Well, folks, it’s safe to say that winter is here! Most of us have been sighing over the weather forecast, pulling out our thickest sweaters and watching with dismay as the first flurries float down from the skies. The changing weather brings changes to the skin and just as you are switching from floaty tops and motorcycle jackets to cable-knit sweaters and puffer coats, so should you winterize your skincare. Cold winter air and dry indoor heat can be murder even on the hardiest of skin types. Thankfully, we can always call upon a face balm to act as both a cozy cashmere sweater to cosset the skin and as a warm winter coat to shield it from the elements. Balms are particular green beauty favorites because they are waterless: the absence of water means a longer shelf life without a need for preservatives. Packed full of nourishing butters and oils, balms deliver a skin-softening punch and, perhaps most importantly in moisture-sapping conditions, act as an occlusive to prevent moisture loss from the skin without clogging pores. Here are four of my favorite balms that I will be using throughout the colder months to keep my skin happy, soft and moisturized.
Laurel Skin’s Transform Daily and Restore Nightly Facial Balms make for the perfect skin-protecting and perfecting duo. Both balms contain nourishing and healing herbs like calendula, chamomile and comfrey in the base of shea butter and nourishing, bioactive oils. Whereas Transform Daily contains sun-protecting, antioxidant red raspberry and cranberry seed oils, the Restore Nightly Balm has anti-aging tamanu and pomegranate oils. Both balms have a creamy, soft texture and a gorgeous, woody-herbal smell. These balms are the softest of the bunch: whereas other balms take a little warming by the fingers to soften, the texture of the Laurel balms are the closest to a cream and they can be swept onto the skin with just a light swipe. I should note that both balms contain beeswax. This helps increase their occlusive properties, but it does mean they are not strictly vegan-friendly.
Because of their high concentration of actives, balms tend to be fairly pricey, but the Laurel balms are the most reasonably priced of the bunch. It is also not strictly necessary to get both the day and the night balm: although I adore and use them both, they contain similar enough ingredients and do not have any that might make them inappropriate for nighttime (SPF) or daytime (photosensitizing oils, retinol) use, respectively. If need be, you could pick the one whose ingredients appeal to you the most and use it to nourish, protect and heal your skin – day and night.
It’s not secret that I am a huge fan of May Lindstrom’s Blue Cocoon Balm. It’s loaded with exotic oils, butters and EOs, including my beloved blue tansy oil. The Blue Cocoon is the balm that I use on the days when my skin misbehaves. I find that the anti-inflammatory power of its ingredients dispatches occasional pimples overnight or, at the very least, helps take down the redness and shrink them down to half their size. This is the balm for anyone dealing with skin that is both dry and breakout-prone. That said, make no mistake: this is a very rich balm. Although I have a chronically heavy hand when it comes to applying product, I find that Blue (we’re on a first name basis) takes quite a while to absorb and leaves a serious amount of shine even with the lightest application. This is actually good news if you need to face the cold, since that same shiny layer will protect your skin from the elements, but this is not the balm for those days when you are after a matte finish or when you want to apply makeup (though I think it might work rather well as a base for powdered mineral makeup – I just don’t use it, so can’t do a test run).
La Bella Figura’s Rainforest Hydration Treatment is the balm I would use should I ever decide to take a ski trip to Aspen or Courchevel (I don’t actually ski, but I sure do love a mulled wine in front of the fire): this is skincare for when you’re feelin’ fancy. Like the Blue Cocoon, Rainforest is filled with exotic butters and oils (albeit different ones from Blue), but here the similarities end. For starters, there’s the texture: Rainforest is the hardest of the four balms and it really needs to be warmed by the fingers prior to application, which also means that even someone as heavy-handed as myself is not at risk of applying too much. Once on the skin, it leaves a matte, velvety finish, making it the perfect daytime balm. I think this satiny-dry texture might be due to the olive-derived waxes that are present fairly high on the ingredient list. Those same waxes would also work admirably to protect your skin from the harsh mountain air, should you find yourself on the slopes.
The other thing that adds to Rainforest’s feeling of “fanciness” is its smell: a strong, elegant, jasmine-forward scent that could almost double as a perfume. Now here’s the thing: I love the smell, which is unusual considering that jasmine scents don’t often work for me. It’s sexy and feminine and indulgent. It’s also strong. So much so that I am sometimes wary of using this balm if I have even a hint of a headache, since it can almost feel like an olfactory assault when my sensitivity is heightened. If you love floral smells in general and especially if you are a fan of jasmine, you will love the Rainforest Hydration Treatment (and paired with May Lindstrom’s new The Jasmine Garden facial mist it could well bring you to ecstasy), but if you tend to be sensitive to smells, I would suggest trying a sample to make sure you can handle it.
You really couldn’t go wrong with any of the products highlighted in this post. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite and they all offer unique and fabulous benefits to the skin (though for the purposes of this statement I am conflating the two Laurel balms into one). Whichever one you decide to pick, each of these skincare superheroes will save your skin even as the temperatures continue to plummet. Happy shopping; I’m off to research ticket prices to Florida.
Disclosure: I was sent a full size of Laurel Skin’s Restore Nightly Balm for my review. I will most certainly repurchase it, though probably not for a while because all of these balms last for-e-ver. I had bought, loved and will continue to repurchase every other product in this post, including Laurel’s Transform Daily Balm.