Spring cleaning for the skin

Leave behind the damaging effects of winter
Wednesday, March 24, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:45 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Spring is here, meaning sunny skies and warmer temperatures are on their way. But the windy, dry conditions of winter are not completely gone, and for many, that means continuing to deal with dry skin.

Winter itch leaves the skin feeling dry, scaly, ashy, itchy and pale, and with each day, the itch can become more of an annoyance.

Armed with the right information, you can fight back. With a few tips, you can prevent the itchy, burning skin and help cure the dryness you already have.

The skin is the largest organ in the human body. The skin is made of several layers of cells and thousands of oil glands that keep it from losing moisture. In healthy skin, the sebaceous glands release an oily substance called sebum, which keeps the skin moist. Sebum, together with the skin’s other natural oils, called lipids, form a hydro-lipid system that keeps water inside the body for as long as possible. In dry skin, this system is not intact, allowing the skin to lose moisture.

Ideally, the skin will maintain a water balance with the environment. Although winter air often feels damper than summer air, it usually has less relative humidity. This difference in water concentration between the skin and the air causes a drawing force of water on the skin, leaving it parched and tight.

“You get so dry in the winter,” Erica Howe, an esthetician at Salon Adair and Spa, said. “Plus with the wind, you get really chapped.”

Dry skin affects people of all ages. As people age, they don’t produce the natural oils that keep the skin moist, causing dry skin to become more prevalent.

“We have found that skin that is repeatedly exposed to really cold temperatures tends to age more,” John DeSpain, a Columbia dermatologist, said.

Howe said the most common areas on the face to become dry are the cheeks, lips and chin. She said that in the winter, most people do not pay enough attention to their skin.

“In the winter, people don’t think of it as being as bad,” Howe said. “A lot of people just don’t take as good of care of themselves in the winter as they would in the summer because it’s cold, and they just don’t think about it.”

While people know the sun is harmful to their skin, in winter, many think they can relax about protecting it, Howe said.

Even when the sun is not out, its harmful UV rays are still reflected by water, snow and cement, causing skin to burn.

People’s daily routines may be as much a drying factor to their skin as the cold air and sun are. As people take longer, hotter showers and bundle up in heavy clothes to keep warm, they are helping to increase the dryness of their skin.

Additional clothing prevents the skin’s ability to breathe, and warm water causes the skin’s natural oils to be depleted. As the skin naturally loses moisture to the air, more oil is stripped away each time it is washed, letting additional moisture evaporate and dryness occur.

The fresh air may not be the only drying agent that people face. The heat from homes and offices during winter months can also cause the skin to be drier and dull.

“If you overheat the air, it will become drier,” DeSpain said.

The dry air of heating systems saps moisture out of the skin just as the outside air does, causing the top layer of skin, made of dead cells, to flake. This sensation of flakes lifting away from the body causes the itching associated with dry skin.

The thin skin covering your hands is particularly susceptible to dehydration in winter, because of excessive exposure and wetness. The cold weather contributes to split and chipped nails, cracked hands and dry cuticles.

Hair is an extension of the skin. Cold temperatures, wind and excessive combing create a build-up of negative ions on the hair shafts, which causes individual strands to repel one another, creating unruly flyaways.

Moisturizing recipes


1 small jar mayonnaise

1/2 avocado

1. Peel avocado and remove pit.

2. Mix all ingredients in medium-sized bowl with your hands until it’s a consistent green color.

3. Smooth into hair, being careful to work it to the ends.

4. Use shower cap or plastic wrap to seal body heat in.

5. Leave on hair for 20 minutes. For deeper conditioning, wrap a hot, damp towel around your head over the plastic, or use a hair dryer set to a low or medium-heat setting.



1 egg yolk

1 small avocado

1/2 banana

2 teaspoons carrot juice

2-3 teaspoons white clay

1 drop rose essential oil

1. Mash the avocado and banana with the back of a fork until they form a thick, creamy mixture. Stir in egg yolk.

2. Add carrot juice and mix. Mix in 1 teaspoon clay. If mixture is runny, add additional clay.

3. Stir the mixture until a smooth paste forms. Add the essential oil and stir to incorporate. To use, apply a layer to clean face and neck, avoiding eyes. Rest for 10 minutes. Rinse well with warm water and follow with toner and moisturizer.



1/4 cup runny honey

1/8 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon macadamia nut oil

1 drop rose essential oil

1. Put the honey and lemon juice in bowl and whisk to combine. If honey is thick, warm slightly in microwave.

2. Add the macadamia nut oil and stir to combine. Add the rose essential oil and mix well.

3. Dip hands into mixture and massage well, giving extra attention to the cuticles. Allow the mixture to rest on the skin for 15 minutes before rinsing with warm water. Pat away excess water and apply moisturizer as usual.


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