If you have a dog or cat, you’ve probably noticed the globs of fur they lose at the start of summer or right before winter. And we humans aren’t much different. Since we are all animals after all, I guess it makes good sense!
We’re heading into winter, and like our furry friends, our skin is shedding more this time of year. So now seems like the perfect time to give you some insight into what your skin needs to survive the coming season.
In the colder months, our skin cells die at a faster rate. And more dead skin cells translates into drier, duller-looking skin. So we need to adjust our routine to keep our skin looking hydrated and healthy.
One of the most important adjustments we should make to counteract this increased dryness is taking extra care to rid our face and body of dead skin cells. This is where exfoliation steps in to save the day!
Want to know more about how our skin sheds? Let’s take a look…
Picture your skin as a layer cake. At the bottom is the basal layer, which is made up of basal cells that are constantly dividing. When they divide, some basal cells get pushed up into the layer above. This is known as the prickle cell layer. The cells in this layer are “prickly” because they contain keratin fibers that branch out.
Laying on top of the prickle cells is a granular layer, which is your protective skin barrier. This layer is where the magic happens because the cells bond together to create the tight seal that holds in moisture and prevents harmful particles from getting in.
Over time, the granular cells lose their organelles and essentially die. Each cell has a lifespan of about 30 days. These dead skin cells build on top of our skin and form multiple layers. About 18-23 layers, to be exact!
All those layers of lifeless and depleted cells sitting on top of your skin will eventually fall off. But if we don’t give them a little shove, they can linger for a long time. They start to peel away from your skin, but they’re still holding on. And they leave your skin with a rough, dry, flaky texture.
What causes dead skin cells to build up?
Our skin cells are dying all the time as a normal part of the skin cycle. But certain stressors can cause the rate of skin cell death to increase. Here are some factors involved:
As we get older, our ability to regenerate cells at the basal layer slows down. So we see less skin cell turnover. We end up with dehydrated skin cells that aren’t being replaced with fresh new cells as often.
2. Sun exposure
Exposure to the sun’s damaging UV rays speeds up the aging process and the lifecycle of your skin cells. As the cells are damaged, we have slower turnover and an abundance of dead cells on the surface.
We become dehydrated whenever we lose more fluid than we take into our bodies. We then hold less moisture in all our cells, including the ones in our skin. Without enough water, the cells dry up and die off more quickly.
4. Our Cleansing Routine
Skin hygiene plays a significant role in the health of your skin. First, dead skin cells build up if we don’t wash our face each morning and night. Second, if we use water that’s too hot, we damage our cells, and they’re more likely to die off before their time.
Both summer and winter influence dead skin cell accumulation. In summer, we tend to get dehydrated because we sweat more often. And in winter, our skin is exposed to dry, centrally heated indoor air for longer periods of time. We also risk dehydration in winter because we might not drink as much water. These scenarios will increase the rate of skin-cell death.
Different types of exfoliating methods
The three main types of exfoliation methods are physical, chemical and mechanical.
Physical exfoliation involves using grains or beads to buff or polish the skin. The physical action of friction causes the dead flakes to finally fall off.
Chemical exfoliation can be done using products that contain enzymes or acids that dissolve the bonds that hold dead skin cells together. A few common acids used for exfoliating are glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, and salicylic acid. You can also see a skincare professional for a chemical peel treatment.
Mechanical exfoliation refers to special treatments using a machine. These include microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, and different types of laser treatments.
How to exfoliate naturally?
Some of the above treatments can be too harsh and can have side effects. The safest and healthiest approach is performing physical exfoliation with all-natural products.
Physical exfoliation at home is done using products containing different types of beads or grains that rub off the dead skin cell layer. However, some products can still be too rough and cause tiny scratches or wounds on your skin. For example, microbeads commonly used in exfoliators are made of plastic and have been known to cause damage to the deeper layers of the skin.
Also, plastic microbeads end up flushed down the drain and can cause harm to aquatic environments like local rivers and waterways. The beads can be ingested by fish and other aquatic wildlife, poisoning them and even killing them. The microbeads aren’t biodegradable, so they continue to harm the environment for an indefinite amount of time.
For more natural and eco-friendly exfoliation, you’ll want to use products that get their grit from natural sources. However, you still want to be careful because even some natural grains can be too harsh.
Experts say to avoid jagged-edged particles like nut shells and apricot kernels and instead look for products with rice, oats or jojoba beads.
Our own Exfoliating Cleanser is made with natural jojoba beads for a safe but effective way to remove dead skin.
Benefits of exfoliating
So what are the benefits of sloughing off the dead skin cells sitting on your epidermis? Here’s a list of what exfoliating does for your skin.
1. Reduces Acne
The rubbing motion of exfoliating helps to remove dirt, oil and debris from your pores, which is fabulous for acne-prone skin.
2. Brightens complexion
Exfoliating smoothes out the surface of your skin, allowing it to reflect a lot more light.
3. Improves hydration
By sloughing off a few layers of the dead stuff, your skin will be prepped to better absorb your moisturizer.
4. Decreases signs of aging
Exfoliating will help reveal the newer, healthier skin underneath the dead skin layers, making your skin look fresh and more youthful.
5. Improves acne scars
Regular exfoliating can help smooth out scarring caused by acne.
How do you exfoliate?
Exfoliating can be a healthy part of your skincare routine for your face and body. But to enjoy the benefits without harming your skin, you need to take care and do it safely.
The skin on your face is thinner and more delicate than the rest of your body, so you'll want to be more gentle and do it less frequently. Depending on your skin type, using an exfoliator on your face 1-3 times a week is a good rule of thumb. But always adjust if you notice any redness or irritation.
Use small, circular motions for about 30 seconds and rinse off with warm - not hot - water. Always apply moisturizer after exfoliating to maintain the integrity of your skin's protective barrier.
Skin shedding is a normal part of healthy skin, but we have more dead skin cells in winter. The drier air indoors and out and dehydration will speed up the process. Exfoliating is extra important for maintaining healthy skin in winter. Use natural products with rice, oats or jojoba beads for the safest and healthiest way to glowing skin!