Friday, January 2, 2015

Dry Skin Advice

Tackling Winter Dry Skin, Naturally

Our daughter enjoys all the seasons, but she seems to be most captivated by the winter.  In pre-school, it would take us an hour to walk 5 blocks home on snowy days.  She would insist on jumping onto every single snow bank, often getting stuck, or worse, losing a boot along the way.  As she gets older, she is becoming an enthusiastic skier, and just the other day asked when we can go sledding -- a tall challenge in the absence of snow! New York can get fairly cold in the winter, and thankfully, our daughter doesn't mind. 

The biggest challenge, however, of the chilly winter months is tackling our daughter's persistent bouts of dry skin, which is aggravated by the outside cold and the moistureless heating. For years, I have attempted to eradicate patches of dryness by applying all natural products. Since some of the product is absorbed into the body through the skin, it is comforting to know that the ingredients are natural. 
Logically, teaching our children about skin health is important.  The epidermis is fundamentally the largest organ of the body, and is the first line of defense against the world.  Mindful skin care begins in childhood and, as most of us adults who grew up without effective sunscreens and moisturizers know, early damage can be problematic later in life. While commercial brands have questionable ingredients that should give us pause, the makeup of the natural products should also be considered. Some plants, even organically grown, contain substances that can cause allergic reactions or may even be toxic.  I have not found this to be the case in any of the products I have used on my daughter; but it is always important to check the product ingredients before purchasing.   

Recently, I tried the Hellomellow line (Balance -Avocado/Mango), but like so many of the organics, it was oily and needed constant application. And while it was pleasingly fragrant, it didn't seem to work as well as the petroleum-based commercial products, such as Aquaphor and Cetaphil.

Unfortunately, Aquaphor comes with some risks. Aquaphor is a thick emmolient and can clog pores and even aggravate some skin conditions. Also, it has been suggested that skin care petroleums can tax the body, and contain potential carcinogens. They have even been linked to infertility. This is not surprising since petroleum is ostensibly a byproduct of the oil industry. But, don't get me wrong, given all this, Aquaphor does work.  It's been around for decades, but it is by no means organic. 

For my daughter's skin, in the height of winter dryness, I reluctantly apply Hydrocortisone Ointment. Impressively, it works overnight.  However, as a topical steroid, this is as far from organic as one can get.  Logically, I only use medicated creams when absolutely necessary -- they come with a laundry list of side effects, including increased risk of infection, changes in pigmentation and systemic absorption.   

Recently, I was thrilled to discover an all natural, food-based product, which has shown some promising results (noting that winter is still young) for our daughter.  Egyptian Magic safely moisturizes with Olive Oil, Beeswax, Honey, Bee Pollen and other natural ingredients; nontoxic ones that, if accidentally swallowed, would be digestible. I strongly recommend this product.  Used daily, it has truly helped to clear up my daughter's dry skin. Egyptian Magic is also effective for adults and is perfect for the face and lips on those brutally cold days. Yes, it is fairly "magical."  

Some other noteworthy products that were recommended by my pediatrician are:

I am a huge fan of the Mustela line. I have used the sunscreen on my daughter's face since she was a baby.  While it can be a bit cakey, it doesn't sting her eyes and protects all day long.  I highly, highly  recommended it.  Like the rest of the Mustela product line, the Protect moisturizer is an effective product; but it is not organic and it is a bit pricey. 

Although I am not currently using CeraVe, it is recommended by pediatricians, including mine.  Should the natural products run their course, I will try this next.

Other helpful dry skin tips:

  • Keep your children hydrated, with water (and a nutrient filled diet). Skin moisture begins on the inside. 
  • Use natural detergents in the washer/dryer. Seventh Generation makes a terrific detergent - Free and Clear.  For tough stains and odors, boost the detergent by adding baking soda to the load.  
  • Avoid baths, stick to the shower. And keep them short and less frequent in winter. 
  • Apply Vitamin E oil and/or coconut oil onto the skin after shower.
  • Use soap sparingly, stay away from harsh bar soaps.  Try soap free soaps.  I am a fan of Burt's Bees Fragrance Free/Tear Free cream wash (99.9% natural!). 

I know, I know -- seemingly, strange advice from a self-proclaimed neat freak!  But taken together, these suggestions work!  

Slightly off-topic 

I just discovered an effective natural plant-based hair conditioner -- Babo Botanical.  It's sulfate free, tear free and surprisingly leaves my daughter's hair wonderfully smooth.  You can find it at Whole Foods. 

Have a fantastic moisture-rich Winter!

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