Fighting Winter Skin

- Janet Driver

MAD Market Health & Beauty Director

This month, we’ll start a series of articles looking at the best way to fight dry winter skin. I’ll consider what research shows to be the best ingredients cosmetic companies are using to accomplish this. And I’ll start by debunking some common myths.

A quick search of “Dry Skin Remedies” on the internet produces some immediate mis-information: that Vaseline is the best remedy. What many of us know, (but some still don’t know) is that Vaseline is a brand of petroleum jelly. Just hearing the product name should set off some bells of alarm. Would we really put petroleum-anything on our skin? We are working hard to dodge the dangers of ingesting petroleum by-products as they are so commonly used in preserving our food supply. But what perils do we step into by applying them to our skin?

"We are working hard to dodge the dangers of ingesting petroleum by-products... But what perils do we step into by applying them to our skin?"

Remembering that absorption is a key function of the skin will startle us to realize (hopefully:)) that putting petroleum products on our skin will lead to them entering our bloodstream. Multiple cancers are associated with ingesting petroleum products according to the National Institutes of Health, a US government organization.

Then how did we start using Vaseline and other products with petroleum?

Doctors have been recommending petroleum jelly (also called petrolatum) and other petrochemicals (any products derived from the petroleum and natural gas processing) for more than 100 years. In the 1850s, chemist Robert Chesebrough started the process of distilling and cleaning the thick gel found on oil wells. By 1870, Vaseline was being sold in the United States. Since it’s a byproduct of the oil industry, it’s an unsustainable resource (not eco-friendly).

Not only does sustainability hit our radar, but are these conglomerate products being produced ethically?

The companies that produce petroleum products for cosmetic use argue that they are highly refined, making them perfectly safe for human consumption. But that may not be our only cause for concern. Not only does sustainability hit our radar, but are these conglomerate products being produced ethically?  The oil industry notoriously lacks transparency and is known for huge ethical issues (often with global impact). It's difficult in today's world to eliminate use of these products altogether (unless you're lucky enough to avoid using a car), but we can certainly limit it as much as possible.

Lanolin...derived from sheep's wool, it is the fat that sits in the hair follicle

A product that I found years ago when my kids were little to treat a host of skin issues naturally is lanolin. Derived from sheep's wool, it is the fat that sits in the hair follicle. It can be removed without ever harming the sheep, and as well, sheep often are fed in land zones that are unable to produce agricultural vegetation and might otherwise lay dormant. Purified and used in cosmetics or alone, it is highly emollient, meaning that it creates a seal on the skin similar to that of petroleum jelly’s. According to dermatologists, this favorable condition protects the skin from both air and water, allowing it to heal from rashes, chapping and abrasions. Lanolin, however, is even more durable than petroleum jelly. It has a far greater staying power. 

According to CRODA, the website for ethical Personal Care Europe, lanolin is sustainable, ethical, natural, safe and efficacious (meaning that it is effective - it works).

A final word on proof that lanolin is safe, pure and effective as an ingredient - it is commonly used to heal chapping for new nursing mothers. Not only is it applied to the mother’s breast, it inevitably ends up in the baby’s system, as they swallow the remnants as they nurse. Lansinoh is a well respected product that many nursing mom’s use.

When you are shopping for a good skin cream to beat the winter flaking that comes from forced dry heat and a much less humid environment generally speaking, regardless of where you live, look for lanolin on the ingredient list. Lanolin emulsions can be used on the face in the daytime, under make-up or alone if you don’t wear make-up. For women who struggle with dry skin zapping the moisture out of their foundation, leaving a powdery dry residue by the end of the day, lanolin products could give your skin new life. Since lanolin is thick, sticky and extremely moist, it doesn’t dissipate during the day. Using a small amount, pressed into the skin will leave a barrier between your skin and your foundation. At night, smear a small amount around the eyes and on the lips. Press into any other dry areas on face, neck and décolletage. Slather liberally on cracked heels and cover with dark socks for overnight huge improvement. I’ve dropped some links to my favorite lanolin creams plus pure lanolin below. We hope you’ll choose ethically produced products that you have see us endorse - it makes good sense for everyone. Especially our future generations!

We are creating the largest online marketplace for ethically and sustainably made goods. We blog about these companies to empower you to use your purchasing power to create a better world.

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