Winter has always been a skin care challenge in the upper Midwest, but it got worse after I started winter biking. Even with my mostly-windproof balaclava, my face was red, dry and itchy after a good ride. I failed at staying on top of it last winter, and things got so bad that regular moisturizers weren’t helping, even though I tried several brands. In fact, I suspect that the drug-store moisturizers were making it worse, their fragrances and chemicals further irritating my already angry epidermis.
In high school, I believed all the advertising hype about “oil free” skincare products, and for years used oil free sunscreen, foundation, and moisturizer. I’ve done a complete 180 and am now using argan, jojoba, and tea tree oils to moisturize my skin, and I love the results! Granted, my complexion is a bit different than it was when I was a teenager – thank God.
I found out about these natural products after Grease Rag friend Esther asked what was wrong with my skin – yep, it looked bad, too. She suggested tea tree oil diluted with jojoba oil. This recommendation was echoed by the cosmetics counter at my local co-op. It was a skin care revelation.
Tea tree oil has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Several people have also told me that it helps skin heal faster, thought this may just be a function of the anti-bacterial qualities. Undiluted tea tree is too strong to use by itself and some people have a tea tree allergy, so it’s important to test a weak dilution before using a strong one. I was thrilled when my dermatologist told me that there’s no such thing as overdoing it topically, but tea tree is toxic when taken internally. In other words, don’t use it on your lips!
Jojoba oil is chemically very close to the sebum that our skin produces naturally, making it a great moisturizer on its own. Jojoba is found in lots of cosmetics, as is coconut oil – another popular option. Jojoba is a good base for tea tree solutions. In very rough estimation, I’ve been using 2-4 drops of tea tree oil for a tablespoon of jojoba oil, but again, start with less and then add more.
Argan oil was a later discovery. My hair stylist uses the brand-name product Moroccan Oil on my locks every time I go in for a cut, and for 2-3 days afterwards, my hair is more curly and less frizzy. The stuff is expensive though! Turns out Moroccan Oil is mainly composed of argan oil, which is also expensive but not as. It’s helping me keep hair static under control this winter, but it’s also good for skin. As an added benefit, argan oil is edible, so I know it’s OK to smear my lips with it. To keep your coif under control, squirt in your palms after getting out of the shower and rub it through damp hair. Argan is a kind of nut, so if you have nut allergies this is probably not for you.
The products are available at most co-ops and natural foods stores (check the cosmetics section). I would love to hear other ideas for how you keep your skin happy and beautiful in the dry, frigid winter months, but right now I’m just thrilled that my skin tone is an even shade of hydrated.
P.S. Coldest day yet this winter in Minneapolis with a high of -2 Fahrenheit. I rode my bike with an extra headband over my balaclava and long underwear layered with snow pants. Didn’t break my personal record of -16 Fahrenheit, though. The streets were clear and the sun was out!