5 Natural Ways to Keep Your Skin Moisturized in the Winter
There's no shortage of moisturizers available in stores that are advertised as panaceas for dry skin. Especially at this time of year, when winter makes your skin more susceptible to itching, flaking and cracking, it can be tempting to load up on those little (but expensive!) bottles and jars that promise special benefits for every part of the body from the feet to the delicate tissue around the eyes.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
The fact is that when you pay $40 for a half ounce of moisturizer, you're mostly paying for a lot of fancy packaging and marketing, including the cost of the supermodel spokeswoman in the Vogue Magazine ads. It gets worse when a cosmetics company is pushing different potions for day and night, for the face, eyes, lips, neck, body and feet. That really adds up—which is exactly what that company is counting on. In addition, many of those products are nothing more than concoctions of who-knows-what-they-are chemicals, including some linked to health problems such as allergies, fertility issues and even cancer. But you can get the same moisturizing action without the health risks by turning to some low-cost, natural solutions.
1. Natural oils. You'll find bottles of pure, natural oils such as grapeseed, almond and jojoba oil at many health food stores. Usually those bottles are plain and basic-looking, but they don't contain extra chemicals and they offer the same moisturizing benefits as those expensive, fabricated moisturizers. And you're getting a lot more product for that money. Some of them claim to have anti-oxidant and antibacterial properties that can repair your skin's collagen, the same assertion made by some of the high-priced name brands. Whether that's actually true or not is hard to say, but with a $10 or $15 bottle of natural oil, you're spending a lot less to find out. And there's no denying these oils soften your skin, provide a protective barrier against wind and cold weather, and smell nice without any of that mysterious artificial "fragrance" that pops up in so many beauty products.
2. Olive oil. If you really want to save money or just don't have time to get to the store, you can find a soothing oil right on your kitchen shelf. Olive oil is a great natural moisturizer that can be used to soften your skin or condition your fly-away, winter-ravaged hair. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which can soothe reddened skin and some types of outbreaks and rashes; there have been claims it can protect against skin cancer. We'd still advise using a sunblock or covering your face if you're going skiing or tobogganing.
3. Shea butter. You've probably heard a lot about shea butter in recent years. It's been cropping up in body washes, bath soaks, hand lotions, shampoos and other beauty products. Its use for beauty care goes back to ancient Egypt so despite its newfound popularity, it's nothing new at all. It's particularly popular in products for African-American women, which is no accident. Shea butter is a fat extracted from the nut of the shea tree found primarily in Africa where it's long been used to treat dry, sore skin, among other purposes. Shea butter melts at skin temperature so it's easily absorbed, and it contains vitamin A, which is beneficial in repairing parched, cracked skin. Be careful what you buy though. Since it's used as the basis for many beauty products which can also contain a variety of added chemical compounds, you'll want to get as pure a version as possible, or one that only has natural additives such as herbs, and no artificial fragrance or coloring.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
4. Edible remedies. Your kitchen rivals the department store counter in abounding with dry skin treatments—cheaper and more healthful ones too. Some of the things that boost your skin's health and appearance from the inside also do so when applied on the outside. A couple of the best are honey and milk-based products including yogurt and cream. When added to your tea, honey acts as an antibacterial and antioxidant to boost your immune system and fight off seasonal bugs. When slathered onto your body and face, left on for about ten minutes and showered off, it offers unparalleled softness and smoothness. Yogurt is also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that can take the edge off itchiness and loosen the tightness you feel when your skin dries out. As with honey, rub it in, let it soak in and rinse it off. You can mix and match these edible ingredients along with others such as cream, avocado and oatmeal to create a personal solution to your skin's particular needs.
5. Water! Boost the effects of any of these natural skin treatments by making sure that your skin gets enough moisture inside and out. This isn't the time to slack off on drinking plenty of water even though you might not feel as thirsty as you do in the summer. And take care of the dry air in your house by placing pans of water in strategic locations such as heating/air vents and radiators.
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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