For the first 22 years of my life, I was used to 90ºF being “nice weather”. The summers were scorching hot, but the winters in Texas were rarely below 30ºF. In a single day you could wake up with it being 40ºF and rainy, but by lunch time it was 80ºF and sunny. It was hard to plan around the weather, but if you generally carried an umbrella and brought a sweater you were ok.
Now I live in Wyoming where winter is a real thing here. It snows a lot (176 inches at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort so far this season) and has been as low as -25ºF. Through trial and error I have learned a few pointers to manage my body during the frigid cold winter months:
- Lotion like crazy
Whether you are used to freezing weather or not, cold is cold is cold. And humans are not meant for cold. We are warm blooded people! Because of this, the harsh frigid cold and wind conditions cause our skin to become dehydrated and can even crack, causing bleeding (especially on the hands). It is very important to lotion to keep your skin soft and loved. Plus, lotion will help keep your skin looking younger longer by allowing your skin to remain elastic. When I lived in a humid environment, I did not find lotion as vital since there was always moisture in the air. My morning (post-shower) and evening routines include putting lotion on my whole body, especially my face and hands.
2) May lip balm become your best friend
This was a harder habit to pick up than I imagined. With being at a higher altitude and the dehydrating winter conditions, my lips were constantly cracking and even bleeding occasionally (gross). At work, I don’t always have pockets in my work attire. No pockets mean I wouldn’t have lip balm at easy access, meaning I would forget to put it on and it was not helping the case of the chapped lips. Even when I did put lip balm on, I would have to put in on hourly and I would develop a weird white film lining on the inside of my lips (even more gross). I tried multiple lip balm brands (Burt’s Bees, Chapstick, Dermatone – which was the best of all three), but none of them fully restored my lips. I thought there was no answer to this dilemma until I came across a Birchbox subscription for Christmas (thanks Nicole!) which included Dr. Lipp Miracle Balm, which perfectly hydrates any chapped skin (not just lips). I put it on my lips before I go to bed and when I wake up my lips have completely absorbed the product, allowing them to be naturally plump. This product has a nice sheen similar to lip gloss, but has a thick consistency. Here’s the odd part: it is 100% natural (yay!) because it is made from lanolin, which is a substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals. So, you are rubbing sheep wool grease all over your lips. The concept kind of gives the heeby-jeebies, but the results make it worth it.
3) Learning to adjust to your hair
All my life I thought my hair was wavier than it was. It wasn’t until I removed humidity that I discovered that my hair is actually pretty straight. All the styling I had grown up with didn’t pertain anymore. For the first time, I taught myself how to curl my hair with a curling iron (which is actually easier to mess up than I thought it would be). I also learned how to use mousse and heat protectant to blow-dry my hair with extra volume. These methods help make straight hair look not as thin as two pieces of paper on each side of your face.
4) Finding the right winter shoes
Water-proof shoes with traction. That’s it. In Texas, my go-t0 shoes year-round were Toms or tennis shoes, which for sure do not work with winter conditions. For Wyoming winters, I recommend (note: pictures below are of shoes that I actually own):
- A pair of boots for heavy-duty winter conditions, such as when it decides to snow 3 feet in 3 days. Although you will not use these most often, you will be really glad when you have them. Make sure they are tall so snow doesn’t fall inside them (think up to mid-shin height).
- A pair of everyday snow boots. The heavy duty shoes able to be used daily, but sometimes you don’t want to look like you’re about to climb Mount Everest when all you are trying to do is go grocery shopping or hang out at a bar with friends. Everyday snow boots combat the snow and ice, but fit comfortably and work well in relaxed environments (think up to ankle height).
- A pair of fashion boots. These are never the most practical or even needed, but they allow you to express yourself and stay warm at the same time. It is always convenient when the conditions allow me to wear my fashion boots so that I don’t have to change shoes at work and I can just keep these bad boys on all day.
Each day you step out of the door you have to consider:
- How much did it snow last night/is it expected to snow? This will determine if you can wear tall or shorter snow boots.
- When was the last time it snowed? The longer it goes without snowing, the more slippery the roads/sidewalks become due to traffic levels compacting the snow into ice. If it is icy, wear the shoes with best traction no matter what. If it has been consistently lightly snowing, I may wear fashion boots, which are more stylish but don’t necessarily have good traction. Side safety note: Don’t walk underneath icicles! They kill an average of 15 people a year in the US.
- What kind of pants are you wearing that day? If you are wearing skinny jeans, feel free to wear thick socks and big boots outside of the pants. If your pants are looser at the bottoms, don’t wear chunky shoes as they will look odd underneath your pants.
- Just like New Yorkers wear tennis shoes but bring their work shoes, use a similar tactic. I have multiple pairs of flats I just keep at work and change into once I get there, but actually walk outside in my winter boots.
5) When to say “f*** it” to fashion versus functionality
If it’s below 20ºF. I love wearing dresses to work, so if it is above 20ºF I will wear opaque, thick tights underneath my dresses. They are thick enough to cover my legs fully and as long as everything else is covered (beanie, scarf, gloves, thick socks and boots), I am warm. However, below 20ºF is just too cold. Put on a pair of leggings under your pants. Since I walk to the bus stop to and from work, I wear a gator neck so that I can cover my face if I need to from it being too cold for my face to function. However, if I wear my gator neck I can’t wear my glasses because it causes my breath to rise from the top of the gator neck and fog my glasses.
I hope these tips help save you from cracked skin & freezing limbs.