Written by By Cammi Balleck for ATRA’s Winter 2016 Trail Times Newsletter. Cammi & Company is an ATRA corporate member.
If you’re an all-weather runner, you will face it all, and no snow or ice will keep you from your run. While your body is benefitted, your skin will pay the price. You already know how important it is to protect your skin from the sun, but winter weather brings a whole host of other skin issues.
First, let’s talk about cold hands and running. The weather plays a major role and exercising in the winter may cause severe coldness in both your hands and your feet. If you are like me your core stays warm, but your fingers, toes, and ears get cold. You can try adding fist pumps (opening and closing your fists several times), to your run to help the blood circulate throughout your hands and fingers, this can counter the stiffness you might feel when your hands are cold. Wrist and shoulder rotations are also helpful and perform a similar function.
I have lived in Colorado my entire life, and like you, I don’t let anything get in the way of my workouts. However, when I get cold, I am miserable. So, I created a solution for myself, and now I am sharing it with all runners. My new Thermal Relief Lotion is made from essential warming oils and whole food supplements like Arginine and Alpha Lipoic Acid that are known to increase blood flow. I put this lotion on my hands, feet, and ears about 20 minutes before I venture outside. Of course I wear gloves, socks, and a hat to keep the warmth in even more.
Second, lets discuss how to protect your face from the winter sun, snow reflection, and the wind. If you’re running during the day, you should guard your skin from the wind, sun, and snow reflection. Even though temperatures may be extremely cold, the potential for sunburn can be very high in the winter. The risk of sunburn is also much greater in the mountains than at sea level because the atmosphere is thinner and less pollution is present to filter out ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Did you know that snow can reflect almost 90% of UV radiation so UV rays are much more likely to burn areas such as your chin, your lips, and under your nose.
If you use a moisturizer specially made for athletes, you won’t be as likely to sweat it off as you exercise. I have been a nationally board certified traditional naturopath for 13 years so I also know the importance of using healthy ingredients on your skin. Whatever you put on your skin is absorbed into your blood in 26 seconds, think of that every time you put something on your skin.
I have developed a full line of skincare just for outdoor skin. I recommend my Conqueror Cream for every outdoor runner because I blended it with natural zinc oxide, carrot oil, and shea butter, plus minerals, adaptogen herbs, essential oils, and whole food supplements so it helps you combat whatever elements you face on your run; plus, it supports your skin all day. And it has a tint of mineral color glow in it so you can wear it daily from the trail to town. I apply Conqueror Cream every morning, and before every run to create a buffer. If the air is super crisp you should also wear a face mask or a scarf.
Next, dry chapped lips and wind burnt cheeks can be the most problematic for a lot of winter runners. First, I recommend you should stop lip licking, and stop using Vaseline. Petroleum jelly is made from harmful chemicals, and can create the illusion of moisturized and hydrated skin, all the while suffocating your pores, and its water-repellant and not water-soluble. Some over-the-counter moisturizers have petroleum-based ingredients that can actually further dry your skin in the winter months. Be sure to choose a smart formula that has natural, nourishing ingredients. Go for an oil-based rather than a water-based solution, as it’s more likely to help your skin retain moisture in the winter.
I have blended Winks + Kisses, a natural lip and eye cream, with natural seed oils that moisturize this sensitive skin. And for the bad cases of chapped lips, dry hands, or rosy cheeks, use X-treme Cream, a USDA organic thick moisturizer made with oils and organic beeswax just for the outdoor lover, for when you need “something thicker.” Plus, the X-treme Cream works perfect as an anti-chafing cream. Also, remember to hydrate from the inside out, drink extra water after your winter runs and add foods high in water content to help hydrate your skin from the inside out. Try watermelon, cantaloupe, apples, oranges, kiwi, and watery veggies like celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and carrots. Also, consider taking extra vitamin C and zinc to support the healthy production of collagen and elastin. Along with an omega-3 supplement, or consume more fatty fish and flaxseed, to give your skin the building blocks it needs to appear supple and smooth.
Dry skin areas like hands, feet, elbows, and knees have thin skin and tend to lose moisture faster than other areas on the body. Consider slathering on a deep moisturizing balm like X-treme Cream at night, then wear cotton gloves and socks to seal in the moisture until morning. If dry skin is an issue for you, try a warm shower instead of a hot one. Hot water may feel good, but when you can, particularly when just washing your face or hands, choose lukewarm water to avoid stripping as many natural oils away from the skin. Your skin needs moisture right after you wash. Applying moisture to damp skin helps seal that dampness into the skin, think of a wet sponge soaking up a mess versus a dry sponge. Keep a bottle of X-treme Cream near and use liberally every time you wash.
In addition, do your eyes water and leave dry skin around your eyes? Brisk, cold, windy days are especially unkind to the delicate skin around our eyes. If you are like me, you wear sunglasses, but just being in dry air can cause your eyes to water, which leads to peeling and chapping of the nearby skin. Since this area is naturally thin and delicate, drying can be extra painful. I recommend you avoid anything that will irritate your eyes while you are sweating. I recommend you use a moisturizer rich in Pumpkin, Marula, and Baobab oils like my Winks + Kisses eye and lip cream to help keep delicate skin around eyes and on lips looking bright and healthy. Another great benefit is that this butter keeps you looking youthful too. And it’s also great for the skin under your nose when you are wiping your nose with your glove.
Lastly, if you are running then you are sweating, and that is good news. Did you know that studies show that the act of sweating not only removes impurities from your skin, but can help protect it from bad bacteria by secreting its own natural antibiotics. But, there is also bad news, letting sweat sit on your skin for any prolonged length of time can be problematic if it settles back into your skin. The solution, just cleanse your face immediately after any run or race with something that will pull the sweat out of your pores. Welcome to my waterless Carefree Cleanser, an all in one sweat remover, toner, and moisturizer. And it’s a pretty handy 2 oz. size so it can go with you anywhere. It’s perfect for after that lunch time run when you go because there is daylight and its warmer. Avoid cleansers with glycolic or salicylic acid as these are extremely drying to winter skin (and unhealthy too), switch to a more hydrating version that contains moisturizing ingredients.
So often we forget to help the skin slough off dead cells in the winter, particularly on our body and hands. Yet moisture can’t get in if the dead cells are too plentiful. The charcoal in my Mountain Mud Masque helps exfoliate your entire body to get rid of these dead cells, then follow immediately with moisture (X-treme Cream) to truly see a smoother difference. Charcoal lifts out 200 times its weight in impurities like sweat, dirt, and grime. I recommend if you are sweating and outside that you use this weekly to keep your skin as healthy as your thighs. And because you are an athlete you have probably heard of probiotics, and you might even take them internally. You might already know that probiotics are all about restoring balance and have an anti-inflammatory effect, and can also act as anti-microbials, which can alleviate skin issues. It’s all about the “good” bacteria cancelling out the “bad.” Probiotics can also be useful for exfoliating and balancing the skin too. You can make a masque at home with yogurt or use my Mountain Mud Masque with probiotics and charcoal on your face and entire body.
Cammi Balleck is a lover of the outdoors and an ANCB nationally board certified traditional naturopath. Her mission is to make healthy, organic skincare that will help you get outside and stay outside longer. For more information on these products, visit www.cammiandcompany.com and you can order them from Amazon too.