By Idries Abdur-Rahman, M.D., FACOG and Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D., FACOG
When your lips are no longer your lips and instead they have become two purple flaps of hard to feel and even harder to control flesh, The Hawk is in the air. When your eyes begin to water and your nose begins to run and together they conspire to give your once mature adult face that oh so recognizable preschool glow, The Hawk is in the air. When you logically know that the fingers and toes that you can no longer feel must still be attached to your body because you didn’t see them fall off and you certainly saw them on the ends of your hands and feet only moments before stepping outside, The Hawk is in the air. All of our fellow Midwesterners and definitely all of our fellow Chicagoans know exactly who The Hawk is. He’s a wicked warrior and a disciplined predator who strikes with little warning and with no remorse. But for those of you who don’t know who or what “The Hawk” is consider this your introduction. The Hawk is cold Midwestern air. But not just any cold air, oh no, The Hawk is dry cold air that swoops down on you so fast and so hard and in such a brutal and relentless manner that it takes control of your eyes and your nose and your mouth, all while simultaneously making any skin exposed to it burn within mere seconds. The Hawk, then firmly in procession of your face and all of it’s composite parts and appendages takes this newly wind burned skin, and like a sculptor with chisel to stone, cracks it into what feels like a million billion pieces. Oh yeah my friends The Hawk is NO JOKE, and as he sends you running for shelter, running towards what you think will be the sweet sweet relieve of the warmth, that’s when you find out how truly brutal and sadistic The Hawk really is. It is once you are inside, as your bruised and battered skin starts to warm, that you start to regain feeling in said bruised and battered skin. And as you start to regain feeling in said bruised and battered skin, it is then that you realize just how utterly ruthless The Hawk is, how utterly ruthless The Hawk was and how utterly ruthless The Hawk always will be. It is also then, as you take survey of the visible damage to your skin, that you realize that you cannot hope to beat The Hawk, but only to contain him. So if you care about your skin and if you think that the only thing that should look and feel like an alligator is an alligator, then what do you do? Well if you’re like most people you cannot just pull up stakes and high tail it down to Florida for the winter, but there are some really simple things that you can do to protect your skin during these long, hard, dry winter months. And hey, while taking care of your skin will of course keep you looking more youthful (which is always a plus in our book), taking care of your skin will also keep you healthier, as your skin is not just your covering, your skin is also your body’s largest organ. So here are some really easy tips for keeping your skin healthy and happy during even the most brutal of winters.
1. DON’T TAKE HOT SHOWERS! Now we know that this one kind of sucks. Who doesn’t like to take a piping hot shower, especially when it is cold and dry outside. After all, don’t hot showers and cold winter days go together like milk and cookies or like Sundays and professional football? Unfortunately, the hotter the water touching your skin is, the more significant it’s drying effects on your skin are. Now certainly we are not advocating for cold winter showers either, after all we would feel really bad (and dare I say a slight bit responsible) if you drew the wrong conclusion from this article and ended up with a case of frost bite from showering in your own home. While some cultures may believe that cold showers are the secret to longevity and health, we are simply advising that you take a lukewarm shower. Lukewarm showers can still be very pleasant and relaxing and they are MUCH better for your skin as well. We also advise that you avoid using the more alkaline bar soaps and antibacterial soaps as they, much like hot water, can irritate and dry the skin. Instead, opt for milder liquid bath soaps or shower gels.
2. MOISTURIZE, MOISTURIZE, MOISTURIZE! In the wintertime it is crucial that you moisturize, moisturize and then when you get done moisturizing that you moisturize again. Oh and did we mention that it is really important that you moisturize? This is because cold winter air literally sucks the moisture right out of your skin and then the accompanying lack of humidity in the cold dry air means that the moisture that the air just took from your skin has no way of being returned to your skin. So be sure to moisturize your skin after you shower. Additionally be sure to moisturize your skin every time that you wash any parts of your skin and definitely be sure to moisturize your skin before and after doing battle with The Hawk. Before doing battle with The Hawk you also should cover your mositurized skin with clothes, hats, gloves and scarfs. And be aware that when moisturizing it is always best to use a nice thick moisturizing agent. We are partial to coconut oil ourselves, but then again we are also partial to smelling like macaroon cookies (umm cookies!!!). But if you don’t particularly want to smell like macaroon cookies (umm cookies!!!!) then please feel free to find a product that works best for you, keeping in mind of course that any product that you use should be rich in both humectants and emollients. Humectants are agents that pull water up from the deeper layers of your skin (i.e the Dermis) and then help that water to bind to the more superficial layers of your skin. Emollients then create an occlusive layer of barrier protection for your skin locking out cold dry air and locking in the skin’s water. Some commonly available natural emollients can be found in plant oils like Jojoba, Avocado, Rosehip as well as in Shea, Cocoa and Jojoba Butters. Commonly available natural humectants include Lecithin, Panthenol (pro-vitamin B5) and Glycerin.
3. HYDRATE. Now we all know that in hot weather the sun’s heat can suck moisture (in the form of sweat) right out of our body’s like a sponge soaks up a spill. But what many folks probably don’t realize is that cold dry air does the exact same thing. Remember, we told you that The Hawk is cold and that he is dry and as surprising as it may be to some, cold and dry days can actually dehydrate you faster than hot sunny days can. So just like you would aggressively hydrate if it were a hot and sunny day, so too should you aggressively hydrate on cold and dry days. So yeah, a nice warm cup of coffee or coco is satisfying on a cold dreary day, but you also still have to remember to drink water on these days as well. So that means drinking at least 64 ounces of H2O every day in the winter time. It also means avoiding alcohol intake, as alcohol too can dehydrate. So hang in there my fellow Winter Warriors, we know that The Hawk is strong and we all know that The Hawk is relentless, but we also know that with just a little bit of know how, The Hawk can be coped with and your skin can flourish under even the most trying of circumstances. Your eyes, your nose and your mouth are another story. But most of us want to look younger anyway, so that preschool glow can have it’s charm now cant it? And remember, according to Punxsutawney Phil we should only have a few more weeks of winter anyway, but then again we all know that that little fur ball, much like every other hack Meteorologist has been known to lie on more than just one occasion!!!