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It’s wintertime, and the livin’ ain’t easy—for our hair, skin, and nails, that is. Whipping winds, dry air, and chilly temps can really do a number on soft skin and hair. Cold air outside and central heat indoors can strip moisture from strands and pores, making hair rough and skin itchy and dry. But endure cracked hands no more: Items hiding in the back of your kitchen cupboard could just be the answer.
Body Talk—the Need-to-Know
Hair and skin aren’t just for looking pretty—they’re required for specific bodily functions too. Humans lost body fur a while ago (thankfully), but we still have hair on our heads to keep the brain toasty and protected from occasional bumps. Skin isn’t only the barrier between the environment and our insides—it’s a living organ that’s responsible for keeping the body cool, protecting it against germs and “invaders,” and many other metabolic processes.
It’s important to keep these tissues in good condition and working well all year long so they can do their jobs and keep us healthy and safe. Cracked, flaky, irritated, or inflamed skin is normal during winter, though it’s not exactly fun. If red, scaly, itchy skin lingers or is causing serious discomfort, be sure to visit a doctor; it might be a more serious dermatological condition, such as dermatitis, eczema, or athlete’s foot. Barring more serious issues, there are a few strategies that can give your body a break when the mercury plunges:
1. Keep it cool.
A 20-minute long, boiling-hot shower might feel great on a cold day, but stick to warm or lukewarm water for 5 minutes or less. Long exposure to hot water can strip moisture from hair and skin.
2. Dress for success.
When heading into the great outdoors, dress for the weather with a hat, scarf, and gloves to avoid windburn and prolonged exposure to cold air.
3. Stick to healthy fats.
At the grocery store, fill up a cart with foods full of healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, olive oil, flax, sardines, and avocados.
4. Stay hydrated.
It’s a good idea to drink plenty of water during winter, but there is actually no scientific proof that guzzling water can rehydrate scaly skin.
5. Grab some vitamin C.
While at the market, load up on vitamin C-rich produce, such as citrus fruit and dark, leafy greens. Vitamin C can help boost the body’s production of collagen, a protein that maintains skin and other connective tissues.