This winter has been long and cold and all winter long we have been encasing our bodies in warm clothes, tights and the like to keep ourselves warm. Many of us have been having long hot showers to warm up at the beginning of a cold day. Maybe we have even been sitting in front of radiators just to get that extra bit of warmth. Either way, indoors has been subjecting our skin to dry heat and outdoors has been just as harsh with the cold temperatures and winds. All of these elements dehydrate our skin. As well as being dehydrated, if we have not been taking proper care of our skin in the winter (because nobody really sees it anyway, we might be thinking), it might be so reptilian-like that we are a little worried about shedding winter clothes and revealing our reptile skin. But spring is the time to prepare ourselves to shed winter skin. All that is needed is a little exfoliation.
Exfoliation is the process of removing the dead skin cells which are laying on the surface of the skin. Our skin has many layers and as the cells regenerate, the top layer is shed. The problem is though that many of these cells stay on the top until they are removed physically. Also as we age, these cells are less likely to naturally shed. When these cells lay on the top of the skin, it makes it rough and clogs pores and this can lead to skin problems such as whiteheads and blackheads. The secret is to use a scrub or exfoliation tool to get rid of this layer of cells, thereby revealing the skin cells below which allows moisturisers to be absorbed more easily as well as making the skin softer and smoother. Exfoliation, with the massage action, also increases local blood circulation, making our skin look better and healthier. It also helps to detoxify skin cells. As we age, our skin cell renewal rate slows down, so those over 35 might need to exfoliate once a week. Those younger may need to exfoliate twice a week, maybe more for those with oily skins. Those with blemished skins may also need to exfoliate more regularly, but they must be careful not to aggravate any blemishes and use a gentle scrub as do those with sensitive skins.
Even the ancient Romans apparently exfoliated. They used to use oil with sand and scrub their bodies clean before the process of soapmaking was invented. You might think that sand might be a bit too abrasive though, and prefer to use a gentler scrub. Scrubs made for use on the face are much more gentle than those designed for use on the body. For the face they might be made from jojoba beads, or finely ground oatmeal or nuts such as almonds and these not only scrub away the dead skin cells but also help to nourish the skin. Some facial scrubs contain harsh ingredients such as walnut shells and other harsh ingredients. These are not necessary and can actually damage the skin because of the rough and jagged surfaces sometimes even scratching the surface of the skin. Gentle is best. Scrubs for the body can be less gentle than the face and maybe made from salt, sugar, grains or nuts and herbs. There are also exfoliating mits, loofahs or the great Turkish kese which can also be used to exfoliate. The big advantage though of using a natural scrub to exfoliate is that not only do they remove the dead skin cells, they also nourish your skin. Also, if you use a scrub which contains an oil, you are removing the dead cells as well as moisturising, therefore saving you precious time and caring for your skin. However, those with oily skin might prefer to do without the oil.
In addition to natural exfoliators there are also chemical exfoliators (fruit acids, AHA, BHA, etc.). I personally do not recommend the use of chemical exfoliators as they tend to damage the skin in the long term and make it much more sensitive even if they give you great visual results in the short term. The skin cells contain keratin and as the cells age and die off, the dead cells on the top of the skin actually protect the ones growing underneath. As they are ready to come off and reveal the lower layer they can be easily removed, either by themselves or with a little mechanical manipulation (exfoliation), however, chemical peels take more than the outer dead layer off and they reveal the inner layer which was not actually ready yet to be revealed and this why the skin is so sensitive and red after chemical peels and extra sensitive to UV rays.
After exfoliation, it is the best time to moisturise and nourish the skin but use a good quality natural moisturiser and skip the makeup or exfoliate at night. If your skin reacts to exfoliation, maybe it is too sensitive for exfoliation, so either opt for a more gentle exfoliator or stop exfoliating. Remember also to skip the long hot showers, go for lukewarm and keep your skin hydrated.