Speaking from firsthand experience, those of us with ultra-sensitive skin seem to get the one-two punch of extra irritated cheeks and scaly or raw noses when sick. But in truth, colds and the flu season affects all of us and our skincare regimen to some degree. I’m just getting over a nasty virus that most conveniently arrived JUST as my beloved Midwest was smacked with 10 inches of snow last week. How wonderful to be outside shoveling and snow blowing while trying to prevent your nose from resembling the now-frozen Niagara Falls. Winter’s cute, isn’t it?
Kidding aside, we also have to contend with the age-old best practice of washing our hands frequently – it keeps colds and the flu at bay but also can cause rashes, dermatitis or cracked and bleeding skin. Or going through a ton of facial tissue due to clogged sinuses, which can strip needed oils and moisture off of our noses and upper lips. Everything that I’m describing can actually make you sicker (as raw or broken skin can allow bacteria to seep in) or just add to your overall feeling of misery when ill. But never fear – there are 3 easy tips that I recommend everyone follow, young and old, to ensure that skin stays as healthy and well as possible this winter. Friendly reminder: your skin is not only your body’s largest organ of elimination (sweat, oil, shedding dead skin cells), but it’s also your first line of defense to a healthy immune system. Treat it well, and it will care for you in kind.
Tip #1: Wash your face, body and hands with a moisturizing, unscented soap daily.
CeraVe® makes a fantastic Hydrating Cleanser Bar soap that can be used virtually from head to toe, and by anyone in the family. During a cold or while fighting the flu, scented or deodorant body washes may further irritate skin, or cause you to sneeze more, due to allergy-causing synthetic scents. Plus, the CeraVe bar contains ceramides, which are essential to rebuilding the skin’s moisture barrier and protecting it even while deep cleaning. I also love it as it helps to reduce redness – this can be especially helpful for raw or irritated hands. I usually keep a few packs of these soaps around the house as they are also great for travel and gym, as an all-purpose cleanser and body wash. For just a couple of bucks, your skin will feel comforted by soothing lather and squeaky clean, and it’s safe to use on kids who may be suffering from colds too.
Tip #2: Load up on unscented moisturizers from head to toe, and go VERY easy on anti-aging or anti-acne products.
Moisturizers, creams, lotions and serums with added fragrance (or “parfum”) in them will sting, burn, cause irritation, redness and quite possibly cause a further allergic reaction when you are sick. Your body is using all of its strength to mend itself during a cold or the flu, and so your skin can be extra-sensitive during this time. Don’t add unnecessary synthetic fragrances, or even some scented essential oils, into the mix – it will probably just make you more red, or hurt like hell when you apply. Also, alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids (such as salicylic acid) will further dry out skin and most likely cause more irritation while sick. For the couple of days or week or so that you may be sick, don’t worry about fighting wrinkles or pimples. Focus on soothing the skin and retaining its moisture barrier. I LOVE First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream® – it’s the holy grail of moisturizers for any skin type. Oily skin types still love it because it hydrates but does not feel greasy. Use this product from head to toe, especially on dry, cracked skin that needs to heal asap (like hands or noses). I always have a jar of this on hand in our house, especially in winter, and it’s safe to use by the entire family.
Tip #3: Turn your shower into a healing spa by incorporating soothing aromatherapy, even at lower temperatures.
CVS Health and a few other brands make these fantastic little 3-packs of effervescent tablets that turn your shower into an aromatherapy session. When I was a kid, my mom would use Vick’s VapoRub™ on my chest to alleviate congestion, but I’ve found over the years that it irritates my skin due to the amount of essential oils contained in the formula. Instead, I’ve found that these eucalyptus and menthol shower vapor tabs are a great way to get the same benefits for my sinuses, but forgo the irritation of my skin. When your skin is super sensitive, you should avoid taking hot showers, and instead go for more “warm” showers. This will prevent your skin from drying out further, or staying irritated longer. Since these tabs are water activated, you can still get the great benefit to open up your congestion, soothe your aching head and body, and breathe better even at a lower temperature. Hint: put on a deep-cleaning clay mask while showering, and add these tablets in at any time to feel like a relaxing, home-spa experience! Find these near the cold medicine aisle.
Just by making a few small changes in your skincare regimen, and having a couple of these products on hand, you can start feeling better and lessening the side-effects from a nasty cold. Take care and stay safe and warm!