Chances are that you suffer from dry skin for at least some parts of the year unless you live in a tropical, humid country. Environmental factors like weather as well as diet that is low in fats can make your skin rough, dry, and flaky. The good news is that there are simple routines you can incorporate to get that much needed moisture in your skin.
The outermost layer of the skin, called the epidermis, is where drying happens. There are three classes of ingredients that can help relieve the feeling of dryness: humectants, occlusive, and emollients. Humectants attract what little moisture there is to skin and include things like glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid to name a few. Occlusives are things that form a protective barrier on the skin and prevent loss of moisture by evaporation and include Vaseline, waxes like beeswax, emulsifying wax etc. Emollients are generally small molecular weight oils that penetrate the epidermal cells and fill in the spaces between them. For the harsh winter months, I highly recommend emollients – heavy oils like olive oil and sesame oil in particular.
In Ayurveda, skin issues are treated holistically by treatment protocols to balance the three doshas in the body – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Dosha imbalance can be caused by internal and external factors such as weather. In the winter months, Vata dosha tends to get aggravated causing excessive dryness. This is the reason that “warming” oils such as sesame are used in body massages in the cold months. Back when I was growing up in India, the ritual on Diwali, which falls in winter, was to be woken up at 5:00am by my mother, followed by a thorough oil massage on the head and body using sesame oil warmed with a few peppercorns in it. While I would moan and groan in protest back then, I crave for these simple rituals in America. So much so that this ritual was the inspiration for the Vata Body Oil.
We can also see herbs and spices to balance Vata. These include ginger, cardamom, shatavari, ashwagandha, clove etc. Any and every spics is great for balancing Vata! So in the winter months, eat warm foods and have fun with the spices (lots of ginger tea).