They’re Called The Balm For A Reason
Thicker than your average lotions and creams, hardworking multi-purpose balms are your winter skincare staple…
We’re Canadians, proud of our manners, thank you very much; our Rocky Mountains, great lakes and rolling prairies; our beer-pong-worthy loonie and toonie; and our ability to tough it out (in Sorel boots and Canada Goose parkas, of course) through months of winter’s snow and ice. Regulars at outdoor ice rinks, on cross-country trails and down black diamond slopes, you’d think our layers of plaid flannel and wool mittens would keep us immune to dry skin. They don’t.
“In the winter, the biggest skin adversaries are a drop in humidity, the wind and the cold temperature,” affirms Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist and the founder of DLK On Avenue in Toronto.
“Inside, our biggest problem is forced-air heating. All of these factors contribute to transepidermal [through the skin] water loss, and akier or drier skin.”
With all of our frosty bluster and frozen delights, parched, raw, irritated red skin is the Canuck norm and remains our winter downfall. It also explains our obsession with balms.
Thicker than your average lotions and creams, hardworking multi-purpose face and body balms are a winter skincare staple. “They form a protective barrier on top of the skin to decrease tran- sepidermal water loss and to hydrate the skin,” explains Dr. Kellett. Cleopatra is attributed to have used the first incarnation (circa 40 BC), slathering herself from head to toe in a concoction made of beeswax, olive oil and animal fats…and rumours still swirl about Burt’s Bees original formulation for lips (does it truly contain earwax?). The current popular balms are favoured for quick-fixing everything from chapped skin, cracked hands and dry elbows and heels, to healing eczema.
“One of balm’s best qualities is that it’s one-size-fits-all,” says Mark Veeder, co-founder of Farmacy Skin Care in New York City. “It can address a variety of skin concerns and issues on all skin types for all ages, including infants with irritated bottoms or diaper rash.”
Sometimes referred to as salves and almost always waxy in texture, most balms are a mixture of oils, waxes and butters. Once emulsi ed between your palms and rubbed onto your face and body, or even your hair, both your epidermis (the outer surface layer of your skin) and dermis (the inner layer of your skin, which you can’t see or touch) easily absorb the formulations.
Typical ingredients include antioxidants, panthenol and glycerine, which moisturize the skin without leaving an oily residue and work to heal cuts and scars. Arnica, madecassoside and peptides cool, soothe and tighten, providing relief from psoriasis, eczema, bruises, stretch marks and even burns. Humectants and emollients—like honey, vitamin E, petrolatum and salicylic acid—lock moisture into the skin, particularly on calloused areas like palms and feet.
“Honey was commonly used by the Egyptians for its antibacterial benefits to help with wound care not only for its rich occlusive properties, but for the vitamins and amino acids contained,” adds Veeder. And fan favourites—such as shea concentrate, beeswax, aloe vera, coconut oil and cocoa seed butter—nourish, hydrate and protect.
“All balms are geared towards helping compromised skin,” says Veeder. “They are multi-tasking, transformative treatment products that simplify your beauty routine. No wonder the words healing and care are so commonly associated with the idea of a balm.”