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Kick ash on winter skin
Exfoliation, moisturizing locks in smoothness
Published Thursday, December 13, 2012 8:11 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

Winter will be here next week, and the coming cold weather can take a toll on skin – robbing it of moisture and leaving a dry, ashy appearance. Not only are the outside elements harsh, but the environment indoors can wreak havoc and dehydrate skin as well.

“The dry air from the heat coming on in the house can take away humidity from our skin,” said Ginger Whisnant, a skincare specialist at Charlotte Plastic Surgery in Ballantyne.

Whisnant said the key to glowing winter skin is exfoliation, or the process of removing dead cells from the surface.

“Our bodies exfoliate naturally, but it doesn’t happen fast enough so we have to force it,” she said. “If we are not exfoliating, the dry skin cells show up quicker which causes the skin to appear ashy.”

Whisnant said the most common procedure she performs for exfoliation is a chemical peel, which involves applying an acidic liquid to the face to exfoliate the outermost dead skin layer.

Reality TV viewers may have seen episodes where stars have gotten chemical peels that left them extremely red and inflamed, even bleeding and looking akin to Freddy Krueger. However, Whisnant says those results are not typical.

“Ten years ago that was more common to see serious side effects like that,” she said. “We thought we had to be abusive to get results, but now we can be a lot less abusive and still get the same result.”

Whisnant recommends a chemical peel once every six weeks for the best results.

She said microdermabrasion is another popular method of exfoliation. The procedure feels like having sandpaper rubbed across the skin. The microdermabrasion machine has a wand, sometimes with crystals, that has a diamond-shaped tip. It exfoliates and sucks up dead cells.

There are several chemical peel and microdermabrasion products on the market for at-home use. While Whisnant said most of these over-the-counter products are safe, she warned that a degree of irritation could occur if not used properly.

She also notes that even though many products on the market may contain several of the same ingredients as clinical skincare products, they often do not contain the same amount of each ingredient, rendering them less effective.

“A lot of things don’t absorb the same way as clinical products,” she said. “That leads to some irritation because it’s not going anywhere. It’s just sitting on the surface of the skin.”

Exfoliating also makes the skin easier to moisturize.

“When you keep the proper exfoliation, all your good stuff and ingredients can absorb,” said Whisnant. “Your moisturizer will work better if you exfoliate because it gives it a chance to sink in. Otherwise, you just have this brick wall of dead skin that’s not letting anything in.”

She said removing the dead and dry cells also helps makeup to go on smoother.

Another issue during the winter months is sun exposure.

“A lot of people have pigmentation issues,” said Whisnant. “If you are getting too much UVA exposure then that will further darken the spots that are already there. If you have sunblock, that is going to protect you, but people often forget about it in the winter time.”

Whisnant warns against leaving the house without sun protection. Many daytime face moisturizers and creams have sunblock in them.

Developing a daily skincare regimen is all about finding the right products that work for you and your skin type. There are a wide variety of skincare systems. Some are sold in drug stores, while others are only available in department stores or clinical doctors’ offices.

Regardless of where the system is purchased, every skincare regiment should include a cleanser, exfoliator, sun protection, moisturizer and antioxidants. Whisnant said applying them in the proper order is key to getting desired results.


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