The Cold and the Beautiful

New Englanders have been pretty lucky so far this winter. We just experienced the warmest winter on record – until January, that is. Now it's seasonably cold. Last month my heating bill was $50, this month it was $100! The cold weather, combined with the effects of indoor heating, can really dry out the skin. So I went to the C.O. Bigelow store in the Copley Square Mall to try out some of their own line of products for face and body. This venerable apothecary has been a New York City institution since it was founded in 1838, establishing a reputation for stocking hard-to-find and imported items as well as cult favorites. Two years ago they branched out nation-wide in partnership with Bath and Body Works, and began mass-producing their line of products, many of which were first created for their customers in the nineteenth century.

For my face, I purchased their Rose Wonder Cold Cream ($15). This was the first product the company created in 1838, as the number 001 on the jar's label attests to. Unlike most commercial cold creams, this one is mineral-oil-free, non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic. I use it at night to remove makeup and daily debris. Apply to a dry face and remove with a damp washcloth to cleanse and moisturize the skin.

I follow the Rose Wonder Cold Cream with the Triple Rose Water hydrating spray ($25). This is different from their Rose Water Skin Tonic, which contains witch hazel and is more like a proper toner. The Triple Rose Water is made with essence of rose damascena petals, obtained using the centuries-old method of steam distillation. It comes in a beautiful cobalt blue glass bottle with a spray applicator. The fact that it is the only one of Bigelow's own products that comes in an attractive box underscores how special it is. I feel very sophisticated for having such an elegant, luxurious item in my medicine cabinet. I can imagine it on a Victorian lady's vanity table, looking just the way it looks today. I'm not a fan of toners in particular, but because this product is mostly rose water, it doesn't dry out my skin. It gives the skin a refreshing boost of hydration to prep the skin for moisturizer. And the natural fragrance of rose is light, not cloying like many synthetic rose fragrances.

For a moisturizer, I decided not to continue with the Rose theme and bypassed the Rose Hydrating Gel Treatment ($20) because it left a matte feeling on my skin when I tried it on the back of my hand. It would be perfect for normal-to-oily skin, but my skin needs more moisture. Instead I chose the Incredibly Moisturizing Face Cream ($20). This cream gives my skin the moisture that it craves this time of the year, plus it has an SPF of 15. Just because it's winter doesn't mean the face is immune to the damaging effects of the sun, so remember to "block up" all year round. I also use this at night because it's so rich.

It's just as important to winterize your body skin as it is to hydrate your face, and for that, I've saved my favorite product for last. C.O. Bigelow's Lemon Body Cream ($19.50) is a generous tub of rich cream that smells divine – like lemon pastry cream – and is one of C.O. Bigelow's best sellers. It's so popular that it spawned a "lemon line" of companion products, including a lighter Lemon Body Lotion ($19.50), Lemon Cream Body Wash ($16.50), and Lemon Body Scrub ($20).

If you're new to C.O. Bigelow products, you can try the travel sizes of their most popular products, including the Rose Wonder Cold Cream and the Lemon Body Cream. In addition to the C.O. Bigelow stores, the line is also available at Bath and Body Works, or online at www.cobigelow.com.

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