Winter means our skin has put up with a lot of strange temperature shifts. We go from being cozy in bed to freezing our bums off waiting for public transport on the morning commute to work. While we may still be moisturising with our favourite brands, we’re probably not consciously hydrating ourselves with water like we do in the warmth of summer. This can leave skin dry, flaky and even tight in awkward places, for example in delicate areas like the under eye and on our lips. It’s time to put the spring back into our skin and rescue it from winter blues!
Remember that applying all the fancy lotion in the world will never work unless you’re putting the right fuel in your body. Tasty foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as nuts, fish, soybeans, olive oil (as a dressing or cooking oil, don’t drink it girls!) and kidney beans can be a great addition to the diet in winter and most of these things will keep for a length of time in your press. Although, the fish is best kept in the fridge! If you’re not a fan of these edibles you can take omega 3 supplements such as cod liver oil.
One dietary choice which should never be overlooked is water. People preach the classic ‘eight-glasses-a-day’ gospel. However, there’s a more accurate way of deducing how much you should be knocking back. Take your weight in pounds (if you usually measure in another kgs or stone you can convert it online here) and multiply the amount by 2/3 or 67%. The figure you get is the number of fluid ounces you should be drinking each day. However, you might make some adjustments if you take regular exercise. For every 30 minutes of exercise add 12 ounces of water to your diet and you should keep well hydrated. If you don’t want to do the math there’s always the option of using some handy online calculators like this one from About.com Health.
Don’t like the taste of water? Add some fruit juice or try my favourite recipe. Get a jug of water. Add some sliced lemon, lime, strips of cucumber peeled with a potato peeler length-ways and crushed mint. Keep in the fridge and serve with ice. That’s refreshment at its finest!
There are three major types of moisturiser ingredients and you’ll more than likely see a mixture of each kind on ingredients lists. Humectants such as lactic acid and glycerine moisturise by attracting water in the skin. Emolients (think E45) such as fatty acids and ceramides smooth and soften. Finally, we have our barrier creams or occlusives (Vaseline et al) which attempt to keep already existing moisture in. While it’s important to go with what you think suits your skin best, it’s recommended that you at least have a specific face cream. As a rule of thumb, the plainer the cream the better. Avoid products heavy in perfume or ones which contain alcohol. Many fast absorbing brands use ‘alcohol denat.’ better known as plain old methylated spirits. The full stop is that this is damaging to your skin, while fatty alcohols like stearyl alcohol (found in coconut oil) aren’t . In a (coco)nutshell, you wouldn’t use paint stripper to remove your make-up, so don’t use it in your moisturiser.
Eat to relax
Well, we’ve already looked at what to eat for your improve your weather worn skin, but what should we eat to help us feel better on the inside? The new year and early spring can be a very stressful time for people at work and we all deserve some down time. While herding a flock of delightful junk food to the couch and spending your Sunday in front of the TV may seem like the obvious option, it won’t you do you any favours. Instead, we’re going to look at food that actually helps you chill, not food that you eat while you are chilled.
- Chewing gum
Chewing helps combat feelings of anxiety by tricking your brain into thinking there’s nothing to worry about. Lots of the symptoms of anxiety come from our ‘flight or fight’ instinct which prepared prehistoric humans for tackling grizzly bears and other wild beasts of yore. Stressful times therefore lead to the release of adrenaline in the blood which can leave us feeling anxious. Chewing gum convinces your brain you are eating. Prehistoric man wouldn’t be sitting down to a T-bone steak if there was a predator close-by!
- Bananas and dark chocolate
The mineral potassium found in bananas helps to regulate those stress hormones! Also, the amount of cocoa found in dark chocolate can be a real help. The more cocoa the better. Anything above 60% is a step in the right direction. And they both go well on pancakes. Just sayin’.
Actively Relax and be a Cultured Vulture
Did you know that the Danes have a word devoted to the concept of ‘coziness’ or actively pursuing coziness? It’s called ‘hygge’. Think of having a hot chocolate by the fire with a warm blanket and a snuggle buddy or enjoying your favourite meal with family and friends. That’s ‘hygge’ and if you ask me, we should all have more of it in our lives.
There’s a Swedish word ‘gökotta’ that we unfortunately have no translation for. It means to ‘wake up early in the morning with the intention of hearing the first birds sing’. I can’t think of a better way to start a spring morning. Sometimes a break in routine can give you a better perspective on things.
A little mindfulness meditation as often as you can will anchor you in the present and stop you stressing about the froth. The only place for froth is on top of your cappuccino as you indulge in some well deserved ‘hyyge’. Remember that meditation is all about practice and it need not cost you anything, there are plenty of guided meditations online and there are free drop in centres too like this one in Dublin.