Soothing herbs and oils to beat winter skin worries
Your skin is the body’s largest organ. Like other parts of your body, it has its own microbiome, which scientists define as the communities of microorganisms that inhabit your skin, mouth, gut, and other parts of your body. These microbes play a fundamental role in keeping you and your skin healthy, making it imperative to eat right, manage stress, and take care of this important organ.
Eating a nutrient-rich diet, complete with fermented foods, can go a long way toward maintaining healthy skin from the inside out. You’ll also want to drink plenty of water to help keep your skin moist. Select vegetables high in vitamins A and carotenoids, like squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, and other orange or dark green vegetables.
Healthy skin requires plentiful amounts of omega-3 fatty acids like those found in flax, chia, hemp, walnuts, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Enjoy fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, or naturally fermented pickles daily to keep your microbiome, and your skin’s microbiome specifically, balanced with beneficial microbes.
We all know that stress impacts just about everything, and your skin is no different. Researchers have identified this connection as the brain-skin axis, which is a “complex interplay between the nervous and immune systems, and the skin.”
Essentially, it means that stress affects the brain and immune systems, which affect the skin’s susceptibility to infection and its ability to heal wounds. While stress may be a part of your life, finding ways to manage its impact— with exercise, spending time outdoors, journalling, singing, or connecting with someone you care about—can help reduce the impact it has on your skin.
Use gentle and natural skincare products to keep your skin moisturized and protected from harsh winter elements. The addition of essential oils and herbs that improve skin health may help.
Applying key skin-soothing essential oils, diluted 1:10 (or more for sensitive skin, facial skin, or children) in a carrier oil, can help address local skin issues, including acne flare-ups, eczema, and dryness. While there are many essential oils that can help, some of the best skin healers include bergamot, camomile, and lavender.
Keep in mind that when used topically, some oils, particularly citrus oils, can cause photosensitivity, meaning they can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. There is conflicting opinion as to whether bergamot can cause photosensitivity. Avoid using these oils on your skin within several hours of direct sun or UV ray exposure.
Not only is the scent heavenly, but an animal study reported in the journal Food Science and Nutrition found that bergamot essential oil boosted collagen production, which strengthens the skin and which may help to promote a youthful appearance.
Both German and Roman camomile essential oils respectively, have been widely used for skin health, but chamazulene, a compound specifically found in German camomile has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects, making it particularly beneficial to soothe winter skin.
Well known for its burn-healing ability and heavenly scent, lavender’s healing properties are even more expansive. Research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that lavender essential oil in a 1:10 dilution of a carrier oil applied topically to psoriasis resulted in a 74 percent improvement. Lavender essential oil can also be used to alleviate redness and inflammation, dermatitis, eczema, and to heal wounds.
The oil you select for diluting essential oils can also impart healing properties to the skin. While there are many excellent options, two great choices for winter skin care include coconut and jojoba oils.
This carrier oil comes in solid or liquid (known as fractionated) forms, both of which can be used to take advantage of coconut’s skin-moisturizing properties.
Jojoba oil has been found in research to have anti-inflammatory effects, which can be helpful in a range of skin conditions, including infections, aging skin, and wound healing.
In a study published in Phytotherapy Research, scientists found that a calendula extract worked on human skin cells as an antioxidant and also boosted healing. Another study published in the same journal found that calendula increased the rate of wound healing by boosting the immune system’s ability to destroy harmful bacteria and fungi. Calendula-infused oil and salves for topical application are available in most health food stores.
While most known for its pain-alleviating effects on muscles and joints, oils and ointments infused with the herb comfrey can also be applied to wounds to promote healing.
|dry skin||coconut and jojoba|
|flaky skin||coconut and jojoba|
|red patches||camomile or calendula|
|windburn||camomile, calendula, and lavender|
Add one drop of bergamot, camomile, or lavender essential oil to a dollop of your favourite moisturizer to boost its skin-healing and -protecting properties.