I got a recent Ask Afrobella question that cracked me up and reminded me of an old college friend. You’d like to hear it? Here it goes.

Hey Bella-ella-ella,

When I was growing up on the island, my knees and legs would sometimes get ashy. But now that I live in cold-ass Canada, ashy has a whole new meaning! Any advice for a dark skin bella with extra dry skin in the cold winter months?

Luv ya, BajanBeauty

So BajanBeauty, your question took me back to a memory from my sophomore year. In college, I had a friend from Germany. His name was Ben. Imaginatively, everyone called him German Ben. He’s as blonde and blue eyed as you could possibly imagine, and being from the area of Germany he was from, I imagine he had somewhat limited exposure to people of color. I imagine this because he every so often he would ask me the craziest questions ever, but in the sweetest, most genuinely curious way.

So one time he came to my dorm room to play me some new Kruder and Dorfmeister song or something (he was super into them), and out of the blue German Ben asks me, “what does ashy mean?” I gotta tell you, I cracked up. I think the context for the question was that he had just discovered Biggie and wanted to know what “from ashy to classy” meant. So he turned to me as his own personal urban dictionary, bless him. We were close enough friends that could talk about almost anything, so I gladly answered his question. At least he didn’t have to ask on Yahoo Answers.

To break it down quite simply — when black skin gets really dry, it can take on a grey or “ashy” appearance. The darker your overall skin tone, the more apparent the dryness can become. Certain areas of your body are more likely to look ashy than others — knees, legs, arms, and elbows are always common ashy areas. For example, I always get really ashy right at the back of my ankle, regardless of the time of year. It just stays arid back there.

Ben’s question was funny to me at the time, but as the weather gets colder for bellas up north can tell you — ashy skin is no joke. Lots of people of color deal with dry skin issues in colder climates. So come along, BajanBeauty, I’ll show you the way to avoid looking like Ashy Larry.

The only way to combat ashiness is through lots of moisture, both internally and externally. I am not a water lover by any means – it’s a struggle to get my daily requirement sometimes. But I know and understand that Diet Coke, iced tea, or Crystal Light don’t measure up to the pure healthy, internally moisturizing, thirst quenching power of 100% H2O. So definitely drink your eight glasses a day, or however you choose to measure your current daily recommended amount of agua. That’ll take care of your insides.

Now for external moisture, which is crucial. You can stop ash before it starts by using a moisturizing body wash with one of those loofah things for added exfoliation. Then you should slather on a long-lasting lotion as soon as your shower’s over, when your skin is still moist. Let the lotion sink in. Then take a to-go lotion with you so you can soothe your skin anytime you need it. Allow me to share some of the great moisturizing products I’ve tried recently.

In terms of body washes, I absolutely adore the Caress Exotic Oil Infusions. A total steal for less than $7, and I agree with eccentric diva JCD — the Moroccan scent is lovely and amazing. And the bottle is tres cute for the bathtub, no? This is a super creamy wash with a delightful floral scent.

I’ve been trying lots of these of late, and I am also fond of Dove’s Body Wash Cream Oil in Jasmine Vanilla. I am admittedly partial to this scent combination, but unlike Bath and Body Works jasmine vanilla combo, Dove’s scent is milder and somehow more soapy and unisex. Dove’s scent is just like a sweet body wash/lotion, whereas the Bath and Body Works jasmine vanilla is sexy and decidedly feminine. In case you can’t tell, I LOVE Bath and Body Works jasmine vanilla, but they’ve apparently stopped making the body wash. The lotion is still available, though. I’ll stop rambling about my favorite scents… now.

As a Dove-related side note, their Nourishing Hand Wash is the most moisturizing soap I’ve ever used. It’s practically lotion, I swear — but leaves my hands soft and most importantly, clean. It’s perfect for the kitchen sink area to leave your hands happy after dishes.

Mama Bella is especially partial to Olay Body Wash Plus with Body Butter Ribbons and yes, it’s good stuff. The Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Wash is also supposed to be great. Shiksai moisturizing shower gel is especially formulated for dry skin, and is a great choice for vegan bellas who really care about natural ingredients. It’s a combination of oatmeal and aloe and it’s on sale right now, score!

I recently was fortunate enough to try some of the super skin saturating products by Skin Milk, and I like them a lot. The shower gel foams up wonderfully into cleansing vanilla-scented goodness, and leaves my skin feeling so soft. The body cream is off the chain — this stuff completely absorbs into my skin and just leaves a feeling of soft satisfaction, without grease or an oily residue. It’s thick stuff, so a little goes a long way. And this is a little off-topic, but if you’re seeking an incredible shave, the shaving milk will change your life. It’s so much more than a foamy shave gel. I haven’t nicked myself at all since I’ve been using it, and the husband loves it as well.
Let’s talk body lotion. In my opinion, the lotions that are best to combat ashiness are thick but not greasy, and absorb easily into your skin. There’s no point in replacing your ashy patches with cream that won’t rub all the way in.

Most of my favorite moisturizers include cocoa butter – the scent is so soothing and nurturing. I know many a bella who won’t use anything but Palmer’s, and now Vaseline is getting knee deep in the cocoa butter action with their Natural Glow collection. This goes with their whole “keeping skin amazing” campaign. I tried the vitalizing gel body oil, and WOW, it’s so not what I expected. It’s a thick gel that slicks on super shiny, and lasts for hours. I think the body oil would be perfect for ladies who like their legs to look shiny and sleek, but for every day use it’s a bit much IMO. I slathered it on after my shower recently, and when I looked at myself after, it was like I had been dipped in butter. Shiny, shiny! It took a long time to absorb, but definitely kept me moisturized.

My co-worker Raina has gorgeous dark skin with a tendency towards ashy areas, so I gave her the smoothing body butter with cocoa and shea butter, which comes in a tub and smells like buttery heaven. “I liked it. It kept me moisturized but didn’t melt off in the Miami humidity, and it lasted pretty long throughout the day too. Emphasis on pretty long, if you scratched me at the end of the day it would look like you had swiped me with a piece of chalk,” says she. So if you’re looking for a long-lasting, thick cocoa buttery product to keep on your desk at work, for example – check it out. It’s great for those problem areas – the back of my ankle, for example… as well as your knees, elbows, and feet.

For you bellas who prefer your products without any petrolatum thankyouverymuch, I’d like to introduce you to an exciting new line that I love, love, love. Behold – the magnificence of Soaptopia!

In their own terms, their body care products are environmentally friendly, and “100% JUNK-FREE.” Their products are all natural, handmade, many of them are vegan (some do contain wildcrafted honey and beeswax), petroleum free and cruelty free. And besides being great for the environment, they’re just GREAT period. Their soaps are very emollient and smell HEAVENLY. I also adore the 50/50 body balms — deep therapy creme swirled with moisturizing essential oils for extra glide. These are great for couple massages or just for you to treat yourself. I tried the rose and it’s a thing of beauty. A big tub costs $20, but you’re definitely paying for a high quality product made with love. Soaptopia’s coming out with some fabulous Christmas products I’ll tell you about soon, and keep your eyes peeled for a giveaway from this cool California-based company. Hope that helps ya, BajanBeauty!
What do you turn to when ashiness attacks, cold weather bellas? I know you’ve got an amazing go-to product you always use. Share!

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nicola says:
November 12, 2007, 12:33 pm
Forget all of that expensive stuff Queen Helene cocoa butter creme is great, it cheaper at the beauty supply store than the drug store, I also like the Bath & Body Works Shea butter creme (I forgot the proper name) but its like $20 though.
Trinichica says:
November 12, 2007, 12:44 pm
Hey Bella, this time of year is especially rough on my skin...it gets extremely dry and moisture is key; it is soooo not sexy to be ashy when you're trying to get cozy with your man!.....my go to product is Soy Body Butter from The Body Shop...my only issue is that it is discontinued in the US and I have to order it from the UK or wait until Christmas when they send a few over here. The scent so soft and fresh and it leaves me silky for the whole day.
Mireille says:
November 12, 2007, 12:49 pm
Two words: sugar scrub! It seems everyone has some sort of sugar exfoliant, I use to get mine at Trader Joe's. Basically it's course grain sugar (brown or white) in essential oils with some fragrance that you use before or in the shower to buff away the roughness. Don't use it on your face, it's way too grainy for that! You can get GREAT deals on sugar scrubs at places like Marshall's or TJ Maxx but I'm a do-it-yourselfer, so I make my own. All you need is a cup of brown sugar, some olive oil and a jar with a lid. Put the brown sugar in the jar and mix in the olive oil in until the sugar is supersaturated. Then scrub away! For fragrance you can the herbs from tea bags or vanilla extract. You've probably got all of this stuff in your kitchen, so it won't cost you anything extra! Also, I find that baking soda is a GREAT facial exfoliant, I actually haven't found anything better. Just mix the baking soda with boiled water until you make a past and then scrub! Here's the getting rid of the ashiness on the cheap, bellas!
Misalexis says:
November 12, 2007, 12:52 pm
Lush Dream Cream,and Charity Pot keep the ashy away for me!!! The soap jellies in the shower, and the massage bars with the glitter in them to alternate.
Coffy says:
November 12, 2007, 12:53 pm
My winter time favorites are L'Occitane Shea Butter, it can be difficult to spread but the results are worth the effort. Also Nubian Heritage Olive and Green Tea Body Butter, the hydration last all day and the scent makes it good enough to eat.
Soul Living says:
November 12, 2007, 12:54 pm
Hey Bella! I use this homemade brown sugar scrub recipe and it works GREAT!!!! Heres the link to the recipe: http://ymib.com/daily-inspiration/fashion-beauty/bites/d-i-y-beauty-brown-sugar-scrub.html
Tracey says:
November 12, 2007, 12:55 pm
Every September my skin begins its slippery slope into Ashdom. LOL!! My skin is super dry. That's why I love summer so much. Drinking water helps but not enough. This year I think I've found the formula. I've been using the Nubian Heritage lotion and it works like a charm. They make a whole bunch of different kinds and the kind I use is the Honey & Black Seed Lotion. I love it and it keeps my skin moisturized, therefore, no ash. I also use the Nubian Heritage soaps which don't dry out my skin.
Courtie says:
November 12, 2007, 12:55 pm
I co-sign with Mirielle. Sugar scrub is the business. Like she said, you can make your own, and I do sometimes, but I got as a gift Bath N Body Works Scrub in Sandalwood Rose. It's exotic smelling and it really works. Although, you have to be careful, because of the oil in them, they can make your bathtub EXTREMELY slippery. Also, I use Jergens 24 hour moisturizing lotion. I slather it all over and it really lasts.
MBA Mama says:
November 12, 2007, 12:56 pm
I find that if you exfoliate first before applying lotion, body oil, body butter, sugar scrub, shea butter, cocca butter, Vaseline petroleum jelly (like my old school heads like) or whateva, the ashiness decreases significantly.
Demetria says:
November 12, 2007, 1:05 pm
Good ol' fashioned raw shea butter always does it for me.
Irie Diva says:
November 12, 2007, 1:06 pm
this is too funny Aurie ( http://experienceaurie.wordpress.com/ )just posted on his ashyness problem then here u go! i'ma point him to this post to help him out lol
jacquie says:
November 12, 2007, 1:37 pm
I'm jumping on the sugar/salt scrub band wagon because it's the business!!! Like Mireille, I make my own scrubs (lotions & butters also). I stop purchasing the commercial products claiming to do this & that. it becomes costly and clutter in my bathrooms. For the winter I add a little more shea or cocoa butter to the recipe or i will use plain ole shea butter. I don't mind my legs & arms looking greasy because they are always covered during the cold months.
Sweet Annie J says:
November 12, 2007, 1:41 pm
Burt's Bees Citrus Spice Exfoliating Shower Soap is the best and most mess-free way to exfoliate, and it smells good. Well worth the $5/6. To banish ash in cold weather, Palmer's Cocoa Butter (in the jar) is a definate. For stubborn arid spots, rub a little vaseline on it; it'll be gone in a flash. A little goes a long way for these products, and best used while still damp. In non-arid weather, spend the money and buy yourself a bottle of Carol's Daughter Body Oil. They're all natural and the scents are devine.
afrobella says:
November 12, 2007, 1:44 pm
LMAO at the immediate response to this post! It's such an epidemic, wintertime ashiness. Being from the Caribbean, I can really identify with BajanBeauty -- You grow up your whole life being extra oily and then you move abroad and all of a sudden it's like oh, THIS is what ashy is all about. Good looking out on the sugar scrub recommendations and recipes, and co-sign with Mirielle, I have almost busted my butt in the shower on some slick sugar scrub before, so BE CAREFUL in there!
Bebroma says:
November 12, 2007, 2:50 pm
I like Lay It On Thick shea butter body cream by Bath & Body Works, especially on my heels and hands. Is there a really intense hand cream that works for anyone? I wash my hands a lot and also type a lot and because of that the skin on the tips of my fingers split almost every winter...I'm going to try those sugar scrubs, I do have all that stuff in my cupboards (thanks Mireille).
Elle says:
November 12, 2007, 3:24 pm
I love Caress Oil Infusions! The Moroccan scent is so luxe...great way to wake up.
aurie says:
November 12, 2007, 5:37 pm
Irie Diva...Luv you to pieces. Thanks for getting me here. This is what I definitely needed to help stem the tide of "Ashiness" in the great state of New Jersey. My goodness, I didn't realize that there were so many options and price ranges Afrobella. At this point, I may have to increase the maximum contribution limit to my "Keep the Ash Away" Foundation from $3 per year to $5 per year. This post is really good. =)
HaitianRoots says:
November 12, 2007, 7:02 pm
I'm in agreement with the raw shea butter. But if you want to try out a line that truly offers your skin the hydration that it needs, H20 Plus has excellent products that will blow your mind. Hydration and moisture without the oil. The Body Oasis is my favorite.
Sonya says:
November 12, 2007, 8:16 pm
I've been using the Dove moisturizing shower cream and really like the scent and the foamy lather. It doesn't leave my skin really dry but I do still need lotion afterwards. I've been using the Vaseline Intensive Care Cocoa Butter lotion that's new as well and really like how soft my skin has felt. When I need extra moisturization I use 100% shea butter straight from Ghana that I get at an African specialty store in the mall. The texture is funny but my skin feels sooooo good after I use it! The sugar/salt scrubs work well too at letting moisture sink into the skin. I've also found that when I don't use hot hot hot water that my skin feels better too. Thats a tradeoff for me - a nice hot shower or not too dry skin? Usually the hot shower wins. Vaseline Intensive Care has a nice hand lotion that I keep in my purse. It's creamy but not too goopy. I'm going to have to try some of these creams and potions that everyone has mentioned. They sound great!
BlackHoney says:
November 12, 2007, 10:13 pm
It all depends on the budget. $: Vaseline Petroleum Jelly $$: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Cream $$$: Brazilian Nut Butter Cream by the Body Shop
Mindy lindner says:
November 13, 2007, 1:45 am
Hola Chica Bonita divas! Here is the 411 on this seasons hottest moisturizing body butters by Skin Delicious Body So Fine... Imagine 100% fresh, worry free ingredients that leave a healthy dewy glow...WOW check this out! www.bodysofine.biz it is whats up
Crystal LaToya G. says:
November 13, 2007, 6:50 am
"Ultra-Balm (premium blend udder balm)" works wonders on my face. Going to school in Oklahoma for three years did a number on my skin. So my mother suggested this skin balm; and i never stopped using it. For my body: "Johnson & Johnson Baby Oil 'Gel'." The thickness of the gel really protects my skin. For my hair: i always leave a film of conditioner in it to keep it moisturized. If i want a sheen, i rub in some "Ginseng Miracle Wonder 8 Oil." It's cheap and can be found in almost any drugstore. When i want to feel pampered, i put in "Carol's Daughter- Mimosa Hair Honey" that's made of all natural ingredients.
joli201 says:
November 13, 2007, 10:48 am
At night I use baby oil in the shower while i'm still wet and pat myself dry (less greasy that way). If i take a shower in the morning i'll put lotion on along with the baby oil.
F. Green says:
November 13, 2007, 11:37 am
Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream. It is fragrance-free, so it won't clash with your favorite fragrances and is less irritating for sensitive skin (e.g., eczema). Cost is $11 and available at Wal-Mart, CVS, etc.
Jennifer says:
November 13, 2007, 2:12 pm
Bath and Body Works haven't gotten rid of the Jasmine Vanilla, they're just "combined" the bubble bath and shower gel together. Now they will be marketed as one item. Speaking of BBW, I enjoy the True Blue Spa (TBS for us junkies) line. I'm obsessed with the Lay it on thick body cream, and I love scrubing with the There's the rub scrub. For dry hands, I would try the one minute scrub and the Look ma! New hands.
Coffy says:
November 13, 2007, 4:01 pm
Sephora is having a great promotion from L'Occitaine. http://www.sephora.com/browse/product.jhtml?id=P199700&categoryId=C11831
bygbaby says:
November 13, 2007, 4:13 pm
If you are looking to fight ashy skin with a natural product, I highly recommend Quench Essentials natural body mousse. Always avoid petroleum-based products because they can trap moisture next to your skin and only give you the feeling of protection. The more natural oil a moisturizer contains the more effectively it protects against moisture loss! for more info check out http://www.quenchessentials.net In full disclosure, I manufacture this product & it is off the hook, just ask Afro Bella.... Bygbaby
afrobella says:
November 13, 2007, 4:56 pm
Yes! I co-sign with Bygbaby, Quench is the bomb, and the Elbows, Knees, and Toes is amazing for stopping that ashy look. Thanks for the reminder!
Karine says:
November 13, 2007, 6:18 pm
Hi Bella: As a canuck myself I have to say that no amount of moisturizing will be rid of winter ashyness without some exfoliation. I use a cheap pair of exfoliating gloves I get at the drugstore for less then 5$, I use it every other day and to me that's the best solution.
LBellatrix says:
November 13, 2007, 10:44 pm
A-freaking-mazing...I just had this exact same experience with my German friend and temporary roommate (we were in Chicago for work and sharing a room). I had been complaining of my sore feet and when I took my boots and hose off, I think she really thought I needed a podiatrist. I had to educate her real quick: EVERYBODY gets ashy skin this time of year; it just shows more on dark-skinned people like me! Re moisturizing: I like the Olay Shea Butter body wash and (right now) Jergens' Shea Butter lotion. I also have some unscented vitamin E oil made by my local soap store, to which I add my favorite essential oils. I prefer to use the body oil after exfoliating (using my plain old exfoliating gloves from Bed Bath and Beyond).
Seattle Slim says:
November 13, 2007, 11:06 pm
Has anyone tried that Olay Quench? I love it! It leaves just a little shimmer on you and it smells good. That and your skin stays on point! I loves it!
Kim Major Delaney says:
November 14, 2007, 6:49 am
Afrobella, I am going to assume that shea butter is the way to go for a more organic approach to eliminate ash? :O
bella says:
November 14, 2007, 9:11 am
I'd say yes it's one of the better ways to go if you're seeking an organic approach, Kim. I actually JUST got a package of some awesome new natural shea products -- Shea Radiance. Just tried the whipped balm last night for the first time, but I like them! Not your everyday shea =)
Afrodite says:
November 14, 2007, 4:03 pm
Dead @ Ashy Larry...
Bebroma says:
November 14, 2007, 5:34 pm
Thanks Jennifer, I'm going to look into that Look Ma New Hands stuff.
Born Jamericuban says:
November 16, 2007, 12:27 am
I know I'm jumping on here right at the end, but honestly....the one thing that keeps me ash-free is Johnson and Johnson Baby Oil Gel. I rub it on right after I turn the water off while i"m still in the shower, then towel dry like normal. I also use Lush's "Skin Sin" body lotion -- LOVE THAT STUFF! I find that when I run out of baby oil gel and just use lotion, my skin is dry within the hour.
Anita says:
November 16, 2007, 1:30 pm
That picture of Ashy Larry is TOO FUNNY!!! I tried to pose like that when came out of the shower and just couldn't help but crack up laughing at myself! Seriously tho. ashy skin is no joke especially in the winter.. Glad to see that a lot of you readers are fighting the ash this winter. Much love to you Afrobella dearheart!
marisol says:
November 17, 2007, 1:24 pm
Bebroma, The L'Occitane shea butter hand cream is the best, IMO.
kia says:
November 17, 2007, 11:51 pm
ohhh! i love vaseline cocoa butter lotion. i'll def have to try the body butter =) thanks bella!
Leah says:
November 25, 2007, 11:56 am
At night I use baby oil in the shower while i’m still wet and pat myself dry (less greasy that way). If i take a shower in the morning i’ll put lotion on along with the baby oil. ^^^^^^^^ I use to do that in high school I thought I was the only one. I am going to try that trick again because it really do work it, make your skin less dry.
Jess says:
December 17, 2007, 3:18 pm
I love Yes To Carrots -- the Body Butter is great for cold weather dryness. It leaves your skin so soft and replenishes and hydrates your skin. Its made with mud from the Dead Sea. I saw at Walgreens they have a couple of really reasonable gift sets -- and the Body Butter is included along with some other cool stuff.
Indigo says:
October 9, 2008, 1:14 am
Hola' AfroBella its Ur Jamlion Sissta here indie -First off Gracias for this artical on ashy skin- evn though I'm a fair skinned sissta ( my cuban/Jamican/ Italion background ) has not spared me I have suffered Extremely dry N' sensitive skin since birth - skin sew dry my Abuela nicknamed me Aligator skin cause my skin was peeling and dry all the time so dry that I would have to use Vaseline patrolium jelly on my my hands and Scalp N' knees, elbows, ears N' ankles cause in all those areas my skin would crack and bleed frm being dry Hence the nickname aligator cause my skin looked like it was scaling So not attractive :( Then the sensitive part I had to use everything HypoAllergenic No dyesor perfumes or else I would have a Severe chemical burn reaction that coverd the whole part of my back arms N chest that itched burnd like crazy :( Then i switched to a Hypoallergenic detergent - over a 5 month span my skin healed but unfournate remaind Dry:( Sew one day 2 months ago my gurL Trinaet Gave me a 16.0 oz new bottle Of her most prized possession Razac Hand An body lotion . This stuff is Ahmazing it sinks into your skin Condtioning it leaving it Silky N' glowing N' the smell Gurl don't even get me startd its so intoxicating I don't evn use perfume cause its that good an long lasting- Somebody has to spread the word, ive seen it in commercial beauty supply stores N on Amazon.com its that Good : D With Sissterly Luvv ~Indigo~


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