By Emily J. Weitz
Like a chameleon sheds its skin, as we move towards springtime, our skin too begins to flake off and regenerate. This is a healthy cycle, but there are some important ways that you can support it so that it doesn’t result in flakes of skin all over the house and wrinkles deepening around the folds of your eyes.
The first thing you need to pay attention to at this time of year, says Jessica Affatato, spa director at Naturopathica in East Hampton, is exfoliation.
“Exfoliating helps to speed up the cellular regeneration,” says Affatato. “You are taking off the top layer, getting rid of that tired, ashy look.”
According to Affatato, there are two basic ways to exfoliate. There’s the manual exfoliant and the enzymatic reaction.
“A manual exfoliant is something with a grit in it,” says Affatato. “If it has a grit, you want it to be a rounded bead so you won’t tear the skin. Apricot scrubs have more of a jagged edge, so they tear the skin. We have an oat facial polish here.”
The oat facial polish cleans and exfoliates, sweeping away the dry and dull skin to leave a brighter layer. The exfoliating ingredient is jojoba beans, which are spherical, providing a gentler exfoliation.
An enzymatic reaction, in contrast, dissolves the top layer of skin instead of scrubbing it away. Affatato compares it to having a rough piece of wood.
“Sandpaper would be a manual way to smooth it out,” she says. “Or you could do something that will soften the flesh and then wash it off. It’s a different way of doing it.”
At Naturopathica, they have three enzyme peels – pumpkin, sweet cherry, and pear fig.
“I use the pumpkin purifying enzyme peel at home,” says Affatato. “All three use a slight acid to refine the skin by softening the dead skin cells on the surface and stimulating cellular regeneration.”
Enzyme peels can be done once or twice a week for optimal skin health.
In deciding between manual exfoliation and enzyme peels, Affatato says it all depends on the individual.
“It depends what you like,” she says. “Some people like the feeling of the grit. It has this immediate feeling of cleanliness. Enzymatic is a little more even, and you’re not as likely to overdo it.”
The skin is the largest organ, covering the entire surface of the body, and the skin on your face has different needs than the skin on your elbows or the bottoms of your feet.
“Body scrubs tend to be rougher,” says Affatato, “because the skin of the body is thicker than that of the face.”
But all are going to be struggling with dryness at this time of year. For the rest of the body, dry brushing is one way to get the lymph flowing.
“You’re not walking around in the winter as much,” says Affatato. “So dry brushing helps to get the lymph moving, and can help with cellulite. It’s detoxifying.”
Naturopathica also has a full body exfoliant, the espresso mud body scrub. It’s a rich mud scrub that combines ground coffee beans for exfoliation, volcanic pumice for sweeping away dead skin cells, and black silt clay to draw out impurities.
“It has an earthy smell to it,” says Affatato. “And it really wakes you up.”
Affatato said the primary reason for skin issues in the winter is inflammation, which causes white blood cells to stimulate the production of specific enzymes that in turn break down natural collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, all of which contribute to healthy, youthful skin. When these break down, it leads to premature aging.
“Inflammation in the winter can be due to many things,” says Affatato. “Dry, rough winter conditions leave the skin dry and without a protective moisture barrier. Also, people tend to spend more time indoors, where they are exposed to more chemicals and re-circulated air.”
The key to long-term healthy skin is, Affatato says, everything in moderation.
“Aging is about the cells of your skin breaking down,” she says. “One of our emphases at Naturopathica is limiting the amount of inflammation you expose yourself to to keep the individual cells healthier… It’s all about balance.”