Thursday, January 4, 2018

Dealing with the Northern Winter: Some Things I Do and Products I Use

(A view from my front window this month.)

I live in a small town near Madison, Wisconsin. Intellectually, I know that it seems cold to people in the south when it's only, say, 50 degrees Fahrenheit outside. However, what I'm dealing with today is, without considering windchill, 4 degrees Fahrenheit. FOUR. And that, reader, is not actually the coldest it gets around here. 

We didn't much of a gradual progression this winter. It went from being more normally cold, in autumn (like in the 30s and even 40s) ,straight to frigid right after the winter solstice. I typically like winter better than summer. If you're cold you can put layers on, but if you're hot, you can only spend so much time submerged in a tub of ice before your life starts to fall apart. However, even I, the winter-preferring freak, can begin to struggle when it's this cold, and so very, very, constantly dry and electrosparky. In the summer, my skin is so oily that I develop sensory issues about my own face, but in the winter that completely reverses itself and I'm so dry that I lose the ability to move my mouth or blink.

Hyperbole? I don't even know that word.

Whatever! Here's a tiny list of the products that help me feel more comfortable. I'm not affiliated to any of them. Maybe you'll find them helpful.
  • For dry feet: Burt's Bees Coconut Foot Creme with Vitamin E
  • Facial Moisturizer: Garnier SkinActive Ultra-Lift Wrinkle Reducer 2-in-1 Serum + Moisturizer (they give you your money's worth in the title length alone)
  • Eye Area Moisturizer: Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief Eye Cream
  • Lip Balm: Fresh Sugar Lip Caramel Hydrating Balm 
The latter two are a bit pricey, but you get a lot and you only need to use a little at a time. The "lip caramel" truly looks and smells like caramel.

One product that does not live up to its hype, in my opinion, is the Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm. I tried it after seeing a lot of good reviews, but it doesn't stay on as well as a basic Chapstick, I tried the most pleasant-sounding scent for my taste, Black Tea and Blackberry, and even when I diligently avoided eating the stuff I ended up with a weird taste in the back of my mouth from the scent. At least it wasn't expensive! But I can't recommend it.

So far, I haven't gotten to the point of needing hand or body moisturizer (and I honestly have no explanation for that), but I probably will get there. Please leave recommendations in the comments if you have them.

For my mental well-being in winter, I like to make sure I use a full-spectrum light for part of the day (it's good lighting for doing my makeup, it turns out), and I take extra vitamin D because we in the north cannot get enough vitamin D from sunlight between November and February. Not that we're supposed to be sunbathing the rest of the time, anyway. As always, if a medical expert tells you not to take it, then don't.

I also like to make sure I have green plants around. I grow low-maintenance, cat-safe spider plants in my house, and occasionally visit the not exactly nearby Olbrich Botanical Garden's tropical conservatory. Once or twice each winter, I find it very worthwhile to take the 40-minute drive to a place where I can hang up my coat and enter a warm, humid environment of tropical plants and flowers where there's a waterfall, koi swimming around in the pond, and birds to look at. 

And to avoid colds, I have zinc lozenges (Cold-Eeze brand; I found them at Walgreens). The instructions are to start taking them immediately after cold symptoms start. I also take one after I get home from going anywhere crowded (that's in addition to washing my hands frequently and trying not to touch my eyes or nose). The idea is that zinc fights cold germs, but it's better to have a lozenge or use a spray than to swallow zinc supplements, in order to keep the zinc in the location where you want it to rough up some viruses. It doesn't taste great, and you should eat something before you use it, because it can be unsettling to stomachs, but I think it's helpful. There's a lot of chitchat about this on that newfangled World Wide Web. (Remember when we used to call it "the web"? I rewatched an episode of Charmed last night while I was knitting, and that intrepid researcher Phoebe reminded me of olden days when she used that term.)

What are your winter tips and recommendations? 

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