By Kate Harveston — While I was busy digging myself out of the worst winter I can remember in recent years, I suddenly noticed one day that my skin looked like I was auditioning for the next season of The Walking Dead. My rosy cheeks lost their fresh-from-the-snow glow, replaced by a dry and pale surface from a lack of moisture and regular care. Suffice it to say my skin needed a little lovin’.
If yours does too, check out the tips below to plump, smooth and replenish tired skin well before swimsuit season hits.
1. Go Nuts
Coconut oil possesses numerous health perks, and the benefits don’t stop when you put down your spoon. Coconut oil and coconut milk can replenish and refresh dry, winter skin and get it summer-ready in no time!
Have your fingertips grown dry, cracked or covered with hangnails? First, use an emery board to file down the hard skin surrounding the cracks. Then rub coconut oil generously around your fingertips and massage it into your cuticles. Severely dry, cracked hands? Apply the coconut oil liberally before bedtime and don a pair of gloves to hydrate your skin while you sleep.
I know coconut oil is all the rage right now and many of us are probably sick of hearing about it. I actually was too before I tried it, but I’ve found it really can work! So, there may be a reason for all the hype, after all. If you don’t believe me, try it out for yourself!
2. Amazing Avocados
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Avocados aren’t just for tasty toast anymore! They contain high amounts of vitamins A, D and E as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin E and omega-3s plump skin from the inside out, while vitamins A and D eradicate aging free radicals.
Some eczema patients have reported great success in using avocado oil to decrease redness and itching. Likewise, some psoriasis patients have also found relief from avocado oil use.
Unlike coconut oil — which can worsen acne-prone skin — avocados leave no oily residue behind. Some acne sufferers find that leaving smashed avocado paste on their skin for a few minutes and then rinsing with lukewarm water helps to prevent future breakouts.
3. Make Your Own Microdermabrasion
Who says you have to pay spa prices to experience deep exfoliation from microdermabrasion? Make your own natural exfoliating preparations using nature!
Those with sensitive or crepe-y skin benefit from a gentle blend of lavender, baking soda and honey to remove dead cells without tugging or pulling at delicate skin. Those who suffer from acne will adore a lemon and cornmeal scrub. I use this at a certain point in the month when I’m apt to break out in raging chin zits!
Oatmeal scrubs likewise benefit acne-prone skin, and the main ingredient sucks up grime stuck in pores without overly drying the skin. It’s perfect for those like me who experience oiliness only in the T-zone.
4. I Love Olive (Oil)
If you have severely dry skin, you don’t have to drop a ton of dough on makeup removal pads designed for sensitive skin. If your skin feels tight within five minutes of washing, why not try an oil cleanse instead?
Place a few drops on a soft cloth and wipe liquid liner and mascara away without harming so much as a single eyelash. For best results, opt for cold-pressed, organic virgin olive oil. Olive oil — while extremely moisturizing — can aggravate acne-prone skin, so exercise caution when removing makeup in breakout zones like the forehead and nose.
5. Care for a Spot of Tea?
Has your newest chic pink hat left your hair dry, flyaway and even full of dandruff? Flush away the flakes with natural green tea. Just brew the tea, allow it to cool to room temperature, blend in a cup of castile soap and a few drops of olive oil, then shampoo with the mix.
The antioxidants in green tea combat free-radical damage that leads to premature aging. Use straight green tea as a toner to brighten and lift skin while protecting it from environmental damage.
6. Oh, Honey, Honey
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Those afflicted with sunburn (which, did you know, can also happen even in winter from the sun reflecting off snow?) often turn to aloe vera, which does soothe the sizzle. But honey is just as great at helping sunburn, even the kind that results in blistering. So, if you have no aloe at home, turn to the sweet stuff!
Apply raw honey directly to blisters or blend it with oatmeal for particularly bad burns to help the honey stick for a longer period. Honey drains the fluid from blisters without the need to pop them and risk potential infection.
7. Downward Face-Lift Dog?
Practicing yoga in my house usually results in a pose I call “downward facing dog-butt.” Inevitably, one of my furry friends decides to wind around my legs and leave me looking at the southern end of a north-bound doggy. But jokes and four-legged friends aside, did you know that establishing a regular yoga practice can actually lift your skin naturally?
Trikonasana — or triangle pose — opens the chest and heart, increasing oxygen flow to the skin and bathing it in nutrients. Bujangasana — or cobra pose — stimulates the kidneys and helps to flush skin-damaging free radicals from the body.
8. It’s Like Buttah
Shea butter packs an anti-inflammatory punch in addition to softening skin. Its rich, emollient properties make it a natural choice for treating chapped, cracked lips. Dab on a bit to soothe peeling lips and minimize discomfort from angular cheilitis (the medical term for those painful cracks that sometimes form at the corners of your mouth).
Shea butter can also almost entirely heal cracked heels overnight. Slather on a generous amount, pull on your favorite fuzzy socks and let the magic work while you catch your zzz’s. I live in Sherpa socks over the winter, and the combination of shea butter and body heat repair my cracked heels in the time it takes to enjoy a nice nap.
9. Aloe, Aloe
Winter-weary skin needs plenty of nutrition to return to baby-soft suppleness, and aloe fits the bill perfectly. Just snap off a bit of its vitamin-rich leaf and apply it to mild burns and abrasions to prevent scarring.
Aloe also moisturizes without leaving an oily residue. This natural water-based plant can safely moisturize acne-prone skin without prompting new breakouts. This makes aloe a godsend for people like me with dry cheeks but oily foreheads and chins.
10. Get a Bit Salty
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People have used sea salt to exfoliate dry skin since time immemorial. And who couldn’t use a bit of the beach as we slowly thaw out from winter’s frigid temps? However, sea salt can be abrasive, so save this scrub for dry hands and feet — not delicate facial skin.
Mix one cup sea salt with a half a cup of coconut oil. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil — I’m partial to orange for its invigorating scent — and rub to remove old skin cells. Moisturize liberally afterward.
11. Timing Is Everything
In skin care, as in life, timing plays a significant role in overall success. People whose skin dries out and feels tight and itchy within minutes of stepping out of the bath benefit from applying moisturizer immediately after gently patting themselves dry.
Why? Showering or bathing causes skin cells to expand and absorb some of the moisture. By applying lotion immediately after exiting the bath, you’ll lock this extra moisture inside the skin, leaving it feeling soft for far longer. Opt for aloe-based moisturizers for normal to oily skin and heavier oils like coconut oil for very dry skin.
12. Treat Yourself to a Spa Day at Home
We could all use a day at the spa (I know I sure could!), but if you’re like me, you could also use the spare hundred bucks needed to pay for this type of VIP treatment. Not a problem! My favorite Saturday post-workout routine involves a spa day in my own bathroom, and you can do the same for little money.
Start with a nice, long soak in an Epsom salt bath. Epsom salt naturally softens skin and hair. Because it breaks down into magnesium and sulfate when introduced into water, this healing bath relaxes sore muscles and can even ease fibromyalgia pain in some cases.
While you soak, apply a banana and olive oil hair mask and wrap your hair in a towel to let the bath’s heat penetrate the mix into hair fibers. Apply a healing natural face mask for your skin type as well.
Once you’re adequately pruned, rinse impurities right down the drain. If you can handle it, rinse in cool water. I know, I know, going from steamy to chilly may not feel immediately pleasant, but colder water will add shine and luster to hair. Then, celebrate surviving yet another work week by giving your nails a buff, and maybe a polish too if you’re into that!
Now You’re Ready to Greet Spring with a Natural Glow
Congratulations! Hopefully, you’ve successfully found a strategy that works to nurse your skin back to health. It’s far easier than many realize to take care of our bodies using just the gifts Mother Nature provided. We only get one body, so everyone should strive to treat theirs with the utmost respect and care. Now get out there and strut the beautiful skin you’re in!
About the Author
Kate Harveston is a health and wellness writer from Pennsylvania. She is passionate about teaching people how to live more all-natural and sustainable lives. You can find more of her work at sites like Greatist, Care2 and the Environmental News Network, as well as at her blog, So Well, So Woman.