Monday, January 20, 2014

Southern California Dry Hot Weather Survival Guide

I grew up in the desert wilds of Southern California. Out there, humidity is almost always low and the days are either hot or warm (compared to other parts of the country).

Most of California is experiencing desert-like weather this winter. Most days have very low humidity and we have summer-like temperatures. Hard on the environment, yes, but it is also hard on your sinuses, your skin, and your hair.

Here are some tips and tricks I learned during my desert childhood and adolescence that I thought would be a benefit to my fellow Californians who are accustomed to cooler, more moist environs. Hopefully, this survival guide will make the dryness a heat a little more bearable!

1.  Showering and bathing. Showering and bathing are very drying to the skin. The water and soap strip oils off the skin. If you can stand it, take a washcloth bath (also known as a cat bath, a PTA shower, or a whore's bath). Try to limit showers or baths to every third day, if you can possibly stand it. Tips and techniques for washcloth baths can be found here in this little eBook: A Lady's Guide to Rustic Bathing.

2.  Exfoliate. When you do shower or bathe, exfoliate thoroughly. Face, feet, hands, as well as all other body parts. Doing so allows your skin to better absorb moisturizers because there's not a lot of dead skin in the way.

3.  Hair. Did you know that you can get great results by washing your hair with a good quality conditioner? Beauty expert Dominique Ceccon recommends washing hair using only conditioner, and then doing so only every other day at the most. The conditioner-only approach keeps most of the hair's vital oils in place, whereas shampoo tends to strip these oils out of the hair. During these very dry days, your hair needs all of the moisture it can get! If your scalp is oily, use shampoo only on the scalp area, and avoiding lathering the hair itself.

4.  Double moisturizer, one light, one heavy. After showering or bathing, take the time to double moisturize. Apply an unscented, light, but super-hydrating moisturizer generously to the skin. Don't forget feet and hands? My dermatologist recommends Amlactin for me, but your preference or skin needs might be different.

After the first layer of moisturizer absorbs, apply a body butter or a heavy moisturizer generously all over your skin. You will need to wait a few minutes before you can get dressed, but the hydration your skin enjoys all day makes the wait worth it!

5.  Face. It is a good idea to double-moisturize the face as well. Some of the overnight creams that aren't too dense can be used during these especially dry days as a daytime moisturizer. Applying a thin layer of argan oil or other face-friendly moisturizing oil can be done before or after the moisturizer. Allow these to completely absorb before applying make up.

6.  Sunscreen and a hat. If you plan to be outside for more than 20 minutes, sunscreen and a hat are necessary. The reason for the sunscreen is obvious. The hat not only keeps the hot sun off of your face, but it also helps protect your hair from strong UV rays and moisture loss.

7.  Sinus flush. This is the best way to relieve dry, painful sinuses. A sinus flush consists of preparing a simple saline solution and using gravity and a squeeze bottle or a neti pot, letting the solution pour through your nose and out your mouth. Gross? Maybe, but the relief it brings is sheer joy. has some great tips for sinus flushing. Saline sinus flush or neti pot treatments.

8.  Olive oil gargle. You have probably noticed that your sinuses are drying out. This can be anywhere from uncomfortable to painful! If you are frequently coughing or clearing your throat due to dryness, an olive oil gargle will help. Hold your head back and drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil into your mouth. This isn't enough to gargle like you would water, but use the same muscle movements in your throat like you are gargling the oil. Use your tongue to press the oil up into the roof of your mouth and into your sinus drainage ports. This effort is soothing to the sinus drainage areas. You can certainly swallow the olive oil after this treatment and enjoy the added moisturizing benefits.

9.  Oil nasal swab. You can also relieve sinus dryness by applying a little sweet almond, jojoba, or other 100% pure, cosmetic quality, unscented oil to the interior tissues of your nose. Pour a little oil into a tiny container (like the sterilized lid of an old aspirin bottle) and soak one end of a cotton swab with the oil. Gently swab the inside of your nose until you feel relief. Do not, however, insert the swap deeply into the nose cavity; you could hurt yourself.

10. Hydrate with more than just water. Drinking lots of water is a no-brainer in this weather, but because our bodies are not accustomed to the harsh conditions, it is helpful to replenish the electrolytes and other minerals and salts that get lost from our bodies during dry weather. Re-hydrating fluids and formulas for children, such as Pedialyte, can do adults a lot of good, too, when it's especially arid. Check the labels for unwanted ingredients if you choose to use an adult re-hydration drink, or you can experiment with make-your-own recipes that can be found all over the Internet. Replenishing products for adults, like Gatorade, can suffice if you dilute them by half with water. 

11. Workout schedule adjustment. Remember that it is usually cooler and more humid in the mornings in California. If you typically work out, run, or exercise in the afternoons when the humidity is at its lowest, consider switching your routine to the mornings until the dry weather passes.

Many of these points are common sense, but they are mentioned in this survival guide because they are important! I hope these tips give you some relief, and if you have a dry weather survival tip of your own, please share it in the comments or tweet it to Lionflower13 and I'll give you full credit for it on this blog!

Hang in there, California!

how to washcloth bathe