Our panel shares dry skin solutions

— Photo by Patrick Ward

Did winter suck the moisture out of your skin? Try these expert tips.

Though spring is on its way, the air still lacks humidity. Your skin is rough, dry, and lackluster. You can act right now to reverse winter skin damage, by modifying your diet, adding some new skin care products to your daily care regimen, or even taking shorter showers. This month, here are some expert tips from our panel on combating dry skin.

Kristin Henriksen, Certified Herbalist/Aromatherapist, Reindeer Bridge Herbs

A balance of oil and moisture is crucial for healthy skin. For oil and moisture to work together, there has to be enough water present in the cells and enough oil to act as a shield, preventing evaporation. Dry skin can be caused, or aggravated, by a poor diet, exposure to harsh environments, chemicals, pharmaceutical medications, diuretics, liver congestion, and harsh soaps. Deficiencies in vitamin A, B complex, C, and E can cause dry skin, and especially deficiencies in essential fatty acids (EFA’s). Since the body does not produce them, they must be ingested. EFAs will be found in fish, shellfish, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, leafy greens, chia seeds, evening primrose oil, flax, and hemp seeds.

Herbs can be very helpful for topical use, especially for eczema and dry, chapped. or cracked skin. Plantain and calendula can be infused into a lotion or skin oil and used as needed. Internally, nourishing herbs in the form of teas such as nettles, alfalfa, and oat straw, mixed with moisturizing demulcents such as marshmallow, cleavers, and slippery elm can support the skin internally.

All of these suggestions might be helpful, but without water, it’s like trying to grow grass in the desert. Calculate half to three-quarters of your weight in pounds, and drink that many ounces of water per day. For example, a 150 lb person requires 75 ounces of water daily. The trick that seems to work for most people is to carry water with you everywhere you go, to help ensure you are consuming what you need every day.

Elizabeth J. Carroll, Esthetician, Elizabeth Skin, Edgartown

In addition to using a gentle cleanser, exfoliation of dead skin cells is key. Exfoliation allows moisturizer to penetrate the skin. At home, you can use a gentle exfoliating cleanser with a face cloth, two to three times a week. Then moisturize while your skin is still moist. I recommend a professional exfoliation treatment every four to six weeks, depending on your skin type. And get a professional skin analysis to be sure you are using the correct at home product. Some over the counter products have a high alcohol content which dries the skin. Wearing sunscreen on a daily basis, even in winter, is crucial to protecting the skin. Other tips:

  • Try to avoid long, hot showers
  • Use a humidifier in the winter
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat omega-3 rich foods. Essential fatty acids can help fortify the skin’s natural oil retaining barriers. Foods rich in omega-3 include cold water fish, flaxseed, walnuts, and safflower oil.

Sheila Muldaur, Certified Classical Homeopath, Integrated Health Care, Vineyard Haven

Cell salts or tissue remedies are low potency homeopathic mineral preparations, credited for healing that is gentle and steady and completely safe for home use. These are slow acting and can be taken over time. Specific cell and tissue salts that can be taken internally for dry skin are:

  • Kali sulphuricum, for general skin dryness and flaking or scaling of the skin.
  • Calcarea phosphorica, for any chronic skin conditions, because it soothes the skin.
  • Natrum Muriaticum is important for dry hands and lips and cracked or chapped skin in general.

Chose the cell salt(s) that best matches your skin’s symptoms. Follow package directions for administration. On the Island, you can find Hylands and NuAge brands in a six-fold potency at health food stores.

The Staff at Sea Spa Salon, Edgartown

As skin is our largest organ, and we will have it forever, we must treat it with care. We here at Sea Spa like to add a few drops of our Aromessence oils into our facial masks to make it that much more effective. Professional grade hyaluronic acid helps to bind the essential oils into the skin for deeper penetration. A facial treatment aids in cell renewal for the dry skin by correcting ph balance and protecting it from the elements. Our estheticians, such as Virginia Vogt at Sea Spa Salon, can help identify your skin condition. While your skin type always remains the same, its condition changes with the environment and can create dullness. Seasonally, skin care products and regimen need to change to keep the skin looking its best. Living on the Island means a salty environment, but it doesn’t mean we have to all look salty. Even our fishermen could enjoy the right products to rejuvenate the skin.

Laura L. Denman MS, RD, Abundant Life Nutrition

I hate having dry skin. I hate the way it feels, the itchiness, the velcro sound as I pull on my socks. It can even prevent me from falling asleep, so I am all about prevention. My approach is two-pronged: internal and external. On the internal front, I take Omega 3 Fatty Acid (3000-4000mg) capsules every day, and I drink plenty of water. In the cold winter months, that water comes from filling up my tea cup with warm water, reusing the same bag over and over. I also have a green smoothie with lots of vegetables and some fruit most mornings, which helps prevent dry skin. Externally, lotion is never far from me. I stash it everywhere. The one that I slather on with abandon, which seems to work great for my entire family, is a Tropical Traditions brand made with coconut oil and no harmful ingredients. I also limit really hot showers, as that really dries out the skin. Knock on wood, my family is dry skin free this winter.