Well it’s that time of year again – time for spiked egg nog, playoff football, back yard snowmen, and of course, the inevitable onset of cracked, agonizingly dry winter skin. It seems to never fail; every year about this time I end up with a deep, painful gouge in the center of my lip that wants to re-open every time I laugh or smile. And its direct cause? This ridiculously dry, frigid winter air.
I used to just tack on generic Chap Stick about a dozen times a day to add some moisture and temporarily relieve the discomfort, but a few years back I started using CBD topical salves and they seem to actually help heal the dry skin, rather than just mask the problem.
And of course, I started using CBD oil for my other dry winter skin “annoyances” as well – specifically, on the hands and “above the neck” areas (aka the face) that, for whatever reason, seem to be especially prone to this horribly frigid air.
In this article, we’ll go over what actually happens when your skin dries and flakes out, and talk about how CBD topicals can help to actually take care of the problem for the entire winter season — and beyond.
What is dry skin, and why does cold air cause it?
The question of “what is dry skin” might seem to be a pretty obvious one. And fortunately, it is. Flaky, dried-out skin is the direct result of a lack of moisture. When epidermal (skin) cells don’t have enough water in them, they shrivel up and essentially die (this accounts for annoying and embarrassing flakes).
During the warm summer months, there’s usually plenty of humidity (water vapor) in the air to keep your skin plenty moist. During the fall and winter though, the vast majority of North American locales tend to see much lower levels of humidity, which results in skin cells not getting the moisture they need.
Additionally, the frequent use of heaters during this time of year also attributes to the “wintertime itch,” as they call it. Heaters are notorious for pulling pretty much every last ounce of moisture out of the air, and this often results in a catastrophic decline for your skin.
In addition to the simple condition of low humidity, here are a couple more reasons why dry skin tends to be so prevalent during the winter months:
- Spending too much time in the shower. You might not realize it, but the majority of people spend more time in the shower during the winter months than they do during the summer months. Think about it: you wake up for work in the morning and get in the hot, steamy shower and want to stay in there for as long as you can. As it turns out, though, every added second in there leads to natural oils getting washed off your epidermal layer, which directly contributes to flaky skin.
- Excess clothing layers and abrasive materials. There’s really not a whole lot you can do about this one, but it’s a fact that too much weight (i.e. too many layers of clothes) on your skin leads to irritation and, ultimately, damaged skin cells. Also, “rough,” abrasive materials like wool (which we all love to wear during the winter) can be especially rough on our fragile epidermal layer.
- Being dehydrated. This one makes sense that it would happen during the winter; during the summer we’re often hot, sweating, and craving water, so naturally we make sure and drink a lot. During the winter though, how often is it that you crave an ice cold cup of water? If anything, we’re wanting to drink hot beverages like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate moreso than water, and all of these choices are actually known to cause dehydration. So even though you may not think of it all the time, make sure and stay just as hydrated during the cool months as you do during the warm ones – dehydration is a direct cause of dry, unhealthy skin.
- Licking your lips. Ever had horribly chapped lips that you just can’t stop licking? Yeah, we all have. Unfortunately, this actually causes more harm than good in terms of allowing those minor scabs to and cracks to heal over. Whenever possible, try and refrain from using too much “tongue moisturizer” – you’ll heal up quicker in the long run.
Natural remedies for alleviating (and preventing) cracked winter skin
In addition to watching out for the above-mentioned dry skin traps, here’s a few more things that you can do in order to help keep your skin well-hydrated and healthy looking, even during the most brutal months of the year:
- Eat fish and flaxseed oil. Maintaining a diet high in oils can be super helpful during the winter months when the body is oftentimes sucked dry of essential natural moisturizers. However, you don’t want to do this with greasy cheeseburgers or french fries. Rather, healthy, high-oil foods like fish and flaxseed are great choices to ensure that the lipids in your skin cells stay nice, plump, and well-hydrated.
- Stay hydrated! Like we said above, this one goes without saying! Make sure you drink plenty of water every day, even it’s subzero temperatures outside.
- Use a milder soap and limit hot shower time. It doesn’t really matter so much what kind of soap you use when it’s nice and humid out (natural skin oils will usually take care of excessive dried up soap), but during the winter months, your cells (which are already deprived on natural moisture) will thank you for using a milder, hypoallergenic soap.
- Pat your face dry instead of scrubbing it. This one is actually a nice little tip for all months of the year, not just the winter. It’s kind of obvious, but be cognizant of patting your face and body dry after you take a shower, rather than harshly rubbing dry with a towel. Friction causes skin irritation, so the more fragile you are when drying off, the better.
- Take oatmeal baths! This might sound a little crazy, but something called avenanthramides (which exist in natural oats) have been proven to be extremely efficient at fighting the irritation, inflammation, and redness that’s associated with dry skin. One common technique is to dump some dry oats into the bathtub and soak in it for about 20 minutes. Your skin cells will come out feeling refreshed, hydrated, and super healthy.
- Get a humidifier for your bedroom. We realize this might not be too practical for a lot of people given the high cost, but if you can invest in a humidifier to keep in your room while you sleep (especially if you use your heater a lot), it can do wonders in terms of skin cell hydration.
CBD Topicals: Salves, Creams, and Ointments for Dry Skin
So on to the real reason why we’re here: cannabis topicals for dry skin. We realize these aren’t as cost-efficient as simply going to the cheapo store and picking up a half gallon tub of moisturizer or body lotion for five bucks, but trust us, the results are more than worth the few extra dollars.
Because of their interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system, hydrating topicals that contain active cannabis compounds are actually proven to heal dry, damaged skin, rather than just superficially (and temporarily) hydrate them like other moisturizers do.
When dry skin goes untreated for too long, the cells actually become physically damaged, which causes acute on-site inflammation. If left furter untreated, inflammation can actually lead into long-term skin conditions such as dermatitis.
CBD is a well-known anti-inflammatory that has been proven many times in medical publications and clinical studies to reverse the effects of on-site irritation. Instead of just splashing some temporary hydration on, you’re actually working to treat the underlying condition and restore damaged tissue.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most popular forms of cannabis topicals, and what they’re used for:
CBD Creams, Lotions, and Moisturizers
For “official” purposes, there is no real distinguishing between a cream, lotion, and a moisturizer. These are excellent topical cannabis choices if you’re looking for facial moisturization, or just simply for a good all-around everyday body moisturizer. Also, CBD oils are packed full of amino acids and hydrating omega-3 and omega-6 oils, which make them fantastic for supplying depleted cells with long-term hydration. And lastly, it’s important to note that most people who use CBD oil for dry skin only have to apply once a day – if that. While you likely need to apply cheap generic moisturizers a half a dozen times (or more) throughout the day in order for them to be effective, quality CBD lotions will easily provide 24+ hrs of hydration. In the long run, this more than makes up for the higher cost that you might pay.
CBD salves and balms.
Balms (otherwise known as salves) are what we most commonly use for the all too common winter chapped lips. They’re a more solid texture than creams and lotions, and are medicated with hydrating CBD compound that both heals and moisturizes severely damaged skin. Elixinol makes an awesome chapped lip specific balm that we’ve been using for well over a year.
Texture-wise ointments are kind of like a mixture between lotions and salves – you probably wouldn’t want to use them as a chap stick, and they’re generally not the best for whole-body moisturization either. They do work really well though as a hand moisturizer or if you tend to flake out in specific, localized areas like the elbows. Also, this is an excellent pain-relieving topical that a lot of people have actually been using for arthritis and general inflammation relief. Pure Kana makes one of our favorites – a 3.4 oz bottle of 600 mg CBD.