We naturally shed the dead outer layers of our skin over time as they are replaced. Those layers act as a protective shield for the living skin beneath them and otherwise help self the rest of the body from the outside world. The dead skin gets replaced regularly to keep anything from remaining caught in it for too long and contributing to a breach of that protection. That’s why we can naturally shed shallow splinters without ever noticing them. Unfortunately, the process isn’t perfect and those shed skin cells can end up caught in your skin’s natural oils. This can lead to clogged pores that in turn create an environment just waiting to help cause a breakout. This is why we exfoliate. It helps our skin’s natural processes and prevents buildup like this from happening. You want to be careful with exfoliation though to make sure you’re not hurting your skin. This is especially true when it comes to winter.
Watching for the Signs
Over-exfoliation tends to have fairly obvious signs. The areas of skin that you’ve focused on will typically be red and tender to the touch. This is because you’re removing so many layers of skin that you’ve exposed the raw skin beneath the layers of dead skin. It cannot protect itself as well without that outer layer and is drastically more susceptible to damage. These are the most pronounced sign though. Strangely enough, unexpected dryness can also be a sign of over-exfoliating. That is generally because you’ll have stripped too many natural oils from your skin for it maintain a healthy outer barrier. Generalized redness or itchiness in the area are another two potential signs. You may even notice the skin feeling and feel a light burning feeling in the over-exfoliated area. If you notice any of these signs, you want to moisturize and cover the area. Keep doing this until the sensation stops so that the skin has time to rebuild the protective layer.
Don’t Stop Cold
Some people suggest entirely ceasing to exfoliate in winter. It makes a little sense on the surface given many of the signs associated with over-exfoliating are also symptoms of dry skin. Too much exfoliating will surely just make dry skin a bigger problem in winter, right? As well meaning as the thoughts are, you need to keep exfoliating in winter. Your skin isn’t going to stop trying to shed itself simply because the season has changed. Not remembering to exfoliate can end up causing more problems than it is worth by setting you up for a winter of breakouts. It can be particularly hard to get back ahead of skin issues in winter if you have to simply because you have to juggle dry skin and whatever other conditions that need tending. It is far from easy even with professional help. What you do want to do is scale back the rate at which you typically exfoliate during the winter and take a few precautions just to ensure you’re not hurting your skin.
The key to exfoliating properly in winter is to remember to moisturize. Pay careful attention to your skin before you start exfoliating. If your skin has a dry, flaky outer layer, skip exfoliating for a week or so and focus on properly moisturizing your skin. It isn’t healthy to exfoliate flaking skin and you will pay for it in the long run. However, you can exfoliate if it isn’t flaking.
What you’re going to want to do is consider how often you exfoliate in other seasons. Most of us stick to once or twice a week if we have roughly average skin. All you need to do is exfoliate a little less frequently in winter to keep your skin happy and healthy. That means, in the case discussed, scaling back to exfoliating roughly once every one to two weeks instead. That will ensure that your skin has time to recover if it is a bit weaker than usual. Additionally, it ensures there is plenty of time to keep the skin properly moisturized to avoid the previously discussed situation.
Exfoliating during winter is a must just like it is at every other point in the year. The main difference is that you need to ensure that your skin is properly moisturized before you can even begin. Exfoliating dry, flaky skin won’t destroy your skin, but it may contribute to a long term buildup of damage. Healthy, moist skin will respond to exfoliation better and recover better. So remember to moisturize well during winter to help ensure you can keep your skin clear and healthy.