Last week a pretty cool reader called Janita mailed me to say that she just moved to the Highveld and she reckons a Winter Survival Guide (for skin, I’m assuming) is in order.
I couldn’t agree more – I’m going into my third winter and I still have some struggles, but there are things that I’ve figured out to make the seasonal transition smoother and easier on my skin (and some other areas).
So first let’s look at some general things.
Winter health in a dry climate is way different than winter health at the coast – take it from the girl that could see the ocean from her front door before moving here.
For me, the biggest issues (and skip this paragraph if you’re squeamish) are nosebleeds, sores in my nose and sinus congestion issues due to dryness and dust. As I type I’m finishing up a course of cortisone and anti histamines, hopefully on my way to kick a month-long post-nasal-drip-induced cough (sexy, right) before they put me on a cortisone pump as the next resort (which I’m trying to avoid).
The only preventative solution I’ve figured out is to at least sleep with a humidifier next to the bed – it’s just too freaking dry. If I’m working from home and I remember I’ll put it in my office during the day too. Mine broke a couple of weeks ago and I’ve stupidly not replaced it yet – must get another one soon.
I suspect rinsing your nose with a saline solution daily will help get rid of dust and things as well, but it’s not something I’ve ever been good at.
I can recommend steaming with a combination of Tea Tree and Eucalyptus essential oils – I despise the old school way of steaming over a bowl, so I just pour a couple of drops on the shower floor or in the bath. It still gets the job done.
Gauteng weather in winter is amazing during the day – mid to even high twenties, sunny and no rain. But the mornings and nights are brutally cold, and the air feels very thin. I sometimes struggle to keep warm enough even when I’m indoors at night.
The temperature drops suddenly and drastically from 4PM or so, and I’ve been caught without warm things often because the days are so mild and sunny. I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping a couple of items of warm clothing in my car – cardigan, scarf, jacket. At one stage I had boots and socks as well because I often wear pumps. This is pretty different to what I was used to – in the Western Cape I pretty much got dressed in full winter gear in the morning and kept everything on all day.
I’ve pretty much figured out that if I take a hot bath it warms me up for about two hours, so I do that just about every night in winter to keep myself comfy between dinner and bedtime. I’ve also gotten into the habit of having a couple of soft fleece blankets on hand in the living room that are free game for whoever wants to use them.
The days feel pretty short to me because I’m not an exceptionally early riser and by 6PM it’s DARK in winter. This makes for many a cosy night on the couch, since that’s pretty much all I want to do once it’s dark and cold.
I’ve learnt to arrange social gatherings during the day over weekends, or at least much earlier. In a culture of people who love to bond around a braai, I mostly refuse to do so on a winter’s night if yours isn’t indoors.
On to the good stuff. Most of the things here is just the way I feel about skincare in general, so I’ll link to a couple of other posts along the way.
If you haven’t yet switched to a cleansing oil or cleansing cream, now is the time to take the plunge. It doesn’t have to be expensive and I promise your skin won’t feel gross and oily afterwards – in fact, it will feel plump and super clean.
This doesn’t have to be an expensive exercise – I can recommend Lipidol Cleansing Oil, The Body Shop Silky Camomile Cleansing Oil, LUSH Ultrabland and Balm Balm Frankincense Cleansing Balm – none of those are over R200.
It’s a good idea to add a serum that’s purely for hydration. Kiehl’s Hydro Plumping Retexturising Serum Concentrate (R625), Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Serum (around R1200), Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Booster (R825) all get my vote of confidence.
An oil-rich cream provides a good barrier against moisture loss, and it provides that extra bit of comfort against itching and redness caused by dryness. If you’d prefer to just stick to the moisturisers you have that’s also perfectly fine, but consider adding two drops of oil into or on top of it.
You can use a pure carrier oil like Rose Hip or Apricot, or you can use something like Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate, MAC Essential Oils, or pretty much any face oil you have on hand.
A lot of winter skin principles are similar to sensitive skin principles, so if you haven’t already you can read this blog post about dryness, redness and sensitivity.
For the love of all things holy, don’t stop using sunscreen. There’s actually MORE sun in Gauteng in winter, so slap that stuff on as if you’re going to spend the day at the beach – every single day – and no, your foundation doesn’t count.