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.
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.
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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