"Brown Girl Guide" Dispatch: Cold Weather Skin Savers

Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Baby it's COLD outside. Brown Girl Guide is here to help. Brown skin needs special treatments to combat the dryness and general ashy-ness that the holiday season gifts to our skin. Just as we are luckier in the summer months to be able to brave the sun without as much damage as our paler BFFs (but you still need to wear sunscreen! Don't be fooled!), our skin's natural resilience ironically makes it more difficult to treat during the cold months, necessitating deeper-penetrating formulas and specific active ingredients designed to trouble-shoot darker pigment issues such as grayness and flakiness. Ah karma.

For scaly elbows and heels: Try Neutrogena Deep Moisture Butter Body Cream. It's just as good, if not better, than the cult-favorite everyone raves about at Kiehl's (at a fraction of the cost).

If your heels or elbows are actually cracking--a problem many Indians are prone to--apply an over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone treatment twice a day. Also, switch to oil-based body creams, which trap water into the skin. Lastly, apply all treatments immediately after you shower, when your skin is most able to absorb the repairing ingredients.

Lizard Legs: Dry indoor heat and less frequent shaving (come on, you know you do it) often lead to scaly flakes on skin--which are more noticable the more pigmented your skin is. If you have some time, take a warm bath and add a few drops of body oil to the tub. Even olive oil will do. Exfoliate with a mineral polish to banish the dead cells, and slather on a cream immediately when you get out of the bath. St. Ives Mineral Therapy Smoothing In-Shower Exfoliating Body Polish works wonders.

Parched Faces: Harsh winds cause chapping, and the constant propensity for brown skin to appear ashen is heightened by windburn and unforgiving elements. To protect and brighten your skin, add a hydrating serum to your regime that contains humectants--these help heighten moisture levels. One of my favorites is from LaRoche-Posay--your face instantly feels less tight and has more illumination.

After the serum, smooth on a rich, hydrating cream, not a lotion--lotions contain alcohol which will only further dry you out. Some of the tried-and-trued ultrarich face creams for the wickedly cold winter months:

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant. An oldie but goodie. Simple, rich, moisturizer where a little goes a long way, and there is no greasy residue.
Dr. Weil for Origin Plantidote. This restores with vitamin E and a "mega-mushroom" cocktail. The list of ingredients and claims is long and a little pretentious--but the stuff works.
Dermalogica Age Smart Super Rich Repair. This literally blast of moisture is my favorite cream du jour. It's designed for older skin, but I use it as a night treatment when my skin is particularly ornery.

Chapped Lips: I am saving the best for last. I have finally found the must-have item for all of your purses. It has rid me of my Carmex addiction and saved me a pretty penny to boot. I'm putting it right up there with YSL Touche Eclat in my beauty hall of fame. Plus everybody asks me what it is when I pull it out because it isn't one of the usual suspects--I am so mysterious. Introducing: Nanak's Lip Smoothee. Yes, it is a horrible name. Yes, the packaging leaves something to be desired. But believe me, this is the best chapstick I have ever found and I truly believe I have tried them all. It's simple. It doesn't try to do too much or be the star of your beauty arsenal. But it does what it is supposed to do. It has a work ethic. You can only purchase in bulk from the website, but you can find Nanak's at many holistic or Indian markets. A part of my heart (or lips I suppose) will always belong to Archie for turning me onto the stuff--and breaking my Carmex-crack habit--thank you!

Finally, my top 3 tips for radiant winter skin:

1) Control the climate: In winter, the humidity in the air can get lower than that of a desert--even if you live in a rainy climate, like the Bay Area. Use a humidifier and moisturize throughout the day to keep skin quenched. And--I know this is difficult--try to take a warm, versus a hot shower. (I will admit I am usually incapable of doing this but I notice the difference in my skin when I do).

2) Read the ingredients on all your products, especially your soap: Many soaps contain detergents that strip moisture and oils from your skin. Use mild soaps like Cetaphil.

3) Go au naturale: Use fragrance-free laundry detergent and fabric softener--fragrances are unnecessary and can irritate sensitive winter skin. Similarly, if your skin is feeling particularly itchy, skip the wool and synthetic clothing and opt for natural fibers like silk and cotton which are less likely to irritate already weathered skin.

For more beauty tips, as well as secrets and news on all things style specifically tailored to brown girls, sign up for Brown Girl Guide, launching soon.
Uma said...

I second Neutrogena Body Butter. It's the longest lasting moisturizer I've ever tried and the smell is to die for! Good tips.

Ruchi said...

Can somebody help me with this "serum" business? I definitely need a pick me up in terms of my skin but what exactly is a "serum" and when do you apply it (before moisturizer? after?) and how soon do you see results?

ma said...

Ruchi - serum is a very thick, viscous liquid that you apply that coats the skin. My facialist gave me this word of advice - thin to thick. So it will be one of the last things you apply in your beauty regiment.

My winter tip - lots of Vaseline. I slather it on my feet, elbows, hand, lips, etc... and especially during the day - I slather it on my feet and legs, and wear long socks over it, it's like mini-cream pedicure and hydration at the same time.

Also - bottled water, it's a bit pretentious, but if you wash your face with some Evian, it helps a lot during the winter months.

Tani said...

Hey girls,

Hmmm. I have been advised to use serums BEFORE everything else? Serums as far as I know are highly concentrated liquids that you should put on before moisturizer etc so that they can more easily penetrate the skin? Anybody else: help? The one serum I have tried is from Skinceutircals (the lady described it to me as liquid gold and I told her, no that's breastmilk but she didn't laugh--obviously not a mom!) and it's think, not thick...

Jyothi said...

I don't have any wisdom on the serum issue but wanted to emphasize the "au naturale" solution. I have been prone to eczema my whole life and I switched detergents on a whim. Made a huge difference. Another little luxury you can do is take regular walgreens cream and warm it up in the microwave for a few second. Makes it feel like a spa treatment!

I Love Makeup said...

Hey ladies, serum should definitely be used FIRST. MA, I think you are thinking of something else perhaps because most serums are not viscous but are rather the consistency of water. They pack the most active ingredients for molecule of any other beauty product and they contain properties that make them penetrate deeper in the skin.

NotCourtney said...

I highly recommend using Bag Balm. It is actually used on cow's udders but you can get it at Walgreens in the skin care aisle, look for the for a green cube with a picture of a cow on it. Just put some on your feet every night and you will have the softest, smoothest feet ever! You can pretty much use it anywhere, my friend was recommended to use it for diaper rash on her son. My OB/GYN said you can even use it for "feminine" dryness. It has a slight medicinal smell, but it works so well you will get over that. My cousins were vising from India and I suggested they use some, but demurred as they were grossed out by the fact that it is originally made for cows. But I converted them and they ended up taking a tub back to Gujurat with them, which as we know the climate there is murder on your skin in winter.

I like using L'Occitane's shea butter on my face and lips because it won't clog my pores.

Michelle Peters said...

I am probably a bit late... but when I was in Canada this winter I came across this cream called Aveeno Baby. One word - AMAZING!! Not only did it cure my Dear Daughter's eczema and scaly skin (she's mixed race), but it worked wonders for the scales on my legs and arms too. Dear Husband has now been tasked to bring a whole lot of them to the UK when he returns with Dear Daughter!

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