Friday, January 13, 2017

Coping With Winter (If You’re From the Tropics)

San Jacinto
In California, you can surf and snowboard on the same day. Even if Southern California is the sunniest side of the state, there are snow peaks such as those at the San Jacinto State Park in Palm Springs. 

She Writes…

Winter was about to start when I arrived here two years ago.  It was Decem-brrr but I’d bet that to many residents, it was a welcome chill.

I wanted to come prepared and grilled Ray about what clothes I needed to survive the four seasons of California. He thought that I didn’t need thick coats and parkas because he said that compared to states in the East Coast, the California weather was rather mild.   

I would later find out for myself that Southern California may be a sunnier state but it was only close to tropical hot weather during the summer months. When I arrived, I only brought several lightweight jackets, which would have been sufficient to survive Tagaytay.  A few days later and I had enough data to conclude that what I had- from clothes, shoes, to toiletries were no longer weather-appropriate.

Moving to another continent was not just a significant cultural adjustment but entailed physical and physiological adjustment as well.  Because of this, it was necessary to add some items to my wardrobe, as well as to my footwear, and alter my skincare regimen.  

Weather in a country like the Philippines, which is close to the equator is humid all year round and is either sunny or rainy. Meanwhile, a state like California is almost always dry regardless of the season (except for some rain early in the year) so that during winter, the dry air and nippy weather creates a lot of (shocking) static.  Needless to say, what I packed when I relocated here didn’t have anything that was suitable for when the temperature dropped to 15 degree Celsius and below.

So if you just arrived here, or are trying to survive the winter, here are some tips and suggestions that would hopefully help you bear the cold climate.


While some jackets are designed to keep you warmer than most, layering will keep you even cozier at an extremely low temperature.

If you’re accustomed to the tropical climate, wearing a sweatshirt or jacket won’t be enough to keep you snug, so you add an extra layer of clothing by wearing thermal underwear. A layer or two of thermals would make your pants and shirts tighter but will protect you, especially in the mornings and afternoons of glacial winter cold.

Part of layering may also include ditching necklaces for shawls and scarves; earrings for beanies and earflap hats; and rings and bracelets for gloves.  Aside from the added warmth, a practical reason for this exchange is that you can’t really see jewelry through the layers of thick clothing.

Affordable thermals and winter accessories are available everywhere and from stores like Target, Kohl’s, Uniqlo and even Costco. Outlet store merchandise are also usually more affordable.
department stores
If you're on a budget, Target and Kohl's offer affordable winter merchandize.
Winter Footwear

Everyday shoes won’t be enough to keep your feet from turning blue.  Fleece lined socks and shoes and other footwear with faux fur details and insulators are just some of the many choices. Another way to keep your toes warm is layering up on socks or choosing socks made of thicker and warmer material like merino wool.

Remember, rain boots and waterproof shoes are to the tropics while winter and snow footwear are to countries with four seasons.

Some of the famous brands proven to keep feet toasty and are available in most stores are Ugg, North Face, Muk Luks, Columbia and Bearpaw.  You can also purchase these from online shops that offer good deals such as and When you subscribe to email ads from a shoe brand of your preference, you will also be able to receive sale alerts and discount coupons.

Skin care

Back home, I’ve always had a normal skin type and seldom had any breakouts (I still have normal skin during the California summer). However, as it gets colder, the weather here not only gives me bumps in the chin and forehead but an allergic reaction to the skincare products that would usually work well in the summer.

The pursuit of finding the right skin care was a lot of hits and misses because of the overabundance of beauty products available. Even though there are ratings and reviews to guide you, you can never really be sure that a product would work for you until you try it.

Because my skin becomes so arid during the winter, what I’ve found works for me is also layering lotion over oil. I also start with facial oil before finishing up with a cream moisturizer.  Skincare products such as gel oil and petroleum jelly also have a warming effect.

Visiting a beauty store like Sephora would allow you to test the feel of skincare products on your skin.

When you're confident that reading product descriptions and reviews is enough to come to a skincare decision, you may also want to visit Ulta, CVS, Walmart and Walgreens. Although Walmart usually offers the cheapest products, CVS coupons can make your purchase cheaper. 

If you are conscious about the environmental and health effects of personal care products, the Healthy Living smartphone app from EWG is a great way to research health hazards of many products on the market while you shop. It uses a simple numerical system from 1-7 for categories such as allergy, cancer, and developmental concerns. The app is a wonderful way to gain instant peace of mind when selecting your products.

I also purchase skincare products from the online store because prices are cheaper and it ships faster (in California at least) compared to Amazon and Jet.

Hair, Lip, Nose, and Eye Care

When I developed dry skin, I also had dryness of hair and scalp that resulted in flakes.  (Experiencing this reminded me of Pasadena-based Amy Farrah Fowler’s dandruff woes.)

Ironically, Head & Shoulders, which dries my hair in the tropics, suits me so well here (I’m guessing that the formula here is different plus the weather here makes it ideal).  I also apply coconut oil as often as needed.

Since the air is dry, even lips crack and chap and other tropical lip products could only worsen it.  What works for my lips during winter are Blistex, Carmex, and petroleum jelly.  Some lipsticks, even those made for distribution in the US, can cause severe lip dryness and chafing.

Dryness extends to the nose and eyes. For dry nose, I find that Vicks VapoRub, a childhood remedy for some common ailments, does the trick.

The dry air also made my contact lenses feel like icicles in the eye that I consulted with an optometrist to recommend something that would be non-drying, soft, and comfortable.

California weather can swing from 10 to 15 degrees warmer or colder in a day. But during winter, it gets cold, windy and yes, it is when the most anticipated rains fall.

Cultural adjustment can take longer to set in but coping with the weather is something that’s more urgent and immediate. #

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