Greetings from a very chilly living space in Toronto! This week has been quite cold – today is minus 10 with a minus 19 degree wind chill, and because we’re right next to a Great Lake, the cold blowing off the water is bone-chilling (though nothing compared to what’s happening in SK, where it’s -31 in Regina today).
My first thought when I walk in is to get the chill out of my bones, and how do I do that? Like a lot of you, I think about having a hot shower. Then I stop and grab another sweater because I know that though hot water may feel good at the time, ultimately, it’s not a good idea.
Hot water does some nasty things to our skin – dries it out, makes it tight, and strips the natural oils from skin, leaving a dry and itchy feeling. If you use commercial soaps that are heavy with synthetic fragrances and colours, this will further rob your skin of its natural oils and keep the skin dry and tight.
Discovery’s Fit and Health offers an excellent information on avoiding hot water in winter, explaining that the heat from a hot shower makes the skin’s oils soften, and when soap is added, the skin’s oil barrier is easily stripped away (at first, this isn’t a bad thing, they say, because that same oil barrier traps dirt and sweat, which leads to body odour). But without those oils, “the moisture in your skin easily escapes, leading to dry and itchy skin. The longer and hotter the shower, the faster this process takes place and the more moisture you’re likely to lose.”
That’s when the discomfort begins – not only is there a lot less moisture in the air in winter, keeping your skin significantly dried out, hot showers make the skin hot, tight, itchy, and if you’re cursed with sensitive skin like me, you’ll step out of the bath covered in red splotches that take hours to calm down.
The Art of Manliness recommends to take a “James Bond shower” – the book version of James Bond explains that every time JB took a shower, he would start with hot water, and then turn it down to cold for the last few minutes. Apparently invigorating with many health benefits, bathing in cold water has been the norm for centuries. The site lists ways in which cold water improves circulation, relieves depression, makes for healthy skin and hair (I notice that when I turn the warm water down and rinse my hair in cool water, it is much shinier), strengthens immunity, and boosts testosterone!
Dr. Mathew Avram, director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Dermatology, Laser, and Cosmetic Center, talked winter skin care with Boston Magazine, saying that lukewarm showers or baths are best for winter bathing. He recommends that after bathing, “wipe off the excess water on your skin, and then immediately moisturize. Your skin will absorb the moisture better that way.”
For those of you who think, pfft! real men don’t moisturize!, I would like to remind you that your skin is an organ, in fact, the largest organ of your body, so why wouldn’t you take care of it? Moisturized skin feels better, looks better, does not crack, and will not bleed from cracks!
On top of moisturizing, exfoliating is a fantastic idea at least once a week to slough off the top layer of dead skin cells that keeps moisture out. Dry skin is one of the worst feelings in the world for me, so I like to use exfoliating gloves (available at the Body Shop, drug stores, or alternative health stores) in the shower. Pull them on, soap them up, then wash your entire body with these scrubbing mitts that leave a soft layer of fresh skin. Apply a natural moisturizer like shea or cocoa butter afterwards to feel smooth and comfortable. Yum!
More winter skin care tips here.