Dear Brooklyn Herborium,
Every winter, my lips get incredibly dry, to the point where they crack and sometimes bleed. My nose and my hands also tend to get very dry, raw and flakey. It’s gotten especially worse now that the temperature has dropped and the heat is blasting non-stop in my apartment. I’ve been putting moisturizing oils and balms on my hands and the rest of my skin but that doesn’t seem to be helping. What can I do?
Dried Out in Upstate New York
Dear Dried Out,
There is no such thing as a moisturizing balm. Balms are occlusive, protective layers that don’t let water in or out. This is why using a balm on your lips and hands may bring immediate relief and feel good short term, but could made things worse in the long run if you are not paying attention. Using a balm as a moisturizer, just like trying to use an oil (by itself) in place of a moisturizer, can create barrier damage by not allowing the skin to function properly.
When You Need It for Protection
The key to using balms as a method of soothing the skin and lips while preventing environmental damage is to make sure to provide ample lubrication and hydration under the balm before you head out into the cold. You can simply use your usual Moisture Duo. If you are experiencing painful and flakey areas or if you are prone to cold sores, try Cow Fart Juice instead of Nourish & Replenish Oil.
Don’t Become “Addicted”
It may help you to remember that when you always do something FOR the skin, the skin has a tendency to stop doing it for itself. (Kind of like a teenager…) When we allow moments of being uncomfortable, particularly during the changes of season, it gives the body the opportunity to “up its game” and show you what it can do.
For Dry Lips
When you oil cleanse (2 to three times a week-only at night) include your lips by gently massaging your lips with NO EVIL and a little water. Do not moisturize. In the morning, make your Moisture Duo as usual (3 drops of Nourish & Replenish Oil and 5 Sprays of your Mineral Mist) and apply it to your skin, including the lips. If you are going out into inclement weather, let your Moisture Duo sink in (about 2-3 minutes) before applying a balm, like Bumble Balm for normal skin, Honey Balm for those who tend towards peeling skin or Cow Fart Goo if you tend toward cold sores or things don’t heal well on you in general.
If there is chapped, flakey skin build-up on your lips that just won’t quit, add a little salt to a 1 tsp of lemon juice and gently apply to the lips. Hold a steamy, warm washcloth over the paste for a few moments before you massage your lips in a circular motion. Remove the paste with your washcloth after you have rinsed it again in clean water. This is best done at night before bed and without applying a balm afterwards–even if it feels slightly uncomfortable. The point is to remove the offending layer, surrender control, and then allow the lips to rebuild as you sleep.
Here’s a great article a local Mom wrote after coming to see me about her chapstick addiction…
For The Face
To help ease you into the changing weather conditions, massage your Moisture Duo into your skin as you usually would (perhaps 6 pumps of your Mineral Mist, for 3-4 weeks at the beginning of the winter if you are prone to dehydration with the usual 3 drops Nourish & Replenish Oil) and then (if you are going out into harsh weather conditions) dab 1-2 drops of NO EVIL on areas that tend to become dry and flakey: around the nose, ears, and lips. In the morning, NO EVIL is a superior membrane protector that is also suited for the face, shielding your delicate areas from cold winds of winter and the dry heat inside your home and work. If you are spending the day at the slopes, you may do better with bumblebalm for protection. At night, don’t moisturize (particularly after oil cleansing) so that the body uses the night time rest to boost its own oil production. No matter how much we LOVE our amazing facial oils, the oil that your functional skin produces for you is far superior.
Pore Refining Clay Mask is a soothing way to bring overall relief to dry winter skin. Mix 3 tsp water into 2 tsp dry powder and let sit. Apply over clean skin that has been gently massaged with 3 drops of Nourish & Replenish Oil or Cow Fart Juice. Relax with this mask on your face for 5-10 minutes, preferably with a warm, wet, towel on top to prevent the mask from drying out. Remove by pressing the towel firmly into the mask and pausing for a moment to dampen the clay before gently wiping away.
We generally recommend oil cleansing with NO EVIL 2 times a week. If you are congested with hardened blackheads (particularly on the cheeks and T-zone), it is a great idea to steam your skin over the oil with either the Facial Steamer herbs or one of our Stress Bump Teas. They also make great herbal compressions for removing NO EVIL when you are using it as an Oil Cleanser. Dip your towel in the warm water and hold it over the NO EVIL and gently wipe away with the towel. ***We understand that it feels good to oil cleanse in the winter, but oil cleansing is best done at night and is never appropriate for more than once in every 24 hour period.
Weekly Body Scrub:
Scoop out 1 tbsp Ancient Secrets Body Scrub and place it in a small dish. Add 1 tsp warm water (and maybe a few pumps of Instant Alchemy Mineral Mist). Scoop into hands and rub together before massaging onto body. Now run your shower kind of hot, but not burning or boiling. Get under the shower and massage the scrub into your skin with the water pressing against you. You can rub your skin vigorously in the shower with a washcloth. At the end of your shower, it would behoove you to turn the water to slightly cold (almost frigid) for the last minute to give yourself a useful hormetic stressor that not only boosts the body’s immune response, but helps to acclimate you to the cold so that you are not uncomfortable and shivering AFTER you get out!
If you don’t want to use salt, bring 1 tbsp of our infused coconut oil or three pumps of Massage in a Bottle. Emulsify with one of our Mineral Mists by spraying 12 pumps directly into the oil and apply to skin. If you want to shower it off, follow directions as above.
Take Care of Your Hands
Don’t use harsh soaps and super-duper hot water for washing. Fortunately, when you use out Moisture Duo on your face, it provides ample nourishing moisture for your hands and cuticles too. If you want hydrated cuticles that are resilient and can protect themselves (at least indoors) do not apply straight up oil or balms to your hands either! When you go out, use silk glove liners to keep you warm and protected.
Now, go enjoy this awesome snow!!!
Emma & The Maidens, Mothers, and Crones of the Brooklyn Herborium
Sledding scene courtesy Pohl Pálma [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons
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Illustration by Krista Dragomer
Krista Dragomer is an Ohio-born mixed media artist living and working in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Her work can be seen at www.kristadragomer.com