Exfoliation can be a hard sell in the winter, especially when it’s dark by 5 p.m. and all you want to do is climb under the biggest blanket you can find. But you’d be missing out on a lot—because not only is exfoliation essential for bright, glowing skin, it’s even more so in the winter. And with an exfoliating face peel, you can exfoliate skin without risking some of the irritation that can result from harsh physical exfoliants. Here, your guide to the magic of face peels—and why you might want to start using them, stat.
The Perks of Exfoliating: Exfoliation is one of those nonnegotiable steps in your skincare ritual, right behind cleansing and before moisturizing. At its most basic, exfoliation is the removal of dead skin cells from the outermost layers of your skin. And while it’s often popular in the summer, which is when skin tends to be oilier and needs some decongesting, it’s equally (if not more) important in the winter. Because during winter, the air becomes colder and drier—meaning skin can become more vulnerable to dryness and dullness.
And while the solution to dryness is to add moisture, all of those hydrating products can’t reach the deeper layers of skin through the layer of dead skin cells that naturally piles up on skin’s surface. Enter exfoliation: By removing those dead cells, your moisturizer can more quickly and effectively hydrate your skin—not to mention give new, healthy skin cells a chance to shine.
Physical Exfoliants Versus Chemical Exfoliants: So you want to start exfoliating. There are a few key methods of exfoliation. The first, which you might already be familiar with, consists of physical, or manual, exfoliants, like what you’d find in a scrub. As the name implies, these remove those dead skin cells manually by scrubbing them off. The downside, though, is that the granules common in these formulas, like crushed fruit pits or nuts, can be too abrasive and create micro-tears in the skin—which ultimately results in irritation.
The other method of exfoliation (our fave, not that we’re biased) is through chemical exfoliants, or peels. Chemical exfoliants typically use acids to dissolve those dead skin cells and reveal the new, brighter skin underneath. (And no: Unlike what Sex & the City may have taught you, next-gen chemical exfoliants won’t cause red, raw skin worth hiding behind a beekeeper’s hat.)
All About Acid Peels: But not all acids are created equal. (Anything but, actually.) Beta hydroxy acids, such as salicylic acid, is one of the best known—and for good reason. Not only is it well-tolerated by most skin types—meaning it doesn’t typically cause irritation or inflammation—it’s also a powerful ingredient for those prone to acne, since it removes the superficial layers of dead cells that can build up, clog pores, and set off a breakout. (Another perk: Salicylic acid also has antibacterial properties, which help it fight acne-causing bacteria.)
Alpha hydroxy acids, on the other hand, include glycolic acid, lactic acid, and malic acid. Glycolic and lactic acids are a go-to for brightening skin and evening skin tone and reducing the appearance of dark spots & discoloration. In summary: Glycolic acid, overachiever that it is, can help skin look brightened, hydrated, and firmer. The one drawback is that alpha hydroxy acids can make skin more sensitive to sunlight—so while you should be using sun protection of at least SPF 30 daily, it’s even more important when using these products.
Meet the Clean Peels: If all this talk of acids is giving you some not-so-clean vibes, rest easy. We’ve got new, clean peel pads on deck. Ideal for anyone dealing with breakouts or oily skin, the Gentle Daily Peel is infused with beta hydroxy acids, derived from not a test tube but wintergreen, as well as alpha hydroxy acids (from caviar lime peel) to help exfoliate skin, keep pores clear, and dissolve excess sebum. It also offers burdock root and other botanicals to soothe skin and decrease the appearance of inflammation—which helps nix the redness often associated with acne-prone skin.
To tackle the dullness and uneven skin tone common with aging, there’s the Radiance Renewal Peel. These pads are infused with alpha hydroxy acids, which help to simultaneously brighten and firm skin, as well as vitamin C, which is known for its ability to even skin tone. On top of that, vitamin A helps promote cell turnover (to keep dead cells from dulling skin) while glycerin moisturizes and soothes.
How to Use Them: After cleansing, swipe the peel pad of your choice over dry skin, avoiding your lip and eye areas. Let it sit for 30 seconds before proceeding with your routine. (Use this time to take a few deep breaths, high-five yourself in the mirror, or stretch.)
You can peel daily, though those with sensitive skin should start with two to three times a week. And save your peel pads for evening, since the ingredients will have time to get to work without the distractions of sunlight and environmental stressors. (Plus, you won’t have to worry about the sun irritating your freshly exfoliated skin.) For those with congested or acne-prone skin, use our CoQ-10 Toner in the morning and Gentle Daily Peel at night. And for brightening, alternate the Radiance Renewal Peel with the CoQ-10 Toner in the evening. The rule of thumb: Don’t use the toner and peel in the same ritual.
With skin glowy and clear, you won’t want to cancel your plans even though there’s three feet of snow (and counting) on the ground. And, best of all, it’s all powered by nature. Win-win!