As the temperature drops and we start piling on the warmer layers, it’s easy to forget that harsh winter weather can still do a number on your skin. Strong winds, below zero temperatures, and even our cozy heated homes can gradually strip away your skin’s moisture, leaving it more prone to redness, wrinkles, and irritation. As the weather gets colder and the days shorter, we also tend to take longer and even hotter showers, a practice which can further exacerbate already dry skin.

Hydration is the number one priority when it comes to keeping your skin glowing and in good condition during the coldest days of the year, and drinking enough water is, of course, the first step to making sure your body stays healthy inside and out. But when it comes to dry skin, an often convenient solution is to go out and buy expensive lotions and creams.

Unfortunately, even the best skin creams or those you find at your local pharmacy store are not always made completely free of harsh ingredients. Alcohol, for example, an ingredient common in many products can cause skin irritation or even more severe dermatitis. Cosmetics such as foundation and powder also plays a significant role in drying out or irritating skin. Today, more and more women are choosing to go fresh-faced, while finding alternatives to maintaining and improving skin without artificial products. Nature, as it turns out, has all the answers when it comes to treating skin in a gentle, wholesome, and healthful way.*

For Face and Neck:

With the cold weather setting in, the good news is that you likely already have all the best ingredients for healthy skincare right in your own pantry. Consider using the following “foods” to create relaxing and moisturizing masks for both your face and even your neck, where skin can be especially delicate and prone to damage. Raw honey for example, (raw refers to honey that has not been pasteurized which allows it to retain many more of its healthful properties) is not only a great antimicrobial product but it can also help with healing small cuts and burns, which may take longer to heal in the colder winter months.

As a face mask, consider mixing some honey with cooked oatmeal (not just a tasty breakfast anymore!) and a few drops of lemon juice. Leave on the face for a few minutes and then rinse with warm water. This mixture not only calms and redness and irritation you might be experiencing, but it also helps combat acne flair ups as well. By itself oatmeal is a wonderful ingredient that can be used in a variety of ways to treat redness or to use as a gentle exfoliator.

Blend oatmeal with some warm water and gently massage the face in circular motions, taking care to avoid the eye area. The water will soften the oatmeal kernel’s hard edges, or if you prefer a finer powder you can use a food processor to further break down the kernels. (You may also want to use secondary sieve on your drain if you are using full size oatmeal kernels in order to avoid drain clogging.)

Similarly, avocado (or alternatively already pressed avocado oil) can be a great addition to your skin regimen. A fatty fruit that is rich in amino acids, Vitamin B and Vitamin E, avocado is not just for toast and salads anymore. A ripe avocado (which may have passed its peak for your lunch) serves as a great moisturizing facial mask when combined with organic yogurt (which is also an excellent source of nourishing and moisturizing food for the skin) and will keep your skin looking great.

Combine one avocado with a teaspoon or two of yogurt, apply to the face, wait 15 minutes or until the mask begins to dry and rinse with warm water. You may even find that your skin will not need additional moisturizing immediately following the treatment.

For Eyes:

One of the best replacements for expensive eye serums that could irritate your skin is a simple dab of rosehip oil just under the eye and at the corners before bed or just before leaving the house. Great for nourishing the skin and premature wrinkle prevention, rosehip oil is vitamin rich and a great hydrator. A little goes a very long way so you may want to avoid using too much as a general all over moisturizer as it may clog pores depending on your complexion. Keeping the bottle in the refrigerator has the dual benefit of reducing under eye puffiness while also keeping the product fresh. You can find rosehip oil at most health food stores, such as Natural Grocer’s. You can transfer the oil to a container with a dropper for easy use with no mess.

Another great natural skin calming ingredient is chamomile. This herb helps reduce inflammation of the skin and hydrate your outer layer. Try using freshly brewed tea (cooled either to room temperature or just slightly warmer) instead of spring water as the base of your next refreshing treatment. Be sure to use loose leaf tea for brewing and avoid applying tea bags directly to the skin as these are bleached and contain harsh agents which are harmful in the long run for the health of your skin. Instead opt for unbleached cotton facial pads that are made from organic cotton such as those made by MUJI.

For Hands:

Although wearing gloves is a must when it comes to protecting the health of our hands, it’s also easy to forget that they needed extra attention during the colder months. Extreme cold weather can break down skin, altering its appearance and making it appear duller. One great ingredient to help get your hands vibrant and glowing is olive oil. Olive oil, which has been used since Greek antiquity for a variety of purposes, contains both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids as well as Vitamin E. Rich in antioxidant properties, a few drops of olive oil rubbed into skin followed by a pair of moisturizing gloves while you watch your favorite show is a quick fix. You can also keep them on overnight for added nourishing benefit.

For Toes and Feet:

Although pedicures and polish keep our feet looking bright, they also expose us to harmful chemicals that can break down the keratin in nails, leaving them brittle and prone to breakage over time. Apple cider vinegar soaks are all-natural, gentle foot treatments that can be done at home. Effective for softening calluses and cracks in the skin, mix one-part vinegar to two parts warm water (avoid high temperatures) and soak your feet in a basin for approximately thirty minutes. Use an exfoliating brush or a pumice stone to smooth heels and cuticles. Follow the treatment with either olive oil, shea butter, or coconut oil and let your feet rest in a pair of moisturizing socks overnight. Your feet will thank you!

For Body:

Although moisturizing skin is important, exfoliation is an equally important part of keeping your skin looking radiant. Although generally too harsh for use on the face, sugar can be a great ingredient for a body scrub. A great DIY body scrub that also makes a wonderful gift in a mason jar is a citrus sugar scrub. You can use a carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil, a few drops of citrus essential oil, as well as some fresh lemon or orange zest. For olive oil, use one- part oil to two parts sugar, and for coconut oil you may want to reduce the amount of sugar by a quarter for each part oil. Be sure to stir the mixture before applying as the oil tends to settle to the bottom.

For another great scrub just in time for the holidays you can skip the citrus and instead a tablespoon of coffee grounds along with a few drops of peppermint oil to the mix. The scent is sure to be refreshing, while the coffee grounds also help improve circulation and calm irritation. Follow up your exfoliation treatment with either raw shea butter, coconut oil or a light spritz of olive oil.  A few drops of warmed olive oil or tea tree oil can also be massaged into the scalp and serves as an easy and nourishing treatment the healthy way.

*(Please note that if you do have any known allergies to the following items listed below – such as raw honey – avoid these and try substituting them for other nourishing ingredients.)

by Ana Mitrovici