Tight cheeks, itchy legs, flaky scalp, chapped lips. These winter beauty woes tend to surface for a few months each year when temperatures dip and central heating takes its toll. Your natural beauty needn’t suffer. We asked organic beauty experts for easy-to-implement spa beauty tricks for beating the winter chill. Think of them as your seasonal spa-at-home supplement.
Frizzy, Flyaway Hair
The winter chill remedy » To keep locks smooth under winter caps and frizz-free, warm a few drops of a natural hair treatment cream or oil in your hands and run them over dry hair. (Wait two minutes before putting on a winter cap.)
What the pros know » Fabian Lliguin, creator of Amazon Beauty Rahua Finishing Treatment ($45, www.amazonbeautysecret.com) loves the hydrating help offered by rahua nut oil, which hails from the Eucadorian rainforest. The nut oil’s small molecules can penetrate the hair shaft—homemade fruit masks can’t—fortifying it, while its nourishing properties also help fight a flaky, tight scalp. Lliguin recommends washing and conditioning your hair at night, and letting it air dry, so you lessen the damage to hair caused by blow-drying. To calm frizz, John Masters Organics Dry Hair Nourishment & Defrizzer ($15.95, www.saffronrouge.com; see sidebar for a special reader discount), uses USDA-certified plant oils. The whole bottle can be used as a hot oil treatment, when heated in a mug of hot water, or a few drops act as a leave-in hair tamer.
What to stay away from » Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), an ingredient found in traditional shampoo, can strip the scalp and hair of natural oils, creating a dry, flaky scalp. Another no-no: Use cool water to wash and rinse hair, which seals the hair shaft. (Bloated hair is frizzy, puffy hair.)
Dry, Tight Cheeks
The winter chill remedy » Nothing protects the skin against freezing temperatures and indoor heating like complexion oil, says Ole Henriksen, the Dane behind the Los Angeles spa and beauty line. Henriksen recommends blending a half-ounce of avocado oil with 10 drops each of lavender essential oil and rose hips seed oil. (Store the mixture in a small glass bottle or jar, in the fridge.)
What the pros know » Don’t be afraid that face oils will clog the pores, says Henriksen. “A few drops perform hydrating magic when applied in the morning just prior to your day cream. Natural fats help the skin hold onto it own moisture and prevent capillary breakage while comforting the skin.”
What to stay away from » Harsh face cleansers that make skin feel dry and tight. Opt for a mild cream-based cleanser, like Elemental Herbology Purify and Soothe Cleansing Balm. “During winter it’s essential that we use nurturing, gentle cleansing products with essential fatty acids, which help to support the skin’s barrier function, rather than degrade it,” says Elemental Herbology founder, Kristy Goodger.
Skin That Dries Out
The winter chill remedy » Apply a few tablespoons of a simple nourishing oil to your legs, stomach, and arms before getting in the tub or shower (just avoid coating the bottom of your feet!) or just after. Oils like coconut, sweet almond, olive, and macadamia are the most nourishing, sink in quickly, and are generally inexpensive.
What the pros recommend » “I typically give myself a quick massage with oil before getting into the shower, says Shel Pink, founder of SpaRitual Organic Oils. “I warm the bottle in the sink filled with hot water to warm it up, then apply it with long, quick strokes. This stimulates circulation and moisturizes. After the shower, I use a combination of oil and lotion together for maximum hydration.” You might find that layering oils with lotion helps your skin better seal in moisture. Lisa James, founder of the beauty retail website B-glowing.com, is such a fan of super-hydrating Adara Organic coconut oils, she imports them. “Plus coconut oil exfoliates dry skin naturally with lauric acid and firms with vitamin E,” she says. “It’s truly a workhorse ingredient, and good everywhere.”
What to stay away from » Mineral oils sit on top of the skin and don’t get to deeper levels, says Kathy Phillips, founder of This Works, who favors evening primrose and rosehip oils with healing frankincense and lavender. “Not only do good oils have healing properties, the high quality essential oils we use are truly therapeutic, as well.”
Itchy, Red Skin
The winter chill remedy » Apply an oat-milk poultice, using this method from Barbara Close, founder of Naturopathica Holistic Health. (It’s a tidier approach to filling the tub with oats.)
What the pros know » To make the poultice, take 1/2 cup of oats and place them in a washcloth. Tie the ends of the washcloth with a rubber band and fill the sink with warm (not hot) water. Immerse the washcloth in the water and squeeze several times until the water turns milky. Splash this water onto clean skin, then apply the oat compress to moist skin, moving in small circles over face and body to gently exfoliate. “Oats contain beta glucan, which calm inflammation and itchiness associated with dry, devitalized skin in winter,” says Close, a trained herbalist and naturopath.
What to stay away from » Scrubbing with, or soaking in sea salts. Since salts draw out impurities, they can be quite drying and may inflame an itchy bout of eczema-like symptoms. You might want to save them for summer.
Dry, Cracked Hands
The winter chill remedy » Kim D’Amato, founder of Priti NYC, a line of eco-friendly nail polishes recommends this simple scrub to remove dryness, flakiness, and soothe chapped hands. In a small bowl, combine sugar and olive oil, then apply to your hands using circular movements. Towel off the excess, then wash hands with a creamy cleanser (it should bond to the excess olive oil without stripping away the benefits of it), and apply a repairing hand moisturizer.
What the pros know » Wearing gloves and moisturizing may seem obvious, but even a dip of 20 degrees can cause hands to dry out. For cracked, splitting cuticles, Kim D’Amato recommends you use your favorite organic lip balm “to rub around the edges to prevent them from getting too dry” since it’s something most of us have in our bag or pocket. “Or, at home, while watching a movie, soak your hands in a bowl of warm olive oil to re-moisturize,” she says. Follow up with a healing cream like Elemental Herbology Wind and Cold Therapy ($30, www.spacenk.com), created by Kristy Goodger, whose beauty line reflects the seasons. “It’s rich in calming calendula and buriti, argan, and macadamia oils, ingredients that contain nourishing essential fatty acids.”
What to stay away from » Hand sanitizers like Purell might kill germs, but they also kill moisture and your skin’s natural pH. Try one with anti-bacterial tea tree oil or lavender in a non-drying or cream base, like Green Tea Goods Natural Hand Refresher or EO Hand Sanitizing Gel.
The winter chill remedy » Gently brush chapped, flaky lips with a damp toothbrush, applying gentle pressure. Then apply a yogurt or sour cream “mask” to lips. Wash it off after five minutes with warm water, then apply a few drops of flax seed oil or poke open a vitamin E capsule with a safety pin.
What the pros know » Heather Halpern, product and ingredient specialist for Kiss My Face, says almost any of the ingredients in Kiss My Face lip products would moisturize lips in a pinch. The shea butter, cocoa butter, and jojoba oil in SOS Sheer Organic Shines, for example. “Canola or sunflower oil, which you probably have at home, also help seal in moisture.”
What to stay away from » Petrochemical-based balms, which can block the pores of the skin around the lips, says REN cofounder Antony Buck, who makes petroleum-free Mayday Mayday Rescue Balm. “The irony is that so many lip-balm users have sore skin around their lips without understanding it’s the petroleum balm that’s causing it!” Stimulating ingredients like peppermint are common in lip balms but they may irritate sensitive lips. Look for a plain beeswax or vitamin E balm instead.
For centuries, the simple balm has served medicinal and beautifying purposes, without requiring much formulation wizardry or preservatives. That’s a good thing, as they’re now having a comeback as a recession-friendly beauty item. Mostly because they’re exceptional multi-taskers, capable of soothing chapped lips, taming fly-away hair, and nourishing dry hands, elbows, and heels in a single bound, confirms Liz Earle, founder of Liz Earle beauty. These are the balms that blew us away.
Deep Steep Organic Moisture Stick ($5, www.futurenatural.com), with organic coconut oil and infusion of organic or wild-crafted herbs, is a lip balm, cuticle fixer, and more.
Green Tea Goods Herbal Body Balm ($6.95, www.greenteagoods.com) contains Chinese Herbs like jin yin hua (honeysuckle) and gan cao (licorice), and is even gentle enough for chapped Kleenex-weary noses, says founder Barney Stacher.
In Fiore Body Balm ($80, www.infiore.net) uses grapeseed oil, wild-crafted herbs, and traditional apothecary-style methods for each of its six gorgeously scented balms.
Josie Maran Argan Moisturizing Stick ($22, www.sephora.com) is multi-purpose argan oil-based balm that soothes even fiery chapped lips and dryness around the eyes.
Liz Earle Superbalm ($26, us.lizearle.com) with shea butter, beeswax, and echinacea has been a natural bestseller in the UK since 1999.
Revolution Organics All-Over Body Balm ($27.95, www.saffronrouge.com) is USDA-certified and claims to have more than 22 uses from your nose to your toes.
Organic Essence Lavender Organic Shea Cream ($24.99, www.orgess.com) has the consistency of a balm and uses fair-trade shea butter that’s ideal for winter-proofing hands and nourishing itchy skin. It comes in organic grapefruit, lemongrass, vanilla orange, and lavender, a scent that’s great to slather on just before bed.