Keep Your Skin Hydrated This Winter

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Supple and glowing is preferable to chapped and flaky.

Did you know that today, January 8th, is National Winter Skin Relief Day? That's right! The time has come to put an end to those chapped knuckles, flaking lips, and scaly-looking skin that can make the winter months so unpleasant. Here are some TreeHugger-approved tips for fixing dry skin.

1. Use natural moisturizing products.

Enter a pharmacy these days and there's a good chance you'll encounter a display of hand lotions promising instant non-greasy relief, but these are best avoided. As Gillian Deacon explained in her book, There's Lead in Your Lipstick, conventional hand creams contain hazardous ingredients, including "synthetic thickening agents, such as triglycerides or palmitate, and the ubiquitous polyethylene glycol (PEG), designed to help moisturizers penetrate the skin." Best to steer clear.

Fortunately the green beauty industry is booming and it's easier than ever to find safe sources of dry skin relief. Invest in high-quality, all-natural moisturizers that do the job effectively. Two companies whose moisturizers I've been using recently are Plaine Products and Matter Company. Plaine Products offers the best face cream I've ever used, packaged in a stainless steel bottle that is designed to be sent back for refill. It has the miraculous quality of being utterly weightless and non-greasy, while instantly quenching my skin's thirst and smelling fantastic. Matter Co. is a Toronto-based company with a line of therapeutic, deep moisturizing creams and salves that offer wondrous, non-greasy results.

If you're up for a deep moisturizing experience, there are plenty of great natural lotions out there, but you have to be prepared to deal with some greasiness. I've used Lush's Elbow Grease and Weleda's Skin Food and like them both, but I only apply them at night.

2. Wash less.

As glorious as it may feel, too much hot water can be bad for your skin, exacerbating dryness. Wash your face only once per day with a cleanser. Try to go longer between showers (stick with washing key body parts as needed) and turn down the temperature. Use natural oil-based soaps that do not contain harsh chemicals that are hard on your skin. Be sure to moisturize as soon as you get out, while you're still damp. This helps to lock moisturize into your skin.

3. Shake up your skin care routine.

Forget the soap and switch to alternative cleansers and exfoliants during the winter months. Honey, oatmeal, and sugar- or salt-based scrubs mixed with oils are all good options for cleaning your skin, while sacrificing as little moisture as possible. Seek out moisturizing makeup, such as cream highlighter and blush, rather than powders. Try out facial serums, if you haven't already. Just a few drops of these super-intense oils can make your tight morning skin feel supple, soft, and rejuvenated. Consider shaving with coconut oil, which moisturizes while helping the razor to glide smoothly.

4. Don't forget your lips.

Lips are often forgotten in the quest for perfect facial skin, but they deserve attention, especially because they get the most visibly chapped. Exfoliate your lips in the shower with a brown sugar-oil scrub or do it with a toothbrush. Then choose your moisturizing balms carefully. Stay away from petrolatum, waxes, and mineral oils in the ingredient list, which exacerbate dryness. Dermatologist Lily Talakoub recommends looking for "humectants (like hyaluronic acid and glycerin), which bind water to skin, and emollients (like shea butter and olive oil), which soothe and repair the skin barrier." Learn how to make your own: 3 recipes for homemade healing lip balms

5. Bundle up when outside.

It's one thing to treat dry skin, but it's even better if you can prevent it in the first place. Do this by wearing gloves or mitts whenever you go outside in cold weather and covering your face partially with a scarf if it's particularly cold or windy. Shielding your skin from the elements will go a long way toward retaining moisture, reducing windburn, and making you feel more comfortable afterward.

6. Surround yourself with houseplants.

Who knew houseplants could help dry skin? This remarkable discovery comes via the Royal Horticultural Society, which found that certain plants transpire up to the equivalent of a small teacup of water per day. It's like having a built-in humidifier. Read Melissa's article on this, as well as her recommendations for the best houseplants to do this.