This Shit Rules: Goo For Scaly-Snake-Monster Season

It’s winter. Or as my skin likes to call it, Scaly-Snake-Monster Season. I imagine, of course, that people flee from me as I walk down New York City streets because, right about two weeks ago, I transformed into essentially a giant humanoid alligator. My skin gets so dry that I wander around my apartment and occasionally actual public places behaving like this:

Oh you think I’m exaggerating. I’m really not exaggerating. I’m actually doing that on my office chair as I type this.

It does not help that my apartment is steam-heated to (and I’m just guessing here) one million degrees and is drier than a desert in June. I have no control over the thermostat. This would all be bad enough, except that my skin is also finicky—use one kind of moisturizer on my face uninterrupted for too long, break out. Season changes and keep using same face wash, break out. Planet alignment changes and I don’t change whatever the fuck product I’m using, break out. The result is that I use enough different kinds of goo to fill, like, three of these posts all with different themes.


So let’s get down to business on this one—here are the goos I have to use specifically when I transform into a Scaly Snake Monster.


Handmade Goat Milk Soap

During the summer, I can use vegan soap. During the winter, whatever magic vegan soap is made out of also drinks all the water from my skin like a thirsty Vampire. So, being that I’m not a vegan, I switch to something with a little milk up in it. Specifically right now, I’m using soap from Cats’ View Farm in Germantown. Right now in my shower, there rests a Pumpkin Spice bar. On deck is Black Rum and Patchouli.

Buy it from this tiny farm: $5.5o per bar or 4 for $20


Boscia Black Cleanser and Black Mask

Okay, so I live in New York City: land of soot and urine. I am SUPER DIRTY whenever I go out of the house, plus of course I have scales all over my face that shed whether or not I can manage to stay in my apartment for a full 24-hour period. This cleanser and mask are gentle enough that they don’t provoke my winter-skin. The cleanser warms and it’s 19 degrees outside, and the mask is peel off which harkens back to the days of peeling Elmer’s Glue off your fingers—extremely fun and satisfying.

Buy it at Sephora: $28 per 5 oz. cleanser, $34 per 2.8 oz. mask


Hope In a Jar Daily Moisturizer

An every day work horse, this is my new winter moisturizer after the moisturizer I’d been using in the fall started to make me break out when the weather changed. No doubt in two months I will have to switch back to the other moisturizer. And in summer I have to use a completely different one…

My skin is the worst, you guys. I’m holding out hope that this one works year round. It is called Hope in a Jar, after all.

Buy it on Amazon: $34 for 2 oz.


Fresh Lotus Eye Gel

Okay, so it might not be scientifically proven or anything, but this product is supposed to reduce the dark circles under one’s eyes. I honestly don’t care if it does or not, because what I care about is that it’s fresh and cucumber-esque and feels nice when my eyes are all sleepy-puffy (you know the feeling, don’t even pretend like you don’t). And I need this during this season because—and I’m super embarrassed to admit this—my itching wakes me up at night. Seriously. My skin wakes me up. Also this one seems pricey, but since a little goes a long way it’s actually not so bad given how long it lasts.

Buy it on Amazon: $48 for .5 oz.


Fresh Rose Face Mask

This was a treat-yo-self purchase last winter and I liked it so much that it’s made the regular rotation. It’s for those days when moisturizer alone isn’t cutting it—it’s super super hydrating. Plus it smells like flowers! This, like it’s counterpart the Lotus Eye Gel, seems really expensive. But a little goes a long way and it keeps me from wanting to rub my face against my graduate school’s concrete façade: worth it.

Buy it on Sephora: $62 for 3.3 oz.


Melt Earth Spirit Sugar Scrub

There is literally nothing that feels better than a sugar scrub when you are winter itchy. Literally nothing. It is the best damn feeling in the world. It is EXACTLY like rubbing your back against a tree in a bear-esque fashion. I use the Earth Spirit scent because I like the smell of sandalwood and it also makes the towel you dry yourself off with smell AWESOME—but Melt makes a whole host of other sugar scrubs if you’re not into that scent, and while you’re at it a whole host of other bath and body stuffs.

Buy it from Melt: $25 for 9 oz.


Coconut Oil

I don’t know if there are any special kinds of coconut oil that should be used on the skin or not, but as you can practically hear my skin make a slurping sound when I put it on it absorbs it so fast, I just walk to the grocery store on the corner and get the biggest jar of it I can find. And then I slather myself in it all winter.

Buy it on Amazon: $6 for 14 oz.


Burt’s Bees Outdoor Deodorant

There is another problem with winter in the city: heat. Everything is over-heated — stores, offices, apartment buildings, the metro stations: literally no one has access to their thermostat. I sometimes wonder what puppet master controls all of them. And I sweat. I sweat so much it looks like I’m melting. But I also don’t want to use something that will stop me from sweating, because sweating is a thing bodies are supposed to do. Enter this wonderful deodorant. It’s spray on, so it doesn’t leave any weird streaks on black tee shirts or dark sweaters. It’s made of entirely recognizable ingredients. Its first ingredient is alcohol, so the one place on my body I wish was dry is kept just dry enough. And it makes me smell like a lumberjack, or rather a lumberjane.

Buy it on Amazon: $26 for a three-pack


Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm

I must credit my fiancée with this find—she accidentally bought the Grapefruit and Ginger flavor instead of her usual Natural Mint and Shea Butter. She hated the Grapefruit and I LOVED it, so I received the cast-off! It’s perfect—it doesn’t leave your lips drier than before, like some lip balms do. And it has an SPF of 25 (sun still exists in winter, my friends, plus this makes it an extra good all year ’round product).

Buy it on Amazon: $7.50 per tube.

EarthLust Stainless Steel Water Bottle


I know, you’re like, “LOL ALI THAT’S NOT A PRODUCT YOU PUT ON ITCHY SKIN.” But I maintain that drinking water is the best thing we can all be doing for our skin, in good times and bad. In Scaly-Snake-Monster Season or during all other seasons. Drink some water. Drink that whole bottle and then fill it again. And then drink it again. Repeat. Your skin will thank you. This cute fish pattern is the same one I have, but there are others.

Buy it on Amazon: $20 for a 1L bottle.

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. I am also of the scaled critter variety in winter and have become familiar with how hot and dry NYC apartments become. Thanks for the product suggestions and especially for the reminder about staying hydrated. Yesterday I knew I was dehydrated but then had whiskey with dinner instead of water for some reason. So I was feeling freeesh.

  2. My eczema riddled forehead and other bits thanks you for this. I have been blathering coconut oil on it and it works! Hooray. Other bits of me also need that treatment and maybe some of these. I am a huge fan of olive branch shower gel from lush which leaves me good and greasy and smells so good I want to smell it all day long. I’ve been known to make an oat, honey, salt and olive oil Face wash which was gross but great all at once. This was pre coconut oil became a part of my life so I may replace the oil component with that next time…less gross methinks.
    I salute all scaly winter creatures. May we make it to spring in tact with minimal shedding.

  3. HYDRATION! It’s a real thing. I’m convinced my skin sitch got way better as soon as I got super intense about water-guzzling a couple years ago.

  4. for ppl with dry / reactive skin, what are your thoughts / experiences with oil cleansing method, using jojoba oil to clean your face for example?

    • I use the Garnier Fructis cleansing oil as my daily face cleanser, and I LOVE IT SO MUCH OMG. I have dry, flaky, rosacea-y skin and this stuff, plus Ponds daily moisturizer are enough to keep my skin calm and moisturized all day, even in winter (though keep in mind I’m referring to winter in Virginia, which is markedly warmer and more humid than the north) The Garnier oil is primarily jojoba and macadamia nut oil, and it gets my face clean without it being squeaky. It also doesn’t over-exfoliate, which is a big plus. I used to think that exfoliation was necessary for my dry skin, but once I realized that I just needed more moisture, I stopped needing to exfoliate all the time.

    • I’ve got mega dry skin and I use the oil cleansing method with all kinds of success. I’ve tried jojoba, castor, olive, and almond and I’ve finally found something I’m sticking to: 95% sweet almond oil and 5% jamaican black castor oil. Then I use a little witch hazel with lavender oil in it as a toner, followed by a little coconut oil to lock in the moisture on my driest bits (around my nose and forehead).

    • I have super dry and sensitive skin, and I have had really good results with oil cleansing. I’ve tried different oils but my favorite is sweet almond oil.

  5. Thank you for reminding me to take a sip from the water bottle I was pointedly ignoring while reading this article!

    I am also an avid coconut oil skin-slurper. I have to use pretty intense topical acne medicines, and coconut oil at night is the only thing that keeps me from breaking out into flaky patches. I whipped mine in a stand mixer with some vitamin E oil from Trader Joe’s so it’s SUPER MOISTURIZING and not as prone to becoming rock solid in my cold bathroom.

    • Okay, this is probably dumb: like I said below, I’ve never used coconut oil. It solidifies? Guess I was picturing Canola oil or something.

      • yup it’s really thick. have you ever seen it in the grocery store? it’s a little bit less dense than shortening.

  6. This is a shockingly selfish comment, but this article made me realize for the first time how forgiving my face is right now, even though I wash it/moisturize it all wrong during snow storms and murder-by-dessication attempts by our landlord. Is this just a common sweet spot that will vanish the moment I turn 25?

  7. I was bathing in coconut oil while reading this, and yet I’m still dry! Ugh winter. I sometimes wake up itching too. Thanks for the water reminder!

    • Just a little thing I’ve learned, Thea: oil doesn’t actually moisturize your skin, it just locks in moisture. I learned this the hard way after I got a really lovely combination of acne and dry skin from all the coconut oil I’ve been slathering on. Now, I just a regular lotion first, then cover it with coconut oil to keep everything happy.

  8. I feel like this is the place to tell everyone about the best skincare product I’ve ever used – these amazing lotion bars.

    I promise I don’t work for these people – I got one of their lotion bars in my Christmas stocking and it was perfect timing because before I started using it, my face was all red, patchy, flaky and tight. I wanted to scratch my own face off. THANKS WINTER. It literally took four days of using the lotion bar for my skin to become magically smooth and not even a little blotchy. MIRACLE.

    I have the CocoMint one and my girlfriend says it makes me smell like a chocolate bar, which I think is good.

  9. Hope In A Jar is the best face lotion I’ve ever found (I also have v dry skin and live in the desert).

    Excited about the chapstick; it’s hard to find ones that have an SPF above 15 and I love grapefruit too.

  10. I’m very slack about this, which I’ll no doubt pay for. I swear by scrubbing super-hard with a rough washcloth. Dry, flakey skin takes a real hit. I do use an acne gel I swear by, Dr. Spot, but it doesn’t overdry that I’ve noticed.

    I should be better about lotion, but I quit using it (long story) for awhile and haven’t gotten back in the habit. I have a shea butter that works very well, but I’ve seen coconut oil come up many times here, and I’m getting intrigued– I’ve never tried it. If I’m remembering past articles correctly, it’s kind of multi-use– is that right? Anyone got a brand they adore/seems really effective?

  11. Does anyone have any recommendations for a hand lotion/cream? My hands get SO DRY in the winter that they start cracking (I know, gross), no matter how much lotion I slather on them and even though I wear gloves every time I go outside.

    Also – something that’s not coconut oil! I’m allergic to coconut and every list I’ve seen lately includes it and it makes me sad that I can’t use it because it seems like such a perfect product for so many of my hair/body needs. :(

    • Once when I was home from college my mom got me some Jergens Ultra Healing hand cream (out of pity, my hands looked pretty bad). That stuff didn’t give me a putting-lotion-on-your-dry-hands rash and it’s not too greasy! My brother uses Gold Bond, which is more intense; his hands get worse than mine.

    • I’d have to look at the ingredients, but I love L’Occitaine’s 20% shea butter hand cream. I use it during the day religiously, and I love the packaging – it’s an oil paint tube.

  12. Oh my god I wake up at night because of itching too. For a while my girlfriend lost her body lotion so I would stay over and then keep her up at night just itching. Ughhh. I’m trying to do some regular, full-body moisturizing to get rid of the itch, maybe I will get serious about hydration too?

  13. Ugh I have super reactive dry skin too (plus the scaly outbreaks also include more acne? Which is a super cool and awesome thing for my skin to do to me). I’ve had great results with Neutrogena’s oil-free moisturizer, but it’s stopped working lately :( I’m gonna have to start experimenting with some of this stuff

  14. Just a thought people… Have you tried a humidifier in your room/s at home?
    I find dry heat the worst for scaling up my skin too especially in overheated rooms in winter. It doesn’t do me any favors in dry summer weather either.A humidifier has been really helpful as well as plenty of water and moisturizer ofcourse.

    • We’re looking at one shaped like a dragon right now! It’s on our to-buy list. I’m super super glad to know it helps.

      • I’ve been known to buy one to use at work too. Even went through the rigmarole of having it checked and ticketed so it would meet Occupational Health standards so work couldn’t tell me to take it home.
        Good luck with the dragon!

  15. Something that helps me chase away the itchy scalies is layering oil (or even Vaseline) under lotion. Spring can’t come fast enough!

  16. The licensed esthetician and former Sephora employee, current ULTA employee’s two cents:
    1. Bosica Black Mask and Black Cleanser – nicht good. One word – irritants.
    2. Hope in a Jar – waste of money and totally not worth it formulation.
    3. ANYTHING in a jar – waste of money and waste of product! Once the light and air sensitive ingredients (ie. pretty much everything in skincare including antioxidants) are exposed to light and air, AKA opened, they immediately begin to lose their efficacy and therefore lose their benefit for your skin!


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