The weather has chilled, leaving us wanting to do nothing more than hunker down and layer up, but we don’t want our skin to do the same! Dealing with dry, flaky patches on our legs is one thing, but they’re harder to hide on the face. One easy solution? Exfoliation! Yes, it’s important to exfoliate — aka purge the top layers of dead skin cells — on a regular basis, even in the winter.However, as tempting as it is to reach for that yummy-smelling facial scrub every time we shower, there is such a thing as too much exfoliation. (Just because it’s Christmas time, doesn’t mean we want to look like Rudolph.) So if friends are actively recoiling when they catch sight of your overly rosy cheeks, take it from us: You’ve gone too far.
Picking the Right Exfoliant
Not only will excessive exfoliation leave you with a ruddy complexion, but it can also disrupt the skin barrier and lead to increased sun sensitivity, a greater absorption of environmental toxins and even — gasp — premature aging. Want to know how to achieve polished perfection in a few simple steps? First, you need to be sure you’re using the correct exfoliant for your skin type. The sheer variety can be overwhelming, so let’s break down the options.
Physical (or manual) exfoliants: These work by buffing off the dead skin cells and come in many forms. Some are granular scrubs (like Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Energizing Scrub), which are massaged into the skin, emulsified with water and rinsed off. The granules typically comprise jojoba or other nut shells, but because these can scratch or even tear the skin, experts are now increasingly recommending gentler ingredients such as rice, chickpeas, bran and corn cob meal (just don’t eat it!).
Chemical exfoliants: To de-gunk more deeply, consider a chemical-based formula (like SkinCeuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrub). Don’t let the “C” word put you off — these can actually be quite gentle! They function by dissolving the bonds between skin cells, and are particularly well suited for acneic or severely congested skin.
Acid-based exfoliants: If your skin is generally oily or acneic, try an exfoliant with salicylic or glycolic acid. Both of these ingredients work to dissolve dead skin cells (caution: the latter can irritate some sensitive types). Lactic acid, meanwhile, is better for dryer or more sensitive complexions, and offers the added bonus of brightening and hydrating. (One caveat for acids: If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, skip them in favor of milder granulated scrubs.)
Exfoliating the Right Way
Once you’ve picked the perfect product, don’t just scrub and slough away like there’s no tomorrow! It’s vital to perform a patch test away from your face (somewhere that can be hidden by clothing, such as the back of your neck, for example). This way, if your skin has a reaction, you can avoid having to explain to prying pals what went south.
How often should you exfoliate, you ask? Those of you with normal skin should make a date with your exfoliant once a week. If your skin is sensitive or you have rosacea or eczema, consider consulting with a dermatologist first so they can help you decide on a gentle exfoliation plan that will work for your skin type.