A nice thing to do in December

(Warning: if you are allergic to nuts, this is probably not a nice thing to do in December. But if you’re not, read on.)

For many years, it was my habit to look in the mirror in late autumn or early winter and feel vaguely horrified at my sudden ageing. Crows’ feet, wrinkles around my mouth, a general look of dullness and tiredness. I would take it as yet another reminder of my slow march towards the tomb and add my feelings about this to the general assortment of Seasonal Sadness Feelings.

A few years ago, though, something happened to clue me in: I touched my nose and realised the skin was literally flaking off. And that’s when I realised: I’m not suddenly ageing, I’m just a dry-skinned person suffering from a thing called winter. My problem is fixable!

So here’s a nice thing to do in December, if you’ve recently been shocked by how much older and tireder you suddenly look. Go to your nearest health food shop and buy a bottle of sweet almond oil. It will probably be in the aromatherapy section as a “carrier” oil for mixing with aromatherapy oils to dilute their strength. It might not really look like a skincare product. But trust me, the almond oil sold as a mixer for aromatherapy stuff is the same almond oil they put in the expensive products for dry skin. Just check the only listed ingredient is “almond oil” or “sweet almond oil” or “prunus dulcis” and you’re sorted.

And then you just rub a layer all over your face. Try it next time you get an evening at home, and pick a day when you’re going to wash your hair the next morning anyway, because it can get into the roots of your hair and make it greasy.

The speed with which it sinks in will tell you how much your skin needs it. I find it takes about an hour to sink into my face without trace. I do it at bedtime, and then if I wake up in the night I can tell from the oiliness or otherwise of my face whether I’ve been asleep for more or less than an hour, which is the closest I’m ever going to get to being Jack Reacher.

If your commute involves walking or cycling, if you can’t or don’t want to grow facial hair, if you’ve never got the hang of moisturising, the chances are that winter will give your skin a bashing without your really noticing. Give the almond oil thing a try. (If you can’t be bothered to buy almond oil specially for this, try olive oil or coconut oil or Bio-Oil, but almond oil is the best.)

I try to remember to do it as soon as autumn stops being all red-leaves-glowing-in-gentle-sunshine and starts being all bastard-blustery. I don’t wait until bits of my face start flaking off. If your skin doesn’t need it, the worst that can happen (assuming you’re not allergic to nuts) is that the oil doesn’t sink in for hours and you need to wash it off. The best that can happen is that your skin gets softer, you look suddenly younger and winter feels a bit less depressing because you’re doing a nice self-care thing regularly. It’s basically the skincare equivalent of realising your mysterious ennui disappears as soon as you eat a biscuit.

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