Skin Health

The Best Natural Moisturizers for Healthy Skin

It’s almost here. Winter, and winter skin. Everybody hates it. The dryness. The itching. Skin so cracked it bleeds. And it’s not only that your skin is blotchy and ugly; it hurts.

If you live in a cold winter climate, suffering through dry winter skin is something you might feel resigned to. You probably feel you’ve tried everything and nothing works. But don’t give up!

Assuming your painful/ugly winter skin isn’t due to something more serious — like psoriasis, which often can be effectively treated only by prescription creams, or allergies, which may require an evaluation from an allergist — most dry, itchy, scaly, winter skin conditions can be eased or even eradicated with topical ointments. Here are some:

Organic aloe vera is an all-natural moisturizer. Aloe vera, which comes from a cactus-family plant, is a soothing balm and antidote to damaged winter skin. You can literally take the juice from the plant and apply it to your skin. Don’t have a green thumb? Aloe vera is available in various forms at your health food store. Aloe vera has been used as a healing unguent for centuries; ancient Egyptians referred to it as “the plant of immortality.” The Mayo Clinic recommends it for dry skin, and to heal wounds and burns. The clinic also says it works on canker sores, herpes sores, and skin ulcers. It’s also good for treating acne and sunburn. Several times a day, apply a thin coat on affected areas or to prevent skin from scaling. If you decide to go with a commercial preparation, be sure to read the label and avoid any product containing artificial colors or parabens.

Camphor works wonders to stop hot spots and painful itching. Camphor, which is the primary ingredient of Benadryl, has a number of medicinal properties, and has been used for decades in Ayurveda, a 3,000-year-old medical method in India. While widely recognized for treating acne, camphor is less well known as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Use it to relieve itchy skin; apply it to rashy areas and hot spots. But don’t apply camphor oil directly to broken skin, because it will burn! A safe method for applying camphor oil to the entire body is to add a tablespoon into a warm bath. Pat your skin dry; never rub it.

Look to the kitchen for natural emollients. Avocado, honey, olive oil, yogurt, papaya and pumpkin are all excellent topical skin treatments. Dab a little directly on your skin or whip yourself up a soothing facial mask. Honey is particularly good for healing cracked, dry lips. For the most natural and purest honey, look for organic, small batch farmer’s market honey rather than the supermarket brands.

Shea butter is your skin’s best friend. Shea butter has been used for decades as a treatment for a multitude of skin problems including itching, frostbite, sunburn, insect bites and eczema. Derived from the seeds of the shea tree, genuine shea butter is prepared with no chemical additions or preservatives. Shea butter is readily absorbed by the skin, which makes it an ideal moisturizer. Not crazy about the smell? Products containing beeswax, coconut oil, olive oil, and cocoa butter also seal in moisture and help keep skin supple and soft.

Petroleum jelly and lanolin are effective and inexpensive treatments to combat winter-damaged skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends petroleum jelly as a soother for the entire body, from your feet to your hands to your lips. Petroleum jelly works by creating a barrier to keep moisture from escaping the skin. Lanolin, the yellow, waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep, is also an excellent natural moisturizer for treating rough, dry, scaly skin. Hospitals often use medical-grade lanolin for wound care. If you’re allergic to wool, however, steer clear of products containing lanolin; it may cause an allergic reaction.

The best approach to avoiding painful, ugly winter skin is prevention. Take shorter baths and showers and keep the temperature warm, but not hot. Wear gloves to protect your hands, and moisturize your face before going outdoors. At home, use a humidifier to return moisture to heated air. Parched, cracked, winter skin isn’t fun, but you can avoid it!

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