By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director
Baby, it’s cold outside – and our skin sure knows it.
Dropping temperatures and outdoor fun mean dry skin, cracked lips and brittle hair for the whole family. Heated homes, schools and office buildings make matters worse.
We slather on moisturizing creams and lotions for relief, but most of these products are loaded with chemicals. Some of them are known to be harmful; many are untested and essentially unregulated.
Before stocking up this winter, check out these tips to protect your skin from the cold while minimizing your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
1. Choose healthy products
Lotion is a cold-weather essential for exposed areas like our faces and hands. When you choose a lotion for yourself and your family, look for thick, creamy options – but skip ones with fragrance. The government doesn’t require companies to disclose the ingredients that give a product fragrance, so there’s no way to know what’s in there, which could include hormone disruptors, allergens and asthma triggers.
Apply lotion while your skin is moist and skip bubble bath, which dries skin. For children and people with sensitive or particularly dry skin, the best bet is to use natural oils such as coconut or canola instead of lotion. Check with your doctor before applying oils to infants.
When you’re shopping for a conditioner, avoid those that list propyl paraben or DMDM hydantoin on the label. These preservatives pose safety concerns.
When you rinse, leave a little product in your hair to provide added conditioning throughout the day.
We can’t avoid ingesting a bit of lip products when we talk, eat or drink, so it’s extra important to apply a healthy one. Try non-petroleum balms made from natural oils and avoid products that list retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate on the label.
During the winter months, choose products that offer sun protection if you’re out in the snow or near water, but avoid any that list oxybenzone on the label.
Search more than 64,000 products in EWG’s Skin Deep database to find the right lotion, hair conditioner or lip balm for your family.
2. Wear sunscreen
Even when it’s cold outside, the sun still shines brightly. Although your risk of sunburn is lower in winter, the sun’s skin-damaging ultraviolet rays reflect off snow and water, increasing your exposure.
Wear protective clothing and apply sunscreens that list zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients; products with 3 percent avobenzone are the next best. Click here to learn more about staying safe in the sun and steer clear of these 11 worst sunscreens for kids.
3. Do it yourself
You can use common household oils to moisturize your skin, lips, hair and scalp. Popular natural ingredients include shea butter and coconut, argan, avocado, jojoba or almond oils. If you add essential oils for scent, use them sparingly. These botanical extracts can trigger allergic skin reactions in people with sensitive skin.
To condition your hair, try rinsing it with diluted apple cider vinegar and warm water after shampooing.
Be sure to test homemade products on a small patch of skin to check for allergic reactions. Since they’re made from perishable ingredients, they have a shorter shelf life than store-bought products, so discard them within a few months – or earlier if you notice changes to their consistency or scent.
4. Stay hydrated
Keep your skin healthy and hydrated from the inside by drinking plenty of water and eating nutritious, moisture-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.
With naturally hydrated skin, you’ll need fewer products and you’ll use them less often, an effective way to save money and limit your family’s exposure to the complex mixture of ingredients in commercial body care products.