Soothing the Winter Itch

Soothing the Winter Itch

gretchen schempp, wellness buyer



t’s cold outside, warm inside and chances are, it’s dry in both environments.  Is your skin feeling it?  Dry skin is a common problem and is often worsened by the low environmental humidity of winter.  Dry skin often produces itching which can interfere with sleep and other everyday activities, hence the name “Winter Itch.”

I liked this comparison from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Health Notes:

“Healthy skin can be pictured as a multi-layered cake covered by a single sheet of clear plastic food-wrap to keep it fresh.  The plastic food-wrap prevents the frosting and underlying layers of the cake from drying out by preventing loss of the water from the cake into the air.  It is the moisture in the cake that gives it its freshness.  The outermost layer of the skin, which acts like the plastic food-wrap and is about the same thickness, is called the stratum corneum.  (This is the layer that peels off after a sunburn).  The stratum corneum consists of dead skin cells embedded in a mixture of natural oils that are made by underlying living skin cells.  These natural skin oils keep the water inside our body from escaping into the air and also keep irritating substances and germs from entering the body.  Both the skin oils and the dead skin cells hold a certain amount of water in the stratum corneum and it is  this stratum corneum water that helps keep the skin soft, pliable and smooth.”

Here are some suggestions for soothing the “itch” this winter.


Bath-time spa experience

Regular bathing can easily be turned into a nurturing and lovely spa experience.  Your skin will thank you, and it will glow with health.  I like to start with a face mask.  This can be done once a week or more often if needed.  I like this recipe when my skin is particularly dry.  Combine one tablespoon Evan Healy Whipped Shea Butter with one teaspoon green clay or rose clay (Evan Healy, NOW or bulk green clay).  Mix the clay into the shea butter and smear on the face.  Leave on as you prepare for bathing.  You will rinse this mask off in the shower (or you can do so before).  The warm water will further soften the shea butter and clay mix and saturate your skin in silky moisture.  The clay gently exfoliates and detoxifies.

Next up, undergo an invigorating round of dry brushing the skin.  Dry brushing was recommended by the Finnish doctor Paavo Airola for his patients 30 years ago and is still popular in European spas and many cancer treatment centers today.  Many body brushes are made from sisal or palm and are semi firm.  Brushing the skin in a circular motion towards the heart, do the arms, legs, bottom, thighs, armpits, hands and feet.  The skin breathes and this ritual will keep your skin detoxified and revitalized.

Some of the benefits of dry skin brushing are:

– cellulite reduction

– cleanses lymphatic system

– removes dead skin layers

– strengthens the immune system

– stimulates the hormone and oil producing glands

– tightens the skin

– tones the muscles

– stimulates circulation

– improves the function of the nervous system

– helps digestion

With the facial done, and the dry brushing completed, it’s time to hop in the shower or take the plunge into the bath.  Everyone seems to love a hot bath or shower, especially when the temperatures drop.  However, really hot water zaps the skins protective oils contributing to dry skin.  Warm water is best for retaining the moisture balance of skin and would fall somewhere around your body temperature.  A cold shower/bath is rated at 60 degrees and a hot one anywhere beyond 100 degrees.  Harsh, deodorant and antibacterial soaps also strip the skin of these natural protective oils.  It is best to use gentle and natural cleansers.  All of Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps are gentle and nourishing with hemp, coconut, olive, jojoba and vitamin E oils.

The next step is optional and not for the faint of heart.

Finally, before you get out of the shower turn the water on as cold as you can stand.  A blast of cold water has been said to detoxify, increase circulation, increase energy and clear negative energy.  Go from hot to cold 3 times.  Always end with cold as it closes the pores and tones the skin lending a healthy glow.  It is also said to be great treatment for hair, because it closes the hair cuticle, keeping dirt from entering the cuticle and dulling and discoloring hair.

Once you have finished cleaning up, it will do your skin good to moisturize.  It is said that a person should moisturize right out of the water in order to seal that remaining moisture in the skin.  I’ve taken a new approach to this advice. I have moved my coconut oil (my choice moisturizer) into the shower with me.  I suggest rubbing the coconut oil on the skin right in the shower or tub. Thus, sealing even more of the water into the skin. How ever you moisturize, be careful if you drop some, as it makes for a slippery floor.


Supporting Healthy Skin from the Inside

Recent studies have shown Omega-3 fatty acids to be supportive to skin health and particularly combative to dry skin.  Supplementing with fish oil high in EPA has been reported to alleviate the symptoms of dry flaky skin, eczema, psoriasis, acne as well as other inflammatory skin conditions.  Along with the benefits of EPA on skin health, DHA, another component of Omega-3 fish oil, is important in supporting mood and memory—perfect support for these dark months of winter.

Vitamins A and B both help support skin health.  These are usually found in a multi-vitamin, but an extra B complex vitamin can certainly be taken.  B vitamins are said to help reduce stress and build immune health as well.

Last winter when the tips of my fingers had gotten dry and cracked I found a remedy that I continue to use throughout the year.  Boiron homeopathics single remedy Petroleum says right on the tube “chapped or cracked fingertips.”  Within a few days of starting this remedy, I was seeing results and feeling relief.  I use this remedy when my fingertips are cracked from gardening too.