One morning in late November, I woke up next to my boyfriend with an intense itching sensation burning between my legs. My vagina, inner thighs, and the crease between the two felt as if they were on fire. I scratched furiously, eventually reaching for my bedside table for the almond-based lotion, Lander Advanced Lubricating, I kept there, applying it to all the inflamed areas in hopes of relief. Which came, but didn’t stay too long. For the next few days, I found myself scratching myself in this area with an insatiable regularity. I was worried.
A quick Google search (and a talk with the boyfriend) calmed fears of crabs or gonorrhea — as did the spreading of the itchiness: the backs of my knees, my ankles, my butt (and in between my butt cheeks!), under my boobs where the bra hits, my wrists, my lower back. I couldn’t stop scratching! One morning, I woke up so itchy and uncomfortable I was kicking my legs and flailing my arms around, squealing like a little girl, scaring my boyfriend awake. It was unbearable! I was scratching so much and so hard I was bruising myself and breaking my skin, making myself bleed.
I have always had sensitive skin, even having EXTREME allergies as a kid that had me break out in hives in the third grade (not a cool thing to have happen to you when you are the new kid at school, I might add). Occasionally I’d spot a hive or two, was I allergic to something?
A survey of many, many friends (who are also experiencing similar issues right now) has convinced me that I am just suffering from some seriously dry skin brought on by this seriously cold winter. Temps have been floating around freezing in New York since January, with a good amount of snow to boot. I’ve suffered dry skin in winters’ past, though usually only noticeably on my hands, for which I use my go-to hand cream, The Body Shop’s Hemp Hand Protector. While this continues to help my hands, the rest of my body was in need of some serious relief, and STAT. After doing more Internet searches (seriously, what kind of world were we living in before the World Wide Web existed?!), I discovered what could be another culprit: Age. Or more specifically: aging. Apparently dry skin is a common side effect of getting older (at 32, am I really that old?). To counter this aging/drying-out process — and hoping to cool my inflamed skin — I’ve been lathering myself up completely with Aveeno's Daily Moisturizing Lotion directly after I shower and right before bed.
While the lotions provided some relief, I was still itching my way through my days. (My boyfriend now sings “Itchy Woman” to me when I start scratching myself, to the tune of the Eagles’ “Witchy Woman.”) There needed to be something that I could do to bring on more relief, right?
And then I remembered: Coconut oil. Back when I was going through my first my yoga teacher training about four years ago, my teachers praised the benefits of oils, specifically coconut, both as a cooking tool and as topical massage therapy. Aside from making meals extra yummy and nutritious, studies have shown that coconut oil also functions as a super duper moisturizer when applied to the skin. One study conducted by the Department of Dermatology at the Makati Medical Center in the Philippines specifically compared the use of coconut oil versus your regular moisturizer as a treatment for xerosis (severe/abnormal dryness), finding that using it as a topical therapy significantly improves skin hydration as well as skin surface lipid levels.
I had always found this weird: Surely there is a special type of coconut oil one is supposed to apply to their ACTUAL BODY that one wouldn’t cook with, right? Nope. They are one in the same. And even though I initially thought this strange, I was desperate. So in a last-ditch attempt to find relief before I scratched myself raw, I rummaged through my kitchen cabinet for my jar of Trader Joe’s coconut oil, grabbed a spoon, and made my way to the bathroom to take a shower.
On the advice of friends who had not feared the food-as-body-moisturizer, I first washed myself with soap, then scooped out some oil from the jar, directly applying the beachy-scented goop directly to my still-wet body with my hands, massaging the oil into my skin. (Also, don’t be a jerk: Turn the water off before you start applying so that you don’t prematurely rinse the stuff off by accident, but also mostly to save water.) I kid you not, I INSTANTLY felt relief as soon as I lathered the oil on myself. I let out a huge sigh of relief, moving quickly as I rubbed the magic stuff all over, massaging it into my skin in an upward motion to find the relief I had been searching for FOR MONTHS.
As my friends suggested, I let it sit for a while to let my skin drink it in, washing my hair or stepping out of the shower for a few minutes to brush my teeth or tidy up the bathroom as I gave the oil some time to be absorbed into my skin before rinsing it off. Do NOT use soap after applying the oil as it will wash most of the oil away. The oil needs to sit on the skin to be absorbed. I’ve been letting it sit for about 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing, but you can let it sit however long you want — though if you want it to be effective, I wouldn’t do it for any less than that. (If you are feeling a bit shiny or that you might ruin your clothes from the oil post-shower like I did, hang out in a towel or robe for a few minutes before getting dressed.)
For me, applying the oil in the morning keeps me virtually itch-free for most of the day. But I still continue to lather myself up in lotion both after showering and before bed. Here are a few products that have helped:
This cream’s main ingredient is oatmeal, which I remember provided serious relief in bath form when I was little and had the chicken pox. It helps to cool the skin, leaving it super soft and dewey. This is my favorite of all the products I’ve discovered on this road to less itching.
After that kicking and screaming fit I mentioned earlier, my boyfriend went home to grab this for me. He suffers from eczema and psoriasis (which also made me wonder if maybe I was the first person in the history of the world to “catch” these dry skin conditions from him. Don’t worry; both continue to NOT be contagious.). But this lotion helped to really soothe and cool my itchy patches, though be warned: There is a slight menthol-y scent to this one.
A girlfriend of mine, who has been suffering the same itchiness as me since September, recommended this product, and I highly recommend. It’s super thick and, unlike the other lotions that go on cold (which is sometimes almost painful to apply in this frigidly cold weather — I tend to wince in anticipation of coating myself in wet, cold lotions, which makes the act of finding relief slightly unpleasant), this one is MUCH warmer than the others. Not a wince from me one in slathering on my body.
Note: I ran out of my Trader Joe’s version the other day, and just started in on a jumbo tub of Carrington Farms Pure, Unrefined, Cold Pressed Coconut Oil, which my boyfriend, knowing how much I love to cook with coconut oil, picked up for me at Costco on a recent visit (before I had started using the stuff to treat my dry skin). I laughed at the enormity of the thing when he first brought it to my house, thinking it might take me a year or so to use it all, but now am beyond grateful to have it at my disposal as it goes on easier and seems to be absorbing better into my skin than TJ’s version. I'm going to go through this a lot quicker than I thought . . .
Other tips for dry skin:
- Drink lots of water
- Get a humidifier to help add moisture to dry, over-heated rooms
- Avoid caffeine (a natural diuretic, caffeine makes you have to pee more, thus dehydrating you)
- Travel to a warm, beach-y climate!
What are your go-to products or tricks to help dry skin? Let me know in the comments below!