tips to prevent the dry itchy skin we all seem to get in winter. Basically our skin’s structure is similar to a layered cake. The top most layer, that is the visible skin, has dead cells, hair and locked in them, is the moisture and oils that make the skin supple and soft. If this moisture and oil is depleted in large quantities, the skin starts shrinking and develops cracks. These cracks expose the inner layer of the skin to germs and irritants, which results in frequent itching.

So if you do not want an itchy and cracked skin in the winter, take steps to prevent loss of moisture from skin and also, frequently replenish the natural loss of moisture. This can be achieved by following a few simple tips:

1.    Keep the thermostat at an ambient low setting. If your heating is set at higher than 70F, the moisture in your surroundings will dissipate faster and besides a dry skin, you might also experience dry eyes and a dry nasal passage. This may lead to itchy irritable eyes and nose too. So it is very desirable to maintain a comfortably low heat setting and put on some warm clothing if it still feels chilly.

2.    Use a humidifier in the house and have it on whenever you are in the house. At night, keep it at bedside and if possible, keep the door closed to prevent moisture from escaping the room.

After having taken care of your surroundings, let us now see what steps we can take for skin care. Skin is the largest organ of the body and if we take proper care of it, we are keeping lots of diseases at bay. A healthy skin is an excellent defense barrier against bacteria, viruses and fungi, which can enter through this route. So here is what we can do to maintain the health of our skin:

1.    Do not shower frequently as this will result in moisture and oils from the skin being washed away. Bathing once a day is adequate.

2.    Do not take long baths. The longer you bathe, the more will be the loss of moisture and oils from your skin. A quick 10 minute shower should do the needful cleaning.

3.    Avoid using soap. Just rubbing your skin vigorously under the shower is sufficient for cleaning. For some areas like the under arms, groins and genitals, you can use soap. If you do use soap, use the fat saturated ones like Dove, or the ones that mention ‘for dry skin’ like Aveeno, Nutrogena, etc or Glycerine soaps like Pears. Use of oatmeal as a body cleanser can also be tried.

4.    Pat dry your skin and apply a moisturizer immediately. This results in maximum moisture locking in the skin. I prefer Johnson baby moisturizers personally.

5.    Ayurveda recommends body massage with oil as a daily routine, especially in winters. A good body massage, which you can do yourself, results in improved body circulation and generates heat, thereby reducing the need for external heat aids. Secondly, it fills up the dry cracks on your skin, smoothing it out and replenishes lost skin oils. Thirdly, if done a few minutes before shower, it acts like a protective film, which prevents natural skin oils from being washed away in the shower. So please consider integrating a quick oil body massage in your daily morning routine.

A few oils that I’d recommend:
- if you have dry flaky skin and are generally feeling cold, have a thin and lean body, I’d recommend Sesame seed oil or Mustard oil for you.
- if you have a tendency for a reddish skin, feel hot easily, perspire easily, a Coconut oil or Sesame seed oil massage is best for you.
- in general, any vegetable oil can be used for massage. Olive oil is one oil that can be used by all.

6.    A very good body cleanser that can be prepared at home is ‘besan ubtan’. To prepare it, take 4tsps of besan (gram flour), 2tsps of your preferred oil, ½ tsp turmeric powder (optional) and mix with water or milk cream. If you like a scrubby feeling, you can add 1 tsp of coarse sooji (semolina) to it. If you want to make it exotic and relaxing, you can add sandalwood essence or a few drops of rosemary oil. This paste not only cleanses the body but also replenishes moisture and oil to a great extent.

7.    Another simple thing you can try is consume at least 1 tsp. of desi-ghee with every meal, either on your bread or daal or rice, whichever way you want. Remember Rajasthan, the very dry desert state of India. Ghee is used liberally in almost all the food preparations there. I think it is their natural way of keeping dryness at bay. Of course, if you have high cholesterol levels, you may want to skip this advice.
 
So long then. Enjoy your new soft, itch free, crack free skin. And last but not the least, wear cotton inside those heavy fleeces. It is a non irritant fabric and allows the skin to breathe. Ciao!!


Disclaimer: All views expressed above in this article are of the author and they cannot be construed as a prescription of any sort. It is advisable to visit your Ayurvedic Specialist for a more detailed consultation and please consult your Primary Physician or Specialist before consuming any of the above formulations as mentioned.

(Please visit her website: www.myayurved.org. )

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