Is the Season Getting You Down?

Shine the Light on Winter Blues

In northern climates when the heavy snows fall and the sun moves south, many people find their moods shift from upbeat to downright depressed. The severe form of winter depression–called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD–affects at least two million North Americans. Another thirty-nine million experience milder symptoms of moodiness and extended sleep patterns that somewhat resemble hibernation.

Overeating, sleeping for prolonged periods, mood swings, carbohydrate cravings, and weight gain during winter months may be more than just symptoms of cabin fever. They can suggest a biochemical reaction caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight.

Like all living things, we humans are sensitive to the seasons and sunlight. Wesecrete a hormone called melatonin, which helps us sleep at night and stay awake during the day. Melatonin production is directly linked to sun exposure. So, as the days get shorter during the winter, our bodies produce more and more melatonin and we can literally feel like going into a cave and hibernating.

Many SAD sufferers manage their seasonal depression with daily exposure to full-spectrum lamps or light boxes. By getting daily doses of natural light, they can fool their brains into thinking it’s summertime, and their need to sleep decreases.

Recent research shows that timing these light therapy sessions to our natural biological clocks is even more beneficial than usage during the day. Exposure to natural spectrum bright light for thirty minutes on awakening is twice as effective as evening sessions, and one study found this practice actually had an 80 percent chance of sending SAD into remission.

If winter blues are getting to you, consider investing in a full spectrum lamp and use it first thing in the morning–because SAD is for the bears..

Tis the season to be beautiful

Winter Skin by David Waggoner

As you embrace the holiday season, explore new products and services and nurture your skin during these cold months.

Let It Snow
Cold temperatures, windy weather, and low humidity all make it harder for the skin to retain moisture–and that’s only half of the problem. Indoors, the heating systems we use to warm our homes make the skin even dryer, further compounding the issue. The mainstay of winter skin care is increased use of moisturizers. Your goal should be to keep the skin hydrated. If you don’t already use a creamy daily cleanser, now’s the time to start.

The Drying Effects of Water
Each time we wash, we strip moisture and natural oils from the skin. Harsh soaps increase the damage. Hot tubs and heated pools, so appealing in the chillier months, are especially drying because of their chlorine and bromine content.

Similarly, you should avoid taking too many long, hot showers, which will also dehydrate your skin even further. We wash our hands multiple times a day, and the skin on the hands is thinner than on most parts of the body, so moisturizer needs to be applied more frequently to them than to the rest of
the body. A good hand cream is essential in winter.

Red-Nosed Reindeer
Many winter woes are simply a result of skin irritation from the weather and can be solved with proper hydration and protection, but others may need to be medically managed. Eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, and xerosis (extreme skin dryness) are all worsened by cold, dry weather. Rosacea flare-ups can be caused by emotional changes, such as depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and stress, all common this time of year. Though there’s no way
to eliminate rosacea, lifestyle changes and prescription medication can relieve the symptoms.

A Few Of My Favorite Things
Look for anti-inflammatory moisturizing ingredients when building a winter skin care routine. Some good, natural ingredients to consider include beeswax, calendula, comfrey, marshmallow root, and olive oil. What else is good for skin hydration and protection?

These are a few of my favorite things:

Glycerin, also called glycerine or glycerol, is a humectant (an ingredient that helps your skin retain moisture). It is a sugar alcohol and is also used in foods like sweeteners or thickeners. Skin care products that contain glycerin will be goopier and heavier than those that don’t. Give the skin a couple of weeks to get used to the consistency and the heaviness will soon be unnoticeable.

Hyaluronic Acid
If you prefer gentle, natural ingredients, don’t be frightened away by the “acid” part. Hyaluronic acid is found naturally
in the skin. It is a great plumper, capable of holding up to 1,000 times its own weight in water. The amount our bodies produce declines with age, so topical products with this ingredient can
have a great effect on aging skin.

Shea Butter
Naturally rich in vitamins A, E, and F, this natural nut oil moisturizes, revitalizes, and softens skin.

Perhaps the most common skin care myth during winter months is that you don’t need to consider ultraviolet (UV) protection. But UV exposure is UV exposure, regardless of the season.

Winter sports enthusiasts should always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen on the slopes. Apply generously, using enough to create a barrier between the sun and your skin, and be sure to reapply frequently if you stay outside for a long time.

Skip the Scents
Perfumes with alcohol content can irritate the skin and disrupt your body’s natural ability to maintain appropriate moisture levels. Best to keep the application of perfume to a minimum in the winter months.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
The end of a calendar year is a traditional time to reflect and revitalize. There’s a natural tendency to review where you are and where you want to go. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!