Seasonal Skin Care

Eyes have the reputation of being a window to the soul, but it is hands that speak volumes about who people really are, where they live, and how they spend their lives.  Unfortunately, as the seasons change, temperatures cool and humidity drops, a soft, supple, well-manicured hand might quickly become rough and weathered.  You can do a lot, however, to maintain youthful-looking hands as Jack Frost moves in to take his toll.

The stratum corneum, or outer layer of skin, is the first line of defense against exposure to the external world.  Low humidity draws moisture out of this layer and leaves the living epidermis beneath it vulnerable.  Keep humidity levels up in your home and drink plenty of water to maintain healthy skin.  Mayo Clinic suggests about 8 cups of water for an average adult – more as necessary for exertion, climate and health issues.  If allergens and bacteria can reach the deeper living epidermis, eczema and intense sensitization can occur.  The more skin breaks down through a lack of care, the less resistance there is to external threats.

Since winter is the season for colds and flu, it’s also the time to pay special attention to hand-washing.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 20 seconds of washing to prevent the spread of germs.  Try singing the ABC song in your head to be sure that you have washed long enough.  To prevent the dry, chapped hands that may result, avoid excessively hot water, use a mild moisturizing cleanser such as Dove, Cetaphil or its generic equivalent, or an alcohol-free bath gel, and rinse completely.

Sharron Davis is the lead esthetician at Calistoga Ranch’s luxury Bathhouse spa in California’s Upper Napa Valley and has insight to seasonal hand care.

“Don’t wash your hands with antibacterial soap unless you absolutely have to,” she warns.  “Antibacterial soap actually strips the natural oils from your hands.  On the rare occasion that you must use it, be sure to use a heavy moisturizer on your hands afterward.”

Any soap or chemical left on the skin can be an irritant.  Be sure hands are completely dry before heading outside.  Residual water can lead to chapped hands in cold, dry weather – an invitation to raw skin and infection.

Moisturize after washing, but use caution:  Some lotions feel and smell nice, but fragrance can be acidic and result in drier hands.  Curel, Eucerin and Aveeno all have fragrance-free lotions that are excellent moisturizers, especially the gentle baby lotions.  Vaseline and antibiotic ointments treat severely weathered hands, and century-old moisturizers that originated in harsh environments remain popular, too.  Corn Huskers Lotion emerged in 1919 Iowa for corn huskers’ weathered hands, and Bag Balm hit the market in 1899 Vermont for chapped cow udders.  Both are effective hand remedies.

Use sun block in addition to a regular moisturizer to help prevent the spots that generally appear after age 55.  These are attributed to sun exposure, smoking and poor diet and appear where too much lipofuscin exists in the skin.  Pure lemon juice as well as over-the-counter products that contain hydroquinone can help fade spots and lighten skin.  Doctors can perform chemical peels, laser resurfacing and plastic surgery to remove these “age” or “liver spots,” but the best plan is to prevent them from appearing by using a sun block of SPF 30 or higher and keeping a healthy diet.  Orange foods high in vitamin A aid in protecting the body from harmful UV light.

To lock moisture in, soak your hands for 20 minutes before you pat dry and apply lotion or cream just before you go to bed.  Slip your slathered paws into some soft cotton socks or sleeping gloves that you can find at most drug and beauty supply stores.  The moisture will soak deeply into your skin as you sleep.  For a lighter nighttime treatment, forgo the hand covers, but don’t ever pass on the moisturizer.

“If you are the type of person who tends to sleep with your hands against your face,” says Davis, “your hand moisturizer needs to be ‘face worthy’.”

Many spas use sugar rubs in their hand treatments to exfoliate dry skin.  You can generate the same results at home with 2 tablespoons of sugar mixed with a few drops of water and lemon juice.  Sugar is softer on the skin than salt, but either could work in a pinch.

To enhance your at-home-spa experience, rub a non-petroleum oil onto the hands and cover with a hand cream.  Wrap the hands in plastic bags and cover with hot, wet towels for about 10 minutes to open pores and allow increased blood flow.  Spas often use paraffin baths, which are also available for home use, to treat weary hands.  Melted paraffin solidifies onto the hands in at least five heat-trapping layers that have a similar effect to the bags and hot towels.  Increased circulation moisturizes the hands, and the heat treatments help to soothe aching joints associated with age and colder winter temperatures.

Deep cracks or fissures are likely to form on the hands in this dry time of year and can be aggravated by interaction with chemicals, paper and cloth.  Protect them with Band-Aids or Liquid Band-Aids or use an unexpected trick and cover the cracks with Crazy Glue.  Be sure your fissure is clean, though, or you could trap an infection that might become quite painful.

Darlene Granger of New Auburn, Wis., has been managing deep fissures for decades.

“Gloves, at night, over fully lubricated fingers add comfort and some healing,” she said, “but two days in the more humid climates of Hawaii or Florida is the best fissure-healing treatment I have found!”

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Personal Wellness Vacations

Are you good with numbers?  You might not have considered this one:  By the time you reach retirement age, you could easily have been at work for 80,000 hours.  This seems like a pretty good reason to heal your soul and quiet your mind with a personal wellness vacation.  There are many ways to achieve this objective; it is just a matter of how you perceive calm, bliss and relaxation.


At the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, Calif., <> Western and Eastern medicines blend with daily meditation, yoga, education and massage to release tension and allow guests to reconvene with a healthy inner spirit.  Drs. Deepak Chopra and David Simon opened the center in 1996 as a place where people can learn how to balance their stresses and strengths and return to life completely capable of maintaining their renewed stability.

“What we teach at the center is Ayurveda, which is a 5,000-year tradition of healing from India that focuses on the relationship between mind and body,” explains Erika DeSimone of the Chopra Center.  “We teach something called inner pharmacy.  [Your wellness] is already in your body or as close as your kitchen.”

Special multiple-day programs run at the center throughout the year and target the needs of any visitor in search of serenity.  The most popular one, Perfect Health, runs almost constantly and is just the thing for a person who is handling any kind of adjustment.

Says DeSimone, “Our guests range in age from their 40s through their 70s, and a common thread that runs through them all is that they are going through some kind of change in life.  It could be menopause, divorce, the death of a loved one or retirement, but they are all experiencing change.”

At the center, every guest is carefully evaluated, and the spa tailors each treatment to fit specific needs.  Warm, scented oils, soothing background sounds and a serene environment enhance massages, steam therapy, herbal wraps and other treatments to purify the weary soul.


For some people, the best way to find inner peace and a sense of rejuvenation after great change is to forgo the internal search and instead follow their wanderlust and explore the planet.  Elder Hostel <> has organized tours for the mature traveler since 1975.  With more than 8,000 trips per year in as many as 90 countries, the focus of this nonprofit company is on cost-efficient travel with an emphasis on education and cultural experiences to feed the hungry mind.  Feel the hot sand on your feet as you walk among the pyramids, take in the view of Athens from the Acropolis, breathe exceptionally clean air in Australia or watch the light change in Giverny.

Accommodations and most meals are included in the very reasonable cost of each Elder Hostel experience, and some programs are arranged to include another traveler from a different generation.  If you find your bliss in seeing the world through the eyes of your child or grandchild, you can take them along to share your passion for travel and education.

Retired elementary school teacher Shirley Olson is a veteran globetrotter.  She especially enjoys the Elder Hostel programs because they provide an opportunity for her to interact with her grandchildren in a way they will always remember.

“I think it’s probably the neatest thing to take a grandchild to swim right with the whales,” says Olson of the intergenerational programs.  “They are so well planned, and yet they still provide free time to do things, too.  It’s the best way to relax and just enjoy a vacation.”


If your budget doesn’t allow for spa-style introspection or international travel, don’t think you must rule out a wellness vacation experience.  You can create an oasis of calm and serenity for your rejuvenation right in your own home.  The real draw of leaving town is that the phone, mail, to-do lists and chores are left behind.  So, unplug your phone, stop your mail, get the house in shape and turn off the buzz in your head.  Pick a week that will be your vacation week, and make a concerted effort to have things clean and organized before it arrives.  It might be just the incentive you need to find the bottom of the pile on your desk.

In her Simple Living website newsletter  <>, Janet Luhr suggests, “Pretend you really are going away and that you have a housesitter coming to care for your house while you are away.  Imagine that you don’t want to have this housesitter see all of your mess, so you need to get busy cleaning it up before your ‘departure’ date.”

When the date of your virtual departure arrives, that’s it.  Light gently scented candles, play soft music, prepare a bubble bath and sip your favorite wine, knowing that the world is on hold until you choose to plug back into it.  Read, relax and transport yourself to a place where you are the king and inner peace is the goal.  You made your nest just as you like it, now really enjoy living in the space you created.  Perhaps this is the ultimate vacation destination, and you might find that when your virtual return date arrives you keep a candle burning, soft music playing and a sense of serenity with you indefinitely.


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