As the temperature drops and the moisture levels plummet, we can do things to breathe easier and keep our skin hydrated.
Every time you exhale, you lose water to the dry air around you. Beijing’s winter is extremely dry, so at home it’s ideal to run a humidifier that adds moisture to the air. If you don’t have a humidifier, be creative. Boil a pot of water and let the steam do its trick (obviously be EXTREMELY careful if there are children in the house), or put a few wet towels to dry in your bedroom overnight. It won’t make a huge difference but probably enough to make your sleep a little more comfortably.
Make sure you and your family get plenty of Vitamin A in your diet. Vitamin A helps maintain healthy skin, eyes, and supports our immune system. Liver is actually the greatest source of Vitamin A, but for those of us who prefer the veggie route, carrots, sweet potato, green leafy vegetables, and some fruits like mango, apricots and cantaloupe are also good sources.
Good fats and oils are necessary to keep skin healthy at all ages. Healthy skin is less likely to dry and crack under the pressure of a dry environment. Healthy oils can be found in nuts and seeds, fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel, and avocado. I recommend you avoid giving your kids nuts, especially peanuts, until age 2 because of the possibility of an allergic reaction. Almonds and sunflower seeds are my kids’ favorites.
Harsh soaps and long hot showers can also dry out our skin. Choose a baby soap that doesn’t have strong perfumes or dyes. These gentle soaps won’t strip the natural protective oils from your skin. Avoid dryness and irritation by selecting soap without I sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate.
In the winter I try not to bathe my kids every day. If I have to, it’s often a quick lukewarm bath or shower to wash their feet and private areas. To protect their skin I apply a moisturizer right after they come out of the bath, while their skin is still moist. Choose a cream or lotion that doesn’t have mineral oil, as some studies suggest a possible link to skin cancer.
One of my favorite natural moisturizers is extra virgin coconut oil, the kind that can be used for cooking. It absorbs easily into the skin, is completely safe, and a little goes a long way.
Dr. Melissa Rodriguez is a Naturopathic doctor who lives with her family in Beijing.