Having skin in the game

And I mean that literally. I just got back recently from Oregon, where we had a little reunion with my brother Damien from Jamaica and his significant other, Shirley, who were meeting grandniece Eva and grandnephew Blake for the first time.  Instant love.

Unlike my earlier trip in December, we had mainly great weather, with clear skies and warm-ish (I have thin blood!) temps. Spring had sprung. We had some beautiful days to enjoy the stunningly gorgeous Oregon outdoors. One of these was the Portland Japanese Garden, which was in its full glory. We overheard someone admitting to bagging work just to go to the garden.  Hey, it’s like locals in Hawaii cutting work to go surfing when the waves are pumping. If you haven’t been to the Japanese Garden, put it on your list.

Water feature - Zen

So what’s this about skin in the game? First off, wintering in Oregon was a kind of personal test. If I could make it through winter weather there, it was one box I could check off on the livability index. Who knew this past December would record some of the lowest temps in memory and dump so many snowstorms in the Portland area. Everybody told me, “It’s usually never this cold here!” Yeah, right. 

Snowy night

I’d forgotten what it was like to be really cold. I lived on the east coast in Pennsylvania for six years back in the 50s and 60s, but that was eons ago when the body was younger and better insulated. Plump even.  I relearned how to layer in Oregon, so I was good to go. Thankfully, new insulation technology also means lighter, less bulky winter wear.

What I didn’t expect was the havoc the intense cold wreaked on my skin, especially the face. I also forgot about dry heat and enclosed spaces without benefit of our warm, humid Hawaiian air.  The wrinkles cut deep winter ruts into my forehead, while my dry, shedding skin was making its own snowflakes. And the delicate area around my eyes felt like tightly stretched parchment about to crack. I had developed a raging case of eczema.  

When I got back to Hawaii, I started to treat it with mixed results.  Then completely by accident, I found the cure: Moroccan argan oil. It’s an ingredient in a moisturizer I happened to find in my bathroom cabinet – you know, the one loaded with all those pricey skin care products I never use. Why is that? (In 2015, the U.S. beauty and personal care business reached a market value of $80 billion USD, according to statistica.com.) Anyway, knowing I would be spending a day at the beach with the family who were back for a visit, I decided to start applying the zinc oxide based Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47 to my face a few days in advance.  The results were almost instantaneous. The itching and rash subsided.  It turns out that zinc oxide is good for skin damage and irritation, and argan oil is an anti-inflammatory.  Soon, I started a daily routine of using just argan oil as a moisturizer, and my skin went back to better than normal. Now, I apply the Josie Maran before I go outdoors, and use argan oil for daily skincare. (This, by the way, is not a paid endorsement.)

Argan oil 2

According to Wikipedia, “A research article published in 2010 found that argan oil contained higher levels than other oils of γ-Tocopherol, which possesses strong chemopreventive and anti-inflammatory properties.” It works for me. Caveat: If you’re tempted to try the argan oil, as with anything new, test it first just to make sure your skin doesn’t react.

All of this is leading up to the second part of my Oregon livability index story. Now that I’d survived my first winter in Oregon, I was pretty confident that I could handle the milder spring weather, even though the lowest temps were forecast in the 40s and 50s.  After all, I had my argan oil. And it all went swimmingly – except for the lips. It seems I neglected these tender appendages. The skin of your lips is very thin compared to your facial skin (about three cellular layers compared to 16 for the face), it doesn’t have sweat glands so can’t protect itself from drying out and getting chapped, and it doesn’t have melanin, which means it’s more likely to get sunburned.

Remember those nice sunny days I was talking about? I even managed to get a bit of a tan – in Oregon!  

Lake 2

And because I didn’t use a lip balm with sunscreen, my lips got sunburned.  Also, in a heated house, the air is dry. So, I got a case of dry, cracked lips. More skin in the game.

Here’s what I learned about lip care:

·      Always use lip cream or balm with sunscreen, and reapply often when outdoors. Use natural balms; avoid those with peppermint, eucalyptus and cinnamon as they irritate your skin. Vaseline works well too.

·      Don’t lick your lips. It leaves them drier than before you licked them.

·      Don’t be a mouth breather. This causes your lips to dry out. Breathe through your nose instead.

·      Stay hydrated. Drink lots of fluids, and moisten the air in the home with a humidifier. (I’ll have to get one for the bedroom on my next visit.)

·      Avoid allergens in cosmetics or skin care products.

·      And moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Your skin will thank you.

I also learned to exfoliate to get rid of the dried, scaly skin. You can buy an exfoliant  or make your own, which I did. Here’s how: Mix 1 teaspoon olive oil with 1 teaspoon sugar. Apply a small amount to your chapped lips, rubbing gently in a circular motion for about 20 seconds. Rinse with warm water, and pat dry. The oil leaves a nice moisturizing layer, but you still need to apply your natural lip balm to seal in the moisture and speed up the healing. I also apply the zinc oxide/argan oil moisturizer for extra protection.  The mix should last for about six applications.

By the way, this is good advice for guys too.

So, yes, I have skin in the game now and think I’m getting the hang of living with Oregon weather. Although, the moment we landed at HNL this last trip, and we stepped into the warm, muggy, humid air, I think my skin cells all breathed a sigh of relief.

Puckered lips can be

Sexy, but not when they’re dry and

Chapped. So moisturize.

 © Maya Leland 2014