Winter brings our bodies such wonderful things: big batches of cozy soups and other cold weather cuisine, exhilarating outdoor workouts that feel less like stuffy exercise, a legitimate excuse to embrace candles, warm blankets, and to invite friends over for hot drinks for the sake of our mental health. But winter is also the harbinger of one thing I think we all universally despise: dry, cracked, itchy, or otherwise uncomfortable skin.
Before you go out to buy costly serums, creams, lotions, and cleansers to salvage the worst of winter-ravaged skin, first check out your pantry as a surprising source of relief. Below I've collected tips from beauty and dermatology experts on how you can use standard kitchen ingredients come back time.
Milk and Honey
Stylist Lillian Fallon shared a DIY face mask with Verily that might taste as good as it feels on your skin. “Honey, a natural moisturizer, mixed with milk can create enough moisture to penetrate layers of skin for hours at a time,” she writes. “In a small bowl, combine a spoonful of honey with a few tablespoons of milk and let sit for a couple of minutes. Apply it over your face, let dry, and rinse off with water.”
Plain Yogurt and Gram Flour
Tana Ghandi, a photographer who specializes in portraits (along with still life and travel images), knows healthy skin and a good skin product when she sees it. She shares recipes for DIY clean, two-ingredient face masks with Verily here. Try her version of a milk and honey mask for dry skin. But if your skin tends to be oily, try applying a paste of plain yogurt and gram flour. If you ever notice that your skin is extra oily during winter, it’s because your body tries to compensate for the dryness by producing extra sebum. “Yogurt contains nutrients like zinc that help regulate and balance oil production,” shares Ghandi. “It also has enough acidic and anti-bacterial properties that, if combined with gram flour, soak up excess oil leaving skin less greasy than before.” All you have to do, Ghandi writes, is, “Combine two spoons of plain yogurt with two spoons of gram flour. Apply the mixture on your skin and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse off with water.”
If your skin is also prone to acne, Ghandi recommends the humble clove. “To cleanse bacteria off each layer of skin, you’ll need something that has natural astringent properties that also simultaneously acts as a gentle exfoliant. Enter clove powder—known to have many medicinal values as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent, it also contains salicylic acid that helps exfoliate the skin. If you don’t have clove powder, grind whole cloves using a mortar and pestle, a coffee grinder, or food processor so it’s easy to spread.” However, she warns that cloves are potent and can cause irritation. So she recommends diluting it for a gentler solution: “Mix with honey, and apply directly on pimples or scars. Let it dry, and rinse off with water.”
Dr. Mamina Turegano, MD, a dermatologist, dermatopathologist, and proponent of holistic and functional medicine, has her patients tap into nature when it comes to solving dry skin problems. “I love recommending oatmeal baths to my patients with eczema or dry, itchy skin. Oatmeal contains antioxidants (namely avenanthramides) which help with inflammation,” she says. “If you have rolled oats at home, I recommend grinding them first to a powder (like in a coffee grinder, food processor, or blender), then pouring about half a cup to a whole cup into a bath of warm water. Soak in the tub for 15 minutes or less.” We predict a few soothing oatmeal baths are in your future.
Dr. Turegano also shares, “Coconut oil can serve as a nice moisturizing agent for the body. However, she advises avoiding using it on the face “because it has the potential to clog pores and cause acne.”
If you’re struggling with a dry scalp and want to avoid medicines, Dr. Turegano recommends her patients use “coconut oil for dandruff conditions in the scalp such as seborrheic dermatitis cradle cap.” Dr. Turegano identifies a yeast called Malassezia that feeds on the natural oils in your scalp and cause itchiness, redness, and flakiness/dandruff. She states, “Coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that can combat Malassezia as well as reduce the associated inflammation.” Don’t mind if we temporarily replace our hair conditioner with a jar of coconut oil until March (or whenever these frigid temps finally rise).
Water, Lemon, Cucumber, Celery, Coconut Water
Finally, Dr. Turegano extols the importance of staying hydrated when you have dry skin—even if you have to trick yourself into drinking more water. “In addition to plain water, I recommend consuming one or more of the following beverages on a daily basis because these are extra nourishing and hydrating for the body (and therefore skin): lemon water, cucumber juice, celery juice, and coconut water.” Think of it as “snacking” on water. You can find our recipes for healthy infused waters in this two-minute video. A toast to soft, supple and revitalized winter skin!