In the deep winter, our skin can be at its most sensitive. The drop in temperature, harsh winds and dry climate often leave it parched and irritated. We turned to two of Toronto’s top holistic skincare experts, the mother-daughter team Jean Eng and Kristen Ma, to find out how we can bypass the misery of undernourished winter skin with smart and easy care. Eng and Ma are the co-founders of Pure + Simple, an all-natural skincare and wellness spa and beauty brand. Rooted in Ayurveda, their holistic approach recognizes the unique skin care and constitutional needs of each individual. Here’s what they told us about keeping your skin protected and healthy this season.
Get out your winter skin care along with your winter clothes. Ma: “We change our wardrobes when it gets cooler and adjusting your skin care makes sense too. That communication that we have with the environment is really important, as well as how we respond to balance our bodies.” Eng: “People usually have to change their moisturizer and their cleanser [at this time of year]. Our skincare [at Pure + Simple] is based on the individual. We say, ‘type of skin’, the biological part of it, which is like whether it’s got big pores. Then [there is] also your energy, for example, do you dehydrate quickly? That’s how I would determine what type of cleanser or moisturizer we would change you to.”
Don’t strip your skin. Ma: “It’s all about protection. With a cleanser, you need to make sure that you’re not stripping your skin. I would not use products with astringent detergents in them. Personally, I’m a big fan of almost everyone using a milk cleanser. It leaves a little more protection and hydration in your skin. Even if you have oily skin or if you’re prone to getting a lot of buildup in your skin, I find [it] can do a deep cleaning job […] I don’t like alcohol-based toners on anyone, even acne-prone or oily skin. There are lots of gentle natural ingredients that are good for disinfecting the surface of your skin. Your toner and serum should be water-rich, with a heavier moisturizer to give you that water and oil balance.”
Dry skin does not necessarily mean more exfoliation. Eng: “[If] your skin is more delicate, sensitive, and it dries easily, I’m not going to be as enthusiastic [about exfoliating]. You’ll be missing an extra protection for your lower layers [of skin]. For some who are really moist and have robust skin, it’s a great quick fix.” Ma: “In North America we tend to over-peel. We’ve seen a lot of clients come in and they’re using peels on a daily basis. I don’t usually recommend doing it, even in wintertime. If they are flaking or scaling, I would rather [a] physical exfoliation, like a scrub or a soft washcloth. We’re going out and in, temperature change is an issue, and the moisture is being sucked out of our skin. If there’s too much inflammation, you get the results of that in the form of different skin damage. That can be pigmentation or premature signs of aging, texture-wise.”
Don’t Forget to Protect Winter Skin from the Sun
You still need sunscreen. Ma: “I feel like people are less intuitive in the winter because they don’t feel hot. I advocate sunscreen year-round. When you’re skiing, for instance, there’s a lot of [UV] reflection off the snow.” Ma recommends against moisturizer-sunscreen combinations. “You’re trying to get [shielding and absorbing] in the same product. I find that less effective. If people want to cut down steps, get your sunscreen in your makeup if you wear [it]. However, Eng reminds us of the value of a few minutes a day without sunscreen: “We all need about 20 minutes of good exposure for Vitamin D, so that you’re not using supplements. It’s much more healthy. When you don’t have Vitamin D, your immune system goes down.”
Give yourself a spa at home. Ma: “[Steaming] is a gentle way to clear your pores without squeezing and picking your face. It’ll increase a little bit of microcirculation in the skin from the heat and the humidity. Boil a pot of water and then I like to throw in rose hip tea, peppermint tea, or different essential dried herbs. Put a towel over your head, like when you’re doing a nasal steam, and do a maximum of five minutes.” Eng: “If I was to make a mask, I would put honey in. I like mashed avocados too. My best go-to is a cloth mask. It seals your skin while it’s sitting on your face for about 20 minutes. You really get a lot of benefits from it when you’re dehydrated.”
“I think that protecting the Arctic Ocean is really important. It’s not a place that is removed. We talk about skincare and the environment, being body aware and having a relationship with the environment because there’s a connection between the environment’s energy and our energy.” – Kristen Ma
Kristen Ma, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor with over 15 years of experience treating skin and dermatological conditions. She authored the award-winning book “Beauty, Pure and Simple”, a guide to beauty through Ayurvedic Medicine. She is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and Esthetician and co-founded Pure + Simple skincare and spas.
Jean Eng, co-founder of the natural and sustainable spa Pure + Simple, is an esthetician and Ayurvedic practitioner as well as a Rotman School of Business graduate. Jean’s philosophy connects the health of the environment to the health of the individual. All of Pure + Simple’s offerings reflect this personal connection with nature.