Ok people, harmattan is here and in a big way. Just in case you were not already feeling the Christmas blues, our lip-cracking friend is here to usher you in. We all love the holiday feel that comes with the season but our skin says otherwise. Harmattan is known for its cold dry air that could affect the skin negatively causing it to dry out, break and peel off. So where is the haze from?
Harmattan is a northeasterly cold-dry wind that blows from the Sahara Desert into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March bringing with it desert-like conditions. On its passage over the Sahara, it picks up fine dust and sand particles (between 0.5 and 10 microns) and that is what causes the haze. The haze is actually fine sand suspended in the air lowering visibility and causing airlines millions of naira in cancelled and diverted flights each year. The Harmattan is characterized by wide ﬂuctuations in the ambient temperatures of the day and night. Temperatures can easily be as low as 9 °C (48 °F), but sometimes in the afternoon the temperature can soar to as high as 30 °C (86°F), while the relative humidity drops under 10%.
There are so many challenges one could face during this period like cracking of lips, sole of the feet, cold, dry skin, catarrh, cough and a lot more but among all, cold is the major problem. We do have to take very good care of ourselves this season. To effectively curtail the evil effects of the harmattan season, everyone must be ready to play by the rules and improve on their hygiene during this period.
So here is all you have to know to make it through the harmattan (Naija winter) and into the new-year without a scratch.
Don’t shower with hot water; yes it may sound crazy but for the next couple of months, warm water is your best ally. When you use hot water in the shower, it can strip away oils in your skin and leave it dehydrated. By switching to warm water instead, a reduced level of oil is removed from the skin. Stick to mild moisturizing soap or body washes and avoid using antiseptic soap.
Do not completely dry your skin after shower, use body oil to retain moisture on the skin after bath and
I also suggest using an oil-based product like Shea butter (Ori) or olive oil and rub it on your skin including under your feet while damp. If you are too ‘tushed’ for Ori, buy Vaseline. This way, as your skin dries up, it locks and seals the oil in your skin which helps prevent breakage etc.
Invest in a good hand cream and apply during the day and night before going to bed. Avoid facial cleansers and toners that contain alcohol or astringents and use only mild facial cleansers and toners. Always moisturize your face after cleansing.
Oh yes, the lips. Piling on a large amount of gel balms will not give you the much needed moisture, and will only offer temporary relief. A cream-based balm will do your lip a lot more good. So ditch the greasy lip gloss and go for petroleum jelly lip balms. Always moisturize your lips before going to bed and resist the temptation to lick them. Also apply a little balm in the nostrils to prevent them from drying up.
Remember to keep your hair moisturized and also do hairstyles that keep your hair ends hidden. This may a good time to fix that hair extension. You can also wrap up your hair to protect it from the dust. Thank goodness that hats are in vogue now, so get yourself one.
Rinse your eyes with clean water and reduce the exposure to the dust by wearing protective spectacles.
Dress warmly, wear clothes with lots of Layers. Layers work better than one really thick item because air is trapped between the layers, keeping you warm. Consider emergencies, use hats, scarves, gloves and appropriate footwear. It is advised that you wear cover shoes, they protect your feet from dust and the dry air.
Health and Hygiene
Drink lots of water! Avoid carbonated soft drinks and caffeinated drinks. They dehydrate your skin quite bad. You can switch to decaffeinated drinks. Do take a lot of fruits and vitamin C to boost your immunity.
Harmattan basically aggravates cold as well as causes catarrh. Also, the throat gets sore; sneezing is frequent while sometimes the eyes become wet or ruddy. The harmattan also comes with frequent headaches, sputum in the saliva because of catarrh and over time, cough. Asthma patients or those with chronic respiratory conditions or allergies should pay special attention to their health and take all possible and practicable measures to reduce exposure to the dusty atmosphere and they should carry their inhalers/drugs with them at all times. Sicklers should be vigilant and keep warm as much as possible to prevent any crisis.
Due to the dusty atmosphere, fruits and vegetables should be properly washed before eating as well as keep our drinking water cover. Always have a handkerchief or pocket tissues.
We can also keep our homes warm but be careful as this is also the season when we have the most fire accidents because of the dry wind, which makes it easy for fire to spread at the slightest ignition, causing destruction of lives and property. Hence, there is need to take more preventive measures during harmattan.
So that’s your harmattan survival guide. Any ideas? Please share with us!