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We want to help you understand your skin, so that you know what’s going on with it, what to put on it, and how to care for it. Sciency stuff that answers so many of your skin questions, written in a clear and simple way. Penned by our founder, Ee Ting Ng.

How to get rid of winter skin

30 August, 2018

How to get rid of winter skin

Spring is almost here! But it seems your skin still stuck in the thick of winter mode - parched and lacklustre.

With the worst of the dry season over, now is the perfect time to start getting your glow back on. But the key to getting rid of winter skin isn’t in religious application of heavy-duty creams; it’s about exfoliation.

Why skin suffers in winter

'Winter skin' is mainly a result of dehydration i.e. lack of skin water. Not only is there far less moisture in the air for skin to draw water from, more evaporation also occurs from long hours of being exposed heating and our daily warm or hot showers/baths. These conditions thoroughly dry skin out, causing its outermost layers (stratum corneum) to desiccate and harden. This makes skin appear rough, flaky and dull.

How exfoliation helps

This toughened surface makes it difficult for moisturising ingredients to get past and hydrate effectively. Think of a piece of new/dry kitchen sponge, where getting it soaked with water is difficult even though water is pooling at its surface.

So before proper skin hydration can happen, we first need to remove the hardest and driest layers, and we do this by exfoliation!

How you exfoliate matters

This is, however, not a call to gather your strongest scrubs. Abrasives, or physical exfoliants in the form of fruit kernels, sugar/salt, microdermabrasion or crystal powders, inflicts invisible micro cuts on delicate skin surface, especially when skin is extra dry and fragile. The scrubbing action also exacerbates broken capillaries and facilitate spread of bacteria.

A gentler approach is chemical exfoliation using alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). Unlike physical exfoliants, AHAs do not rely on force to slough off skin layers. Instead, they work by gradually dissolving the bonds holding the skin cells together so that the skin layers eventually detach. AHAs also allow for a more even exfoliation over your entire skin surface.

Which AHA?

You probably know of several AHAs, so which should you choose? There is no ‘best’ one as it depends on which is most compatible for you. Generally, the smaller its molecular size, the more intense its exfoliation but this can more likely irritate as well. Conversely, the bigger the size, the less exfoliating it is but also less likely to cause any unwanted reactions. Below are common examples of AHAs listed in descending order of potency.

Glycolic acid > Lactic acid > Mandelic acid > Lactobionic acid

Getting the type right is only half the story; the other depends the formula i.e. everything else in the product. There is a fine line between effective and over-exfoliation. While we want to remove the unwanted dry outer layers, we don’t want to go too far and end up compromising the barrier function. This means avoiding chemical exfoliants containing potential irritants like alcohol, acetone, witch hazel (its astringency is amplified in the presence of AHAs), colouring, fragrance, essential oils or high concentrations of acid (> 10%) at a very low pH (< pH 3.2).

Are you ready to shed that winter skin? Skip the irritation and get your spring skin glow with your custom formulated Smooth Operator!