On a snowy, blustery day, to me there is no greater feeling than to look out the window, to stick out my tongue at Old Man Winter, and then to curl up with a good book to enjoy a good story, to catch up on some of my binge watching, or to grab my laptop and work on some stories of my own. When my cat joins in and purrs contentedly by my side, everything seems right with the universe.
But nothing turns this Norman Rockwell moment upside down faster than to glance down and to notice blood trickling from my knuckles. Welcome to my nightmare of wintertime dry skin.
The combination of bone dry air outside with heated houses, heated cars and heated offices lends itself to there being very little moisture in the air. Without proper protection and hydration, these factors can quickly conspire and take their toll on skin.
When I was much younger and my skin could bounce back like an elastic, I didn’t have to worry too much about it. But once I passed 50, there have been days I thought that there was not enough moisturizer in the world to stay on top of it.
We are told that one way to hydrate properly is from the inside out. That has never been a problem, as I always seem to have a cup of water or green tea on the go, refilled frequently throughout the day. When my tummy makes that sloshing sound when I walk, I believe I’ve done my part. But my skin still gets dry.
So the next tactic is to work from the outside in. In my 20’s it started out easily enough, with a special face soap that didn’t dry out my skin, a little daily dab of moisturizer on the face and an application of hand cream on the driest days and I was good to go.
But over the years, more steps and more products have been incorporated into the moisturizing standard operating procedure (MSOP). And after 50, the MSOP takes on a life of itself, requiring something more like a detailed instruction manual, complete with a table of contents, a glossary, anatomical maps and an index.
After 50, it was time for the heavy artillery of skin care.
The little dab of moisturizer on the face is now a serum followed up by either a light or heavy moisturizer, depending on how cold and dry the day is.
Now, the application is no longer just restricted to the face. My clipper cuts revealed that my scalp also needed a boost, so a little moisturizing product is massaged into the scalp to keep it nice and shiny.
When we are told that one way to prevent colds and flu over the winter months is proper hand washing techniques, I take that advice to heart. But the increased use of soap and warm water in dry weather begs for some compensation in the form of regular applications of hand cream. Fortunately, I have several tubes scattered around to try to stay on top of that and to ensure my fingers don’t look permanently puckered.
As I suggested a few weeks ago, to keep my lips from looking like a scene from a horror movie requires consistent attention from lip balms, but those little suckers seem to constantly escape from me.
More recently, following an eye injury (that has long since healed), I seem to have a heightened sensitivity to dry eyes. For that reason, I have little vials of eye drops at home, at the office and in my messenger bag. Dear co-workers, if it looks like I’ve been crying and it’s December to March, chances are that nothing is wrong, I just put in some eye drops.
Also, in recent years, I discovered the joy of the neti pot, to flush some saline solution in one nostril and out the other. Over the winter months, my neti pot gets steady use to keep the sinuses clear, while the added moisture always feels refreshing.
It should come as no surprise if I am sometimes running a little late over the winter months. When you factor in the time needed to put on extra layers of clothing and outerwear to stay warm and the additional measures of moisturizing and hydration to prevent from looking like a walking prune, it’s a wonder that I am ever on time, even if I get an early start.
When I travel in winter, it’s a little staggering how my toiletry bag goes from having room to spare to bulging at the seams from all of the extra products needed to stay ahead of the curve.
Despite all of the above measures and repeated applications, it surprises me to no end how skipping just one day of the moisturizing SOP, can result in my skin turning from human to reptilian in the blink of a dry eye.
The definite sign that the dry air is winning is when I am granted a senior’s discount without asking.
The consolation is that the war on dryness is temporary. Before we know it, spring is back, along with warmer temperatures and the air carries with it more humidity. When that happens, keeping the skin looking fresh and dewy does not require the same arsenal of products applied methodically at scheduled intervals.
When one application of moisturizer in the morning and one at night is enough to keep my skin looking and feeling healthy, that’s when I know the war on dryness is in a truce.
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