We all have those times of the year when our skin gets particularily fussy. Ayurveda teaches that this depends on our constitution, and the constitution of our skin. If what is out of balance in our bodies is further aggravated by the weather, then watch out – that’s where trouble starts.
For me in my teens and twenties, summer was my season of suffering, and spring was the harbinger of doom. (Maybe for this reason, maybe for the hot dry winds full of dust that always came to Albuquerque in the spring, spring is my least favorite season.) Through the summer, my skin was sooo oily that Fall actually brought relief as the air got drier and cooler.
For most people it’s the transitional seasons – Spring and Fall – the bring the most trouble. It is in these seasons that the weather changes most drastically.
We are moving from Summer to Fall, the season represented by Vata. Vata qualities are dry, cold, quick, moving, scanty, light, rough, irregular and changeable.
We see this in our skin as it becomes drier, maybe even flaky and rough. It might get more sensitive and red as well. Fall may bring on the condition of dry skin acne for many, might increase Vata acne for some (milia and blackheads, increased non-inflamed congestion), and calls for a slightly different touch when it comes to our sensitive and responsive skin.
However, Fall also brings relief from the sun and heat, which are huge Pitta unbalancers, and can aggravate rosacea and eczema.
In the Fall, the skin becomes thinner and more delicate, less oily and thick. Elasticity decreases.
So what are some things to do to change your skincare in the Fall that will keep complexions balanced and bright?
1. Add an Absorbing Fluid or Serum
When the skin loses moisture, it is not enough to try to compensate with an oil. Our skin is moisturized by both water and oil, and very dehydrated skin, especially flaking and red skin, can actually become more irritated if coated with heavy creams and oils. There are several ways to add more moisture through a serum or fluid – experiment with the right one for you:
- MIX serum and oil. If you mix a little oil with a little serum in an anointing dish, you get a lovely light lotion that has no added emulsifiers or fillers, and your skin gets the water it needs for hydrating, plus the protection of an oil to keep water from leaving the skin. And the emulsion is light enough that it shouldn’t irritate dehydrated skin.
- Apply oil first, absorbing fluid after. This is a beautiful way to get oils and waters to sink deep into the skin. It also helps give the skin some breathing room, so there’s not just a layer of oil sitting on the surface.
- Apply serum first, oil or balm second. I put this last because this is my least favorite way to do this, but to each their own. Ironically, this is the most popular way and what pretty much any one else will tell you when it comes to combining a serum and an oil.
A final note – be careful if you are using serums with Glycerin or Hyaluronic Acid in them – these ingredients are very hydrophilic and draw water to them. Theoretically, this is good, because if you put them on your skin, they’re supposed to help attract and retain moisture. However, if the air is very dry (hello, fall air), then what can happen is that they actually pull moisture OUT of your skin, since they sit on top of the skin and are not readily absorbed.
In the fall/winter, it is vital to combine your serum with some oil or balm to “seal” the skin surface and prevent the dry air from stripping moisture out. To that end, if you are ONLY using an oil, add serum/fluid, but if you are currently only using a serum, add a balm or oil!
2. Upgrade your Moisturizer
Generally, we tend to intuitively reach for slightly richer foods in the fall and winter. Those light, lovely salads of summer are no longer as appetizing as hearty soups and casseroles. Our skin has a similar appetite. In the winter, an oil may not be enough, especially if it is very light, like Clear Resolution or Souffle de Rose. You might want to reach for a slightly heartier oil or even a balm. (Generally, I do not recommend creams since I know how much emulsifier has to go into the cream to get so much oil to emulsify.)
In order to get my oils thicker, I do not usually reach for thicker, richer oils, since these can be problematic for acne prone skin. Coconut oil, while still better than conventional skincare, has proven to be comedogenic. Olive, wheat germ, argan and other such oils simply do not please my skin. They are heavy and greasy, and this overwhelms any additional moisture they may be providing.
Instead I mix my light, proven oils, with beautiful, acne-safe butters, to get a lovely, more syrupy texture that is still safe for acnegenic skin. Clean Canvas is an example of this (It mixes dense, black Bacuri butter with oils) and spoiler alert, our holiday limited edition facial oil, (which I am beyond excited about) launching Nov. 1, is also an example of this technique. Of course, you can do it in an anointing bowl – just mix some Salvation or Ceremony with the oil of your choice. Or, do as I do, and upgrade completely from oil to balm. I use Salvation pretty exclusively in the winter, while in the summer, I mix it or Clear Resolution with Healing Dew or Equilibrium.
Lastly, balms (especially Salvation) help a lot with strengthening the skin’s barrier function, and helping retain elasticity.
3. Wash less
At the risk of being judged by some of you, here goes. I probably shower half as much in the winter as I do in the summer. No joke. And no smell either. I notice it most with my hair. In the winter, I can probably go a week without my hair getting greasy, but in the summer, I’m lucky to last 3 days. Winter is, super simply, drier and colder. This means, less oil and less bacteria. So, I find it very natural to shower less. It’s a logical response to how the environment has changed. (Not to mention I dislike the cold, so getting nekkid in the winter is a challenge. 😉 )
For our faces, this means we should be very cautious about getting them wet. Water is very drying. I know I said just a second ago that our skin needs water to be hydrated, but the key here is that water and oil need to be in balance. That’s why it’s best to always use a serum and oil TOGETHER. If we’re constantly washing our faces, or even getting them wet, this strips the oils. And this causes troublesome and irritating dryness.
In the winter, I often do not wash my face in the morning. If you are committed to the AM/PM twice a day cleanse, then in the morning especially, and in the evening if you can swing it, switch to a gentler, more nourishing cleanser, like Miel Noir or Cleansing Flours.
If you’re oil cleansing, instead of wiping your face twice with a warm-hot washcloth, wipe only once with a tepid washcloth. Comme ça.
4. Hydrate more
In the winter, I will make myself a weekly hydrating face mask by mixing Beurre Céleste with Healing Dew to make a kind of a gel mask. I will slather this on and leave it for 10-30 minutes. When I rinse it, I do NOT use a washcloth á la oil cleansing, I simply rinse with my hands. If a little bit of “residue” remains it is fine – it is nothing but goodness/moisture for the skin, and will sink completely in shortly.
Of course, hydrating more also goes for internally. Get (much, much) more Omega-3 fats and water. My favorite dishes to make in the winter are hearty soups and stews. I thicken my soups with vegetable purees and lots of healthy fats, like coconut oil, ghee, sacha inchi or olive oil. You can also try experimenting with tastes by pureeing things like olives or fatty fishes (anchovies, sardines) into complex tasting curries or meditarreanean inspired stews.
And of course, soups are full of water. But the great news is, that in soup form, water is absorbed more slowly into the system, instead of going straight to the bladder.
5. Sleep more
Sleep is when we detoxify. In the winter, it is easier to sleep more. It gets dark quicker (duh!), and studies show we sleep best when the ambient temperature is actually quite cool (you obviously will still be under a heap of blankets of course – this does not mean you are to be chilled while sleeping!). The more sleep we get, the healthier and calmer our skin is, and that is a fact.
To make sure you are getting good, detoxifying sleep, make sure to finish eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. That way, instead of digesting, the body can focus on detoxifying.
6. Amp up detox efforts
In the summer, it is easier to move and sweat. All of this is very detoxifying, and keeps our lymph fluid from stagnating. In the winter, exercising and sweating may become harder or less desirable for some. As much as you can, try to keep some form of gentle exercise going. I love yoga and dance.
You can also add in sauna time ( I really like the dry sauna in the winter) or a massage here and there. (Always drinking plenty of water). Sleeping more (see above) also helps, because that is when our detoxification molecule glutathione is transformed into its active form.
Reducing alcohol is huge (even though the winter is full of holidays and we might find ourselves drinking more) and supporting the liver through herbal supplements (milk thistle, reishi, magnesium, n-acetyl cysteine (NAC)) and diet (intermittant fasting, small meals, organic foods, easy on sugar, caffeine, fried foods).
Make sure you are getting enough fermented foods, because, surprise, surprise, our good intestinal bacteria play a vital role in escorting toxins out of the body (including estrogen, for those of you with hormonal acne).
Pretty simple but very effective stuff! If you have any ideas for me or for your fellow readers, PLEASE leave a comment – share your knowledge! 🙂