Back from the trip: well, it was colder and drier than Vancouver, but not super duper extremely so. It was -18 C one night, that’s all. Most days when outside: in the -5 to -10 range, usually more towards the -5. All rather disappointing.
A fair amount of time spent indoors, which messed around with my skin far more: too warm (20 C or so), dry, and quite stale air as the inhabitants basically keep their place hermetically sealed in the winter. In the lovely but freezing belle province that is le Québec, that’s generally considered to be a good idea. But a bad idea on my skin and for my general constituion. Fond as I am of both species, I’m more of a dog person than a cat person. I need to dash outside, run madly round a block, sniff trees and so on; I can only laze around contentedly under radiators once walkies have been had.
So: what worked? Well, for being outside, what I’d been doing before worked perfectly well.
My only tweak was to play around with a fun experiment: shea butter (NOW Food brand, refined; decanted into an old L’Occitane shea butter mini-tin) vs. Aquaphor (the healing ointment one in the tube). Split-face. Used on lips, around the eyes, and on dry patches.
Additional factors: sunglasses, scarf round face.
The one glitch in the experiment was that I ended up with a dry patch in the middle of my mouth, between the shea butter and Aquaphor areas.
- on a long flight (transcontinental, let’s just say between 5 and 7 hours): very dry, though comfortable temperatures
- Québec, outside: dry cold (also some damp cool-to-cold, for good measure)
- Québec, indoors: warm and dry
Topped up on areas that had become noticeably dry, painfully so where the skin’s very thin: done when diving indoors between bouts in the Great Outdoors. Every time, applied to damp skin; so, layering water/oil on skin through the day. This was a good excuse for going into cafés, bars, etc.: you can only use a bathroom, in all good conscience, as a paying customer (except McDonald’s and suchlike, where providing such a service is the least they can do considering, well, that whole being McDo’s stuff). So you’re under an obligation to have a nice drink. A heavy penance to pay. Poor me.
1. Applying a thin coat, patted and pressed in: shea butter wins, hands down.
On dry skin, both penetrated fast. A thin layer of shea butter retained moisture for longer.
– three hours outside, the shea side felt fine (like skin) and moist to the touch. The Aquaphor side, with the same amount applied: effects wore off in about 30 minutes or so. Skin dry, fragile, rippable to the touch; there was some visible cracking, especially on the thinner-skinned areas (undereye, side of nose, temples, upper lip, forehead). Felt pinched, sore, somewhat sand-papered; facial expressions hurt.
– on the flight: the best thing ever. I removed the Aquaphor and replaced it with shea butter about an hour or so into the flight, as the Aquaphor side was feeling itchy and tight. Note: I may have been prejudiced, as I’ve used shea butter for air travel several times before.
That’s the biggest pain, as I do like to grimace (and indeed gurn), and I dislike having my freedom of movement and expression impeded. On principle. Yes, even just my facial muscles… it’s a matter of principle, damnit. OK, also practicalities: I dislike pain (being, I believe, normal) and have the classic ginger thin skin and the classic ginger low pain-tolerance threshold. It all goes together; matchy-matchy well beyond the obvious collar and cuffs and associated guffawing jokes. Ginger skin: looks very pretty when it’s working, but otherwise it sucks.
2. Applying a thicker coat, leaving a greasy film all over my face: they’re even.
Tested on outing up a mountain (about 3 hours). No difference in feel: both succeeded in retaining moisture. When washing the greasy layer off afterwards, both side of my face felt much the same.
I was surprised at result #1, as Aquaphor had been taking an early lead in Vancouver-based experiments. (Also: how cool is it that the same stuff—whichever of the greasy gloops you prefer—can be used from head to toe?)
EVEN STEVENS: thin layer for short-term use, half-hour max, so that’s probably most everyday normal activities; thick layer for a longer period outdoors.
SHEA BUTTER PRO: thin layer for any length of time: in straight-up functionality, shea butter beats Aquaphor on me.
AQUAPHOR PRO: easier to use, as it’s less solid, can be carried around and dispensed through a tube, and melts right into skin. Shea needs a little warming up to skin temperature, and is less easy to use on larger surface areas. Shea oil or the whipped butter might be another solution. It’s a minor issue, despite what you might think from this (either an incompetent or a very cold person; possibly a vampire, with a core temperature this low?):
Sunscreen: I brought along the trusty Vanicream SPF 60, as I always do, just in case, as it’s proven reliable in every climate and on the crankiest skin.
I didn’t need it: the regular everyday Eco Logical Body SPF 30 was fine. OK, on top of shea butter, and with further layering of shea butter during the day (and the Logical contains shea butter too); but fine. I didn’t get dessicated.
Hair not so happy: dry tangly ends, slightly greasy roots. That’s hard water and (soft) hats for you.
Anyone want to send me off to the truly bitter north, as a walking talking live experimental subject, to continue the tests or to try anything else out? Drop me a line. After all, if something works on fine delicate ginger skin, it’ll work on anything.
OK, that’s not quite true: acne, rosacea, seb derm, etc., there’s whole other worlds of skin spectrum out there. Maybe time for a sponsored midwinter Arctic expedition, with representatives of as wide a range as possible of skin types and conditions? That would blow the Dove “real women” campaign right out of the water.