Guide to Surviving Winter
While I’ve lived outside the Sunshine State for eight years now, it took me several winters to get the hang of enduring cold, darkness, and snow.
While I’m sure there are plenty of guides out there pertaining to winter gear and skincare, I would argue that a Mainer, Minnesotan, or Canadian simply can’t offer the best advice. They’re too *used* to cold weather to know what that first shock of cold feels like on skin that is used to being sun-kissed and bare.
My friend, Amanda, just moved to Ithaca, NY from North Carolina. She’s a former Floridian, too, and she’s been asking me for tips on keeping skin healthy, enduring cold commutes, and generally staying alive in real winter. So I’ve compiled my top tips and suggestions in this post.
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The Quick List
- Maintain your warmth.
- Use lotion year-round, and wear gloves when you’re outside.
- Use a humidifier, and salve the inside of your nose before bed.
- Sinus issues? Use a nasal wash.
- Buy a real down coat (recycled or secondhand).
- Buy boots a half-size up and prioritize traction.
- Take a daily walk, or at least pop your head outside.
- Adjust your workload and standards in the winter.
Maintain your warmth
Don’t wait until you’re cold to put on another layer. Keep your core and your extremities as warm as possible, whether you’re indoors or out. I accomplish this by wearing a cozy jacket indoors and never going without winter-weight socks. If you’re constantly cold, you risk losing your warmth very quickly when you go outside, or bringing on conditions like Raynaud’s Syndrome (I got it after my first winter in Virginia). When outdoors, I wear funny-looking earbags (linked below) for added ear warmth.
Use lotion year-round, and wear gloves when you’re outside
Cold, dry weather will make your skin red, irritated, and damaged within minutes. To avoid this, I fastidiously apply lotion to my hands and feet year-round. I also make sure I’m wearing either full or partial gloves whenever I go outside. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes.
Use a humidifier, and salve the inside of your nose before bed
Speaking of dry weather, heating your home will suck the moisture right out of it, exacerbating skin issues and making your throat and nasal passages dry. To help with this, use a humidifier (I prefer a cold-air one over a warming one). One thing I’ve been doing since I moved to Connecticut is using a gentle cream or salve to coat the tip and inside of my nose for added protection while sleeping.
Sinus Issues? Use a nasal wash
I started using a saline nasal wash at my Ear, Nose, & Throat doctor’s recommendation. Prescribed for allergy issues, including clogged eustachian tubes, the nasal wash also helps keep your sinuses clean and hydrated. For me, this has resulted in fewer sinus infections and more sinus comfort in my face.
Buy a real down coat (recycled or secondhand)
Floridians are not used to their clothing weighing them down. For that reason, I recommend buying a real down coat rather than Primaloft, wool, or a down-alternative. While I understand that this is controversial, it is relatively easy to find a secondhand, vintage, or recycled down version. Down is incredibly warm and really lightweight, like being swaddled in a pillow. Tip: Buy a full length parka for the best protection.
Buy boots a half-size up and prioritize traction
In Florida, boots are a fashion item. I always wore mine with thin socks, and never realized that maintaining warmth in your boot requires an appropriate amount of airflow in the toe box. Make sure your winter boots allow you toe wiggle room and fit a thicker sock. You’ll also want to invest in a textured or lug sole that will grip the ground in snowy and icy conditions. The thicker the sole, the warmer you’ll feel.
Take a daily walk, or at least pop your head outside
I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I have not found sun lamps very effective. While sunshiney days can be few and far between during wintertime, one of the best things to do is get outside. If the weather is mild enough, go for a walk. If it’s not, run an errand, do a chore, or just stick your head outside for a couple minutes. Bonus: if you have sinus issues, the cold will numb the pain in your face.
Adjust your workload and standards in the winter
Speaking of SAD, one of the best tips I can give is to lower your expectations. The days are dark, cold, and dreary. Your brain chemistry may change. It may be dangerous to do much of anything outdoors. If at all possible, reduce your workload and/or try to get high-energy tasks done earlier in the day. If need be, take a tea break in the mid-afternoon.
What would you put in your guide for surviving winter?
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.
Tuesday 8th of December 2020
One addition to the boots portion is to buy boots with insulated soles or to get wool inserts for them. It makes SUCH a difference in how much cold comes up through the ground.
Tuesday 8th of December 2020
Do you end up buying your boots in an even larger size to accommodate insoles? I tried some wool ones a couple years ago, but they made my toes feel cramped even in boots that initially had a lot of room in them.