It's beginning to look a lot like Vata / Everywhere you go ♫
Winter is all about extremes. From blasting hot central heating and icy snow, myriad of winter holidays right after each other, to finally getting to relax for a moment to enjoy your surroundings. Winter might mean hibernating for most mammals, but to us, winter just means reframing how we care for ourselves. Winter is when you set the stage for your New Year's Resolutions and start fresh, so making adjustments to our lifestyle and diet as the year progresses can help us remain balanced and operating at our top potential during seasonal changes.
We know that typically when the season changes we start to feel different - our energy levels, our health, and the foods we get comfort from vary season by season. Why is this? In this article, I will talk about how to adjust your lifestyle to the winter season, in order to best support the health of your skin.
"Once you start to wear more hats and scarves, it's a sign that winter is here."
Each season is “ruled” by one of the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, or Kapha. Each of these doshas has different characteristics that are more apparent during these seasons. For example, as fall comes to an end and the world begins to quiet down for winter, the cold and brittle climates of Vata begin to take center stage. Vata's traits are associated with air and aether. Think of Vata traits as dry, cold, light, clear, and rough. It is easy to see Vata's impact in the world when we take these aspects into consideration. The trees around us are dry, barren, and have lost foliage, and the flowers have gone dormant. The sky is clear, maybe even gray and lacking color - well, as long as you're not in Portland that is. Now, isn't this sounding a little bit like what happens to most of us during winter?
How do we balance this Vata during these months?
With Vata as the ruling dosha of winter, it makes sense that we would want to stay put in cozy, warming abodes for December, January, and February. In the United States, our society is prone to Vata imbalance. We are constantly moving so fast that we often forget to pause and take root. When gardening, it is easy to remove a plant without a solid root system. The same idea is present in our daily lives, without roots to bind us we are easily swayed to imbalance. Our internal Vata increases as the external world naturally shifts to the Vata season.
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness. - Jonathan Safran Foer
It is sometimes necessary for a period of reflection in order to adjust. In order to have balance, one must be aware of and be able to dance with imbalance. As the seasons show us, imbalance is a part of life. While there are many avenues to mediating this, one ritual often stands out: meditation. At the very least, taking a few moments in the beginning or end of your day can help you feel grounded.
Sometimes we can't remember what we did this week, and maybe that's because things are moving so quickly. We've found that taking at least 60 seconds to be still with yourself and set an intention for the day can be helpful. When you pair an intention with scent, you can use scent to subtly remind yourself of your goal that day. We love Van Dang Fragrance's Crystal Meditation Kits for this very reason. I personally love the Amethyst paired with Buddhapada. They pair a variety of crystals with beautiful scents that make me want to stick to my goals.
The easiest way to prevent winter's fatigue is by changing our diet to more Vata balancing food. Each dosha is best balanced when eating foods native to that season, such as:
- Winter fruits: cranberries, pomegranates, apples, and dried fruits
- Winter vegetables and roots: artichokes, beats, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, radish, spinach, and squash
During the winter, it is common to put these ingredients into a stew with some beans, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, spices, ginger and garlic, and that totally makes sense! Some other popular dishes are soups and casseroles, but you get the idea. It’s best to avoid raw foods and cold drinks during this time, as it does not align with Vata balancing foods. The body is in a state of slowing down so having these already cooked food helps the body to digest easier. What we put into our body has a large role to play in how we feel on a daily basis, and I believe that eating timely foods will help you feel better all year!
Warm up your bones with spiced tea!
1. Add to 1 cup boiling water:
- a medallion of ginger, peel skin, 1/4 of an inch
- pinch of cardamom and nutmeg
- 1 cinnamon stick
2. Remove from heat and add dash of lemon juice. Add honey as desired.
Recipe adapted from Joyful Belly
Our Skin's Gatekeeper
As we've hinted at, winterizing your skincare routine is more than just changing which products you pick out of the medicine cabinet. To best protect your skin from environmental damage, you must approach supporting it from inside and out. Making these changes to diet as well as your skin care will best support the skin as it changes and adjusts to this time. The cold months bring dryness and the skin takes the brunt of it. We must remember that our skin is the gatekeeper to our bodies, constantly taking things in and pushing things out.
So how do we know if we are keeping the good in and the bad out?
Our acid mantle and hydrolipidic film work together to make up our “skin barrier” becoming that gatekeeper for us. However, if we don’t support both pieces then we are leaving ourselves open to environmental aggressors, Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL), inflammation, and microbiome imbalance. You can read an in depth article I wrote about the skin here!
Q: What is the hydrolipidic film?
A: This is on our top layer of skin, above the epidermis and below the acid mantle, and it helps to keep moisture in, and to also keep environmental aggressors out.
Q: How does the hydrolipidic film protect the skin?
A: By having a mix of free fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol that trap in moisture.
The hydrolipidic film keeps our skin nice and supple, and also becomes the water source the skin might need. Your skin utilizes this water reservoir when in need, but requires your assistance to replenish moisture along the way. Not having this lipid barrier makes us susceptible to TEWL from the under layer of our skin, aka the Dermis. By replenishing our skin's hydration reservoir and keeping our acid mantle strong, we can have homeostasis of the microbiome of our skin and moisture level. In other words, your skin will thank you. No more itchy, dry, red, tight skin in the winter!
Braving The Cold
How do I know if it’s time to switch things up for winter, and how do I do that? One good rule of thumb is once you start to wear your hats and scarves, and your skin starts to feel tight, or you are noticing more fine lines, these are all signs to start giving your body more hydration. These changes can be diet focused as we talked about earlier, as well as increasing the hydration levels of your skincare products. One simple way to incorporate additional moisture (without changing your holy grail moisturizer!) is to incorporate a booster serum.
What should I use?
It all depends on what your skin type is. Skin type remains consistent throughout your life, whereas skin condition can change day-by-day. For instance, having sensitive skin means you will want to focus on the integrity of your skin by replenishing your skin's lipids and microbiome. We will have an in-depth blog about skin condition in the future, so keep an eye on our blog. In the meantime, my suggestions are as follows:
|Dry Skin: Phytomer Nutritionnelle, SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid, or Yonka Nutri Defense|
|Oily Skin: Yonka Hydra+ Booster or Hydra N1 Mask|
|Sensitive Skin: Phytomer (PreBioforce, Douceur Marine, and/or
Oligoforce Soothing Serum as a booster), or Yonka Sensitive Cream
|Normal / combination skin: Yonka (Hydra+ Booster, Hydra N1 Mask), Phytomer Hydracontinue 12Hr Moisturizing Flash Gel, or SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel|
|Mature Skin: Phytomer (Oligoforce Advanced or Oligo 6), Yonka Elixir Vital, or SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel|
You may have noticed there is quite a bit of Phytomer on this list, and with good reason. The listed Phytomer products include their star ingredient, Oligomer, which is revolutionary in that it provides your cells with all the minerals they need. Cells use minerals to create energy in order to carry out their functions. Therefore, they are extremely important. In addition to Oligomer, each Phytomer product specializes in a nuance of skin type and condition.
For example, Phytomer's Oligoforce Advanced includes Marine Eternal, an extract from an a blue micro-alga that replicates a defense process similar to our skin's own. Once you put Oligoforce Advanced onto the skin, Marine Eternal "is able to stimulate the natural synthesis of Thioredoxin, by a biomimetic effect" for enhanced antioxidant protection.
Another ingredient (or set of ingredients) that is great for winter skincare is prebiotics and/or probiotics. As mentioned earlier, your skin has a combination of moisture, lipids, and a microbiome to keep it protected from outside aggressors. The idea of pre and probiotics work the same regardless of if you're eating them or putting them on your skin, they "help your body’s community of microorganisms return to a healthy condition after being disturbed." Using ingredients with pre/probiotics is highly recommended for those with sensitive skin for this reason.
One product I love is the the Hydra+ Booster from YonKa. This oil is perfect for oily skin, because contrary to popular belief, oily skin likes oils! Plus, even us oily folk can get dried out by the Vata season. I recommend clients add this to a moisturizer step, as it is easy to do and makes a big difference!
There are some guides you can generally follow as well, such as to switch your cleanser from a gel to a milky cleanser for winter. Gel cleansers are more stripping than creamy, foamy, or milky cleansers, so I often have oily or blemish-prone clients using gel cleansers; however, in the winter, if you are finding that your cleanser is leaving you too tight, you might just try:
|Yonka Lait Nettoyant for normal and dry skin.|
|SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser for sensitive skin.|
|Phytomer Souffle Marin for oily skin.|
|Vie Instant Cleansing Milk for mature skin.|
You can check out all my product suggestions by age and skin type in my previous blog, What's My Age Again? Switching up the ingredients of our products based on season is going to help up maintain our skin barrier and the skin being happy and healthy.
Q: Are there certain ingredients I should be using to keep me hydrated in the winter?
A: Yes!! In the winter we are about keeping moisture in, so fewer stripping products (aka less acids). Look for: glycerin, urea, gelatin, honey or hyaluronic acid.
If you’ve talked with your esthetician or dermatologist and are working on a skin condition, acids are okay, but they typically can be extra drying in winter. We change our skin care to include more glycerin, urea, gelatin, honey or hyaluronic acid. These all help to keep the skin supple, non-inflamed and moisturized. Our diet during the winter can also help our skin barrier. Eating leafy vegetables, fish oils, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil all help increase omega fatty acids. Cross checking and seeing if they fall under Vata balancing foods can give you extra benefits.
All in all, here at Bellini’s we really believe and try to teach our clients about the benefits of switching things up (be it skincare or diet) for the appropriate time of your life, time of the year and for your skin type, will keep you balanced and healthier throughout the year.
Written by Advanced Aesthetician, Jillian Conover.