Severe winter can be a trying time for the skin in the absence of a nutritious diet and a proper skin care routine. The harsh, cold winds can strip the skin of its natural softness, causing dryness, flaking and wrinkles. However, various steps can be taken to ensure that one’s skin remains healthy and supple even during the cold.
The main cause of dryness is aggravation of Vata element. Thus, one’s diet should favour foods that will pacify Vata without aggravating Kapha. Primary tastes should be salty, sour and sweet. Meals should be well balanced, containing oil rich foods like nuts and seeds. Walnuts, almonds and flaxseeds are particularly beneficial due to their oil content as well as the vitamin E in almond oil, which is excellent for skin elasticity.
Winter is also the season when one is most prone to flus. Spices such as ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and cloves are warming in nature and should be used in cooking. They are particularly beneficial in strengthening the body’s immunity against colds and coughs. Chawanprash is an excellent rasayana that builds the body’s immunity. It should be consumed all year round, especially during the winters. Though care must be taken that the chawanprash is organic and prepared as is mentioned in the Charaka Samhita.
Ayurveda also mentions the practice of Abhyanga or daily self massage, preferably before a bath. Different oils can be used for Abhyanga, depending on one’s prakriti. But as a general thumb rule, oils that are warm in nature like almond, sesame and apricot are used in winters. Oil massage not only improves the blood circulation but also hydrates the skin, leaving it less prone to dryness. While one is inclined to take long hot water baths in winters, it is preferable that the water be warm rather than hot as that too can strip the skin of its natural moisture.
While oils and body butters form an essential part of winter skin care routine, one of the best natural moisturisers is Aloe Vera gel. Aloe Vera is a cactus plant, the leaves of which secrete a clear gel which when applied on the skin, helps soothe and hydrate the skin. Since it is non greasy, it can be used by men and women of all skin types.
A common winter myth is the non requirement of a sunscreen. Many are of the opinion that because it’s a cold, cloudy day, one needn’t wear a sunscreen. But, irrespective of the visible presence or absence of the sun, the skin is still exposed to harmful UV rays. Prolonged exposure to UV rays will surely lead to sun burn, and consequently cause dryness, irritation and premature ageing.
The market is thronged with body butters, oils, face creams and masks that falsely promise instant winter hydration. But they are infused with carcinogens and preservatives. Instead, one can turn to simple homemade remedies that are safe and natural. Given in the box are various combinations that can be used as a natural face pack. Mix the ingredients and apply a paste on the face for 15 – 20 minutes and wash off with warm water.
In the case of oils, such as almond, castor and olive oil, they can be used to massage the body followed by a warm bath.
Care must be taken that the above ingredients are organic and the milk used is organic desi cow’s milk. While topical application of natural ingredients is effective, it will be rendered useless if it is not supported by proper nutrition and a well-balanced approach and lifestyle.