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  5. An Ayurvedic Guide To Winter Skin Care

Is the chill in the air causing extreme dryness in your skin? Dry, itchy, flaky skin are the common winter woes that most of us face every year.

Various internal and external factors affect the health of your skin. Every skin is unique and generalizing skincare can be a mistake. Hence, it is important to provide your skin with the care that is specifically customized to meet its needs.

Scroll down to know what causes dry skin and best winter skincare tips based on the ancient science of Ayurveda.

What Causes Dry Skin In Winter?

Your skin reacts to changes in the environment. The 2 major factors causing dry skin in winter are low sebum production and dry air [1]. To understand the internal factor responsible for dry skin in winter, let us understand the heat release or dissipation mechanism of our bodies.

1. Low Sebum Production

Your skin performs multiple functions, one of which is to act as an excretory organ [2]. In order to let your body enzymes function, your body needs to maintain its optimal temperature. So, when it gets too hot outside, the subcutaneous blood flow increases, which is blood flow under your skin and your sebaceous glands produce more sebum, resulting in oily skin. Both sebum and sweat production increases to release excess heat from your body. The exact opposite happens in the winter months. Your skin is moisturized internally by sebaceous glands that lie underneath the epidermis or the first layer of your skin. Your body tries to reserve heat in the winter season with lower subcutaneous blood flow. This cuts down on the sebum secretion, depriving your skin of necessary oils, thereby causing it to dry.

2. Dry Air

The external factor guilty of robbing your skin’s moisture is the cold, dry air that surrounds you in winter. In summer the reason you sweat more is because humidity in the air is high and the sweat evaporates gradually. However, in winter the air is dry and moisture from your skin easily evaporates, leaving it dry [3] and flaky.

Best Tips For Winter Skin Care

woman with body oil in spa

1. Oil Massages

In Ayurveda, it is believed that when your Tridoshas or Life Energies are out of balance, the body becomes vulnerable, falling prey to many ailments, amongst which is dry skin or ‘Tvag Rukshyata’. In winter, the Vata and Kapha Doshas are prone to getting aggravated. While cold, phlegm, congestion are caused by an aggravated Kapha, dryness is a Vata Dosha condition.

Ayurvedic texts cite the use of oil massages with Vata balancing Ayurvedic oils as a great treatment for dry skin. Massage daily with the following Ayurvedic oils to pacify the Vata Dosha on your skin and give it a radiant glow in winter.

A. Sesame Oil

Sesame oil is a natural healer of all skin conditions. The best thing about this herb is that it suits all skin types. It successfully reduces inflammations, skin allergies, infections, acne and revitalizes dry skin, restoring its natural oil balance.

B. Shatavari Oil

Shatavari is an ancient herb used to treat Vata related conditions of the skin and hair since ages. Shatavari can easily be referred to as the Ayurvedic Botox as it is loaded with anti-aging properties that prevent wrinkles, lines and dryness. It stops the breakdown of collagen, thus keeping your skin firm and elastic. Shatavari restores the lost moisture of your skin and prevents it from drying.

C. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil massage has been recommended by most grandmothers whenever we complained of dry skin in winter. And all for a good reason. Research shows that coconut oil is effective in treating rashes, redness, minor infections and dry skin. Regularly massaging yourself with coconut oil can bring relief to cracked heels, chapped elbows and lips and dry, flaky skin on your arms and legs.

D. Bhringraj Oil

Bhringraj oil is often used to treat skin conditions such as dryness and rashes. It nourishes and hydrates your skin from within, giving it a soft and smooth feel. It also slows down skin aging and its anti-inflammatory properties prevent acne and skin inflammations.

E. Almond Oil

Almond oil is commonly found in most households and is very useful in balancing Vata Dosha induced skin dryness. [4] Retinoids found in almond oil help in reducing skin acne. Being a natural humectant, it helps to seal your skin’s moisture leaving it hydrated and soft.

2. Using Ayurvedic Herbs

The use of Ayurvedic herbs to cure dry skin has been in practise since the olden days. You can apply them as a paste or even consume them with your favourite tea. These natural gifts of nature come with zero side effects and offer a permanent solution to your skin problems by treating them from the root.

A. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a potent Ayurvedic herb commonly used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including dry skin [5]. Enriched with antioxidants, Ashwagandha improves skin health and prevents damage caused by free radicals in your body. According to Ayurveda experts, Ashwagandha plays an important role in boosting the production of certain proteins and vital components that regulate skin aging. It aids the production of hyaluronic acid that keeps skin hydrated, elastin that increases the elasticity of skin and collagen that fights the signs of aging. Thus consumption or topical application of this magic herb will keep your skin soft, radiant and full of youth.

B. Yastimadhu

Yastimadhu or Licorice is a powerful herb used in Ayurvedic rasayana that helps improve skin health. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties rejuvenate dry skin by reducing inflammation and skin irritations. Yastimadhu actively fights off free radicals in your body and reduces oxidative damage to skin. It is also very effective in removing ‘Ama’, the toxic waste left behind by undigested food as per Ayurvedic concepts. Removal of Ama automatically improves your skin, making it appear healthy and glowing.

C. Kumari

Kumari or Aloe Vera is a natural moisturizer that can provide immediate relief from dry skin. Kumari’s hydrating properties make up for the loss of essential oils and moisture from your skin. It is also effective in healing redness or inflammations caused by dryness.

D. Manjistha

Manjistha is well known for its skin benefits. Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory in nature, Manjistha can cure a number of skin problems. If internally administered, this herb purifies your blood and removes harmful toxins from your body. Applying Manjistha topically on skin can effectively solve your dry skin problems.

3. Ayurvedic Face Packs

woman with mud face mask

Combat the cold weather with the below mentioned face packs loaded with the goodness of natural ingredients that hydrate and soothe dry skin, giving you a radiant glow throughout the winter season.

A. Milk, Almond And Rose Water

Benefits of milk on skin are endless, but it is most effective against dryness. Milk gets easily absorbed and moisturizes your skin from within. Loaded with vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, almond replenishes skin with essential oils that prevents internal dryness. Rose water is anti-inflammatory and protects the skin from irritations caused by dry weather. It is also a good moisturizer for dry skin.

How to use: Take the cream of milk and mix it with almond paste and rose water. Apply this face pack and leave it for 20- 30 mins. Rinse off for skin that is visibly soft and hydrated.

B. Avocado And Honey And Clove Oil

Avocado face packs are great when it comes to healing dry skin. It is rich in biotin, which naturally hydrates skin that lacks moisture. Honey is a natural emollient that prevents moisture in your skin from escaping, thus leaving your skin hydrated. Clove oil is known for its exfoliating properties. It helps get rid of the dead cells, allowing for nutrition to seep into your skin.

How to use: Blend avocado and honey in a blender. Add some clove oil to this mixture and apply on your face and hands and leave it on for 30 mins. Use this pack twice a week in winter to prevent your skin from becoming dry.

C. Banana And Aloe Vera

Vitamin A is known to repair dry and dull skin and bananas are full of it. The Vitamin A in bananas, moisturizes your skin and gives it abundant hydration. Aloe vera gets soaked into your skin easily and prevents it from cracking.

How to use: Mash a ripe banana and add aloe vera gel that is directly derived from the plant. Apply this on the face and leave it for half an hour giving your skin time to soak in the goodness.

D. Papaya And Honey

Papayas are used in several face packs to treat skin conditions such as dryness and sunburn. Rich in potassium that has the power to remove sun tan and moisturize skin that is left dry. Adding honey to papaya further enhances this face pack's ability to prevent skin dryness.

How to use: Mash ripe papaya in a bowl and add honey to it. Apply this on your face for 30 mins or more to deep moisturize your dry skin.

4. Yoga Practice And Mediation For Healthy Skin

woman doing yoga

Yoga has amazing benefits on the physical health of your skin. Most of the below mentioned Asanas help increase blood flow to the skin, thereby leading to the production of essential oils in your skin.

A. Bhujangasana

Performing Bhujangasana regularly allows your skin to absorb more nutrients and oxygen. This asana opens up your lungs allowing better channeling of oxygen to different parts of the body including your skin. It also opens up your heart which results in better blood flow to the skin. An increase of oxygen and blood flow to the skin prevents oxidative damage caused by free radicals and prevents premature aging, dryness and wrinkles.

How to do: Lie on your stomach and slowly push your head and chest up like a cobra. Perform this asana for at least 10 mins everyday for improved skin health.

B. Sarvangasana

Sarvangasana is the key to young, glowing skin. It aims to direct the blood flow to the face. Thereby promoting better oxygen reception to improve the feel and texture of your skin. Practicing this asana regularly is likely to prevent wrinkles, dryness, acne and dull skin.

How to do: To perform Sarvangasana, slowly lift your lower body. Now with the support of your hands lift your legs keeping them in a perpendicular position. Keep the support of your arms on your back and breathe normally.

C. Dhanurasana

Dhanurasana or the bow pose opens up your lungs and shoots up the oxygen supply to your entire body. This helps in reducing oxidative stress that causes skin damage. Performing this asana 3 to 5 times daily will naturally improve the texture and elasticity of your skin.

How to do: To perform Dhanurasana, lie down on your stomach, keeping your legs and hips in line. Place your arms on either side with palms facing down. Now slowly raise your knees and hold your ankles with your hands. Pull your chest off the ground and stretch your legs to form the bow pose.

D. Matsyasana

Matsyasana works on your metabolic system, improving digestion to provide your skin with essential nutrients. It also stretches your neck and face muscles, thus removing aging traits such as wrinkles and saggy skin.

How to do: To perform Matsyasana, sit cross-legged in Padmasana. Now giving support to your hips slowly bend back as you inhale. Lie on the ground with a raised chest and a forward gaze with your head in a comfortable position.

E. Ustrasana

One of the major benefits of Ustrasana is that it opens up the Anahata or Heart Chakra promoting blood circulation to your skin and other organs. It also opens up the lungs, stretches your skin and strengthens your body. It also stimulates the digestive system and helps in the metabolism of essential nutrients.

How to do: To perform Ustrasana, kneel down and place your hands on your hips. Now slowly arch back allowing your arms to be in a straight line. Make sure to keep your knees and shoulder in line. Regularly performing this asana will bring about a natural glow and improve your skin’s health.

F. Uttanasana

If you have heard of the ‘Inversion Method’ that rejuvenates skin and hair, Uttanasana works by the same principle. This forward bending asana promotes blood flow to the upper part of your body which in turn removes toxins and reduces free radical damage of your skin. The sudden gush of blood flow to your face and head brings to your skin essential nutrients and improves sebum production, which moisturizes your skin.

How to do: To perform Uttanasana, gently bend forward from your hips, exhaling all the way down. Soften your knees, keep your hips and heels in line and stay in this pose for a few breaths.

G. Face Yoga

Facial yoga caters to the 57 face and neck muscles the skin around which is most susceptible to weather changes and effects of age. The science of Ayurveda recommends a series of exercises that engage, stimulate and strengthen these muscles, thereby bringing a natural radiant glow on your face.

5. Soak Your Feet At Night In Warm Water

foot bath with orchid

Feet soaks are a great way to bring about that luxurious feel to dry and chapped heels. The skin on your feet tends to dry and crack easily in the winter season due to more friction and lack of moisture. Soaking them in warm water with certain essential oils or Apple Cider Vinegar can soothe and moisturize your skin.

A. Rosehip Oil Soak

Rosehip Oil that is derived from the seed and fruit of the rose plant is an excellent source of fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants. It easily penetrates the skin, nourishes and heals conditions like dryness, irritations and premature aging.

B. Chamomile Oil Soak

Chamomile moisturizes, calms and heals irritated, dry and chapped skin. Its anti-inflammatory properties bring quick relief to dry and sensitive skin.

C. Apple Cider Vinegar Soak

Apple Cider Vinegar is known for its many skin and hair benefits one of which is restoring the pH balance. It quickly penetrates the skin of your feet and relaxes dry skin and helps in retaining moisture.

D. Sandalwood Oil Soak

Soaking your feet in warm water and Sandalwood Oil is a good way to calm your senses and relax your feet. Sandalwood has a cooling effect on skin and works wonder on inflamed, dry and sore skin.

E. Lavender Oil Soak

Equipped with anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties, Lavender oil is often used to treat certain skin conditions such as dryness, eczema and psoriasis. It cleanses and soothes your skin, replenishing lost moisture and oils.

Vedix Tip: Soaking your feet with Epsom salt is a common method of exfoliation. But salt is not advised for dry skin, as it may result in further moisture loss from your feet.

6. Drink Lots Of Water

Hydration is the mantra to glowing skin. And it’s all the more important in the winter season. The essential moisture from your skin evaporates easily when the surrounding air is dry. Keeping yourself hydrated is always a good way to replenish the loss of moisture. Drink 7 to 8 glasses of water a day to remove harmful toxins from your body and enhance the health of your skin.

7. Moisturize Your Skin

As we have mentioned earlier, essential oils from your skin escape into the dry air in the winter months, leaving your skin dry and chapped. Applying an external moisturizer is a good way to restore lost oils into your skin. Choose a moisturizer that is low on chemicals to prevent damaging your skin in the long run. Ayurvedic moisturizers are a great way to hydrate dry skin without the chemical baggage. A good time to moisturize is once you’ve stepped out of the shower when your skin is still damp. Damp skin easily absorbs the moisturizer and prevents your skin from drying out.

8. Opt For Gentle Cleansers

Investing in gentle cleansers is a good way to keep dry skin away. Face washes usually have surfactants that further dry out your skin. Opt for a cleanser that has a hydrating effect on your skin and gently cleanses out the dirt without stripping your skin of its natural oils. Do not apply too much as it might be harsh for your skin. You could also opt for a medicated cleanser that is specifically made suitable for cleaning dry skin.

9. Eat Right

The right diet is a key factor that governs the health of your skin. Providing the essential nutrients (Vitamins A, B, C, E, K, Beta carotene) to your body and consuming food that has a high water content is the best way to prevent dry skin. According to Ayurvedic experts, including foods such as Oranges, Avocados, Berries, Walnuts, Flax seeds, Sweet Potatoes, Gourds (Bottle gourds, Snake gourds), Carrots, Green Leafy Vegetables, Ghee, and Coconut Oil in your diet can keep your skin hydrated from the inside.

10. Wear Comfortable Clothes

Of course you want to look stylish but remember your clothes play an important role in protecting your skin from the cold weather. Before putting on your woolen wear, have a cotton layer inside. Wool can be rough on skin and irritate skin that is already dry. Don’t forget your gloves as they are essential in keeping the skin on your hands soft and supple. The same rule applies to your feet. Soft woolen socks can keep your feet warm and prevent the skin from losing moisture. Don’t add unnecessary thick layers that can suffocate your skin. Top up with layers that allow your skin to breathe. It is wise to have cotton as the first layer, which can easily absorb sweat and keep you comfortable all day. Add a hat or scarf to complete your winter look and prevent skin exposure to the dry air.

11. Use Sunscreens

Remember, sunscreens [6] are not just for the summers. The winter weather dries out your skin. Sun exposure on dry skin can wreak more damage. Sunscreens form a protective layer on your skin and keep harmful UV rays away. So keep one handy and apply it half an hour before you step out.

12. Home Remedies

raw flowers cream and lemons

A. Glycerin Massage

A glycerin massage is one method to swear by when it comes to winter dry skin. Commonly available in most households, glycerin has been used as a remedy to dry skin since ages. It regulates the pH balance of your skin and keeps it soft and hydrated. You can add a little water to balance the consistency and apply it over dry patches.

B. Coconut and Neem Oil

Coconut oil is a common home remedy to dry skin. Adding 3-4 teaspoons of Neem powder to coconut oil further enhances its ability to treat dry skin conditions. Both coconut oil and neem have antibacterial properties that provide relief to chapped skin.

C. Marigold, Milk and Honey

Marigold is the seasonal flower loaded with medicinal properties. A paste of its leaves are often used to treat minor wounds. Marigold petals hydrate the skin and prevent dry skin problems. Add the cream of milk and honey to marigold flower paste to make a powerful dry skin remedy. Milk moisturizes your skin from within and honey locks in moisture, giving baby soft skin through the winter.

D. Oatmeal

Oatmeal has a low pH content and helps skin retain its moisture. Applying it as a mask, moisturizes dry skin and helps you get rid of rashes, inflammation or other similar skin conditions [7]. Blend oatmeal and make a paste by adding some water. You can replace the water with either milk or honey or both for added benefits.

The common belief that exfoliating dry skin aggravates the condition is untrue. Exfoliating actually removes dead cells and brings new healthy cells to the surface. But don’t forget to moisturize after you’ve exfoliated as your skin is left vulnerable and more prone to dryness.

Things You Should Avoid To Achieve Perfect Skin In Winter

woman drinking coffee in winter

Your winter skin woes can be the result of common mistakes most of us tend to make in our skincare routines. Here’s a list of don'ts that you need to keep in mind to achieve the perfect glow even in winter.

1. Showering In Hot Water For Long Time

A long hot water bath can feel heavenly but it can also strip your skin of its essential oils, leaving it feeling dry. Opt for a short lukewarm bath that cleanses your skin but does not dry it further.

2. Using Petroleum Jelly On Dry Skin And Lips

The common belief that petroleum jelly restores moisture to chapped is untrue. Petroleum jelly can effectively slow down or prevent moisture from escaping into the air. So it is effective when applied to skin or lips before they are dry or are in a damp condition. However, applying it to already dry skin is not of much use as in itself it cannot moisturize skin.

3. Excess Drinking Of Coffee

Well, we can go on about why too much caffeine consumption is bad for skin, but the major reason to cut down coffee in winter is that it dries your skin. Caffeine in coffee is a common diuretic which causes excess loss of body fluids. Too much urination can make your body dehydrated and your skin feeling dry and dull.

4. Sticking To Summer Skin Care Regimen

Your skin’s needs change as air outside gets cold and dry. Sticking to the summer skincare regimen may not provide enough hydration to your skin due to the drop in humidity. Switching to milder cleansing products for your body and face will help maintain the skin’s oil balance. Also, keeping a moisturizer handy would be wise. Use a natural face pack, Ayurvedic oil massage or apply any of the home remedies mentioned above to keep your skin hydrated at all times.

How Can You Change Winter Skincare Routine For Different Skin Types?

woman applying moisturizer on her face

There is no one size fits all when it comes to skincare. The winter season affects different skin types differently. So it is important to understand your skin’s specific requirements to design the perfect skincare regimen for it.

1. Winter Skincare For Oily Skin

Oily skin needs special care be it any season. In winter though, the sebum secretion is less so your skin may feel less greasy. However, skipping your skin care routine completely may lead to oil build up and acne. Change to a gentle cleanser that removes excess oil and dirt without stripping your skin of moisture. Use a good Ayurvedic face pack that hydrates skin and tackles oily skin problems such as acne. Usually a Pitta- Kapha Dosha imbalance leads to production of excess sebum. Use Ayurvedic herbs that pacify both these doshas for radiant skin.

2. Winter Skincare For Combination Skin

In winter, combination skin tends to dry and crack in places whereas the T-zone remains oily. Use a mild cleanser that clears excess oil but does not further dry your skin. Eat food that is hydrating and use Ayurvedic face packs that moisturize skin and helps maintain the pH level. Keep the sunscreen handy and do not expose your skin to direct sun.

3. Winter Skincare For Dry Skin

Dry skin requires extra moisturizing in the winter season to prevent excessive dryness. Avoid using harsh cleansers that remove necessary oils from the skin. Invest in a good moisturizer and sunscreen. Dry skin is usually caused by a Vata dosha imbalance. Consuming food that has a high water content and regular oil massages with Vata pacifying Ayurvedic herbs can keep your skin soft and supple.

The Last Word

Your skin reflects changes in the weather. With the chillness in the air and a drop in humidity, your skin demands extra nourishment. Regular hot oil massages, Ayurvedic face packs, Yoga, foot soaks and a good nutritious diet can prevent your skin from looking dry and dull. It is always advisable to visit your Ayurvedic doctor and know the perfect skin care routine for your unique ‘Prakriti’ or body constitution. A good skin care regimen that keeps your Doshas in balance will automatically give you healthy, glowing skin irrespective of weather changes.

Know Your Dosha Now