For some of us it’s glaringly obvious that winter is pretty much here. Yup, that’s right, ladies all over the country are already starting to complain that the change in weather has taken a toll on their skin resulting in dry, flaky, skin that refuses to be calmed. Our first instinct when this happens is to reach for the exfoliator and scrubs but be warned too much exfoliating can have dire consequences for your skin. If there’s one skin-care mistake we all make in winter it’s definitely over exfoliation. And, while scrubbing off dry, flaky patches of skin might seem like the logical thing to do, exfoliating too often or with a scrub that’s too harsh can cause your skin to get irritated, turning your dry, flaky patches into an even bigger disaster. So what’s a girl to do? Here’s a quick guide to exfoliating and figuring out if you exfoliate too often or too harshly.

Start low and go slow:

If your skin tends to go super red or break out in red spots when you exfoliate then it might be time to rethink your skin-care regime. When it comes to exfoliating the best thing to do is to start with the lowest grade and most gentle type of exfoliation. Gentle scrubs can also effectively remove flakes and make dull, wintry skin glow again so make sure you listen to your skin and switch things up if you need to.

Step away from the scrub:

Exfoliating doesn’t always have to involve scrubs and microbeads, if you hate the idea of sloughing away dead skin with a scrub then try exfoliating peels. An exfoliant or peel with alpha hydroxy acids can effectively remove dead skin cells and help to stimulate collagen production (making it great for anti-aging and softening fine lines). Look out for peels or exfoliators with glycolic, lactic, citric, malic or tartaric acid on the ingredient list, like Dr Dermal Texture Correction Pads (R475 for 30 pads). These little individually packaged facial pads are great for gentle peeling and will help to give you a more even complexion. Of course, don’t forget that AHA products can leave your skin sensitive to sunlight, so make sure you wear sunscreen to protect your skin.

Less is more

No matter how tough your skin is, you should not be exfoliating more than three times a week. Over exfoliating can lead to teeny tiny cracks in your skin barrier and lead to hydration and inflammation in the skin. You might think that the more your exfoliate the better your skin looks but trust us, your skin will show you otherwise in the long run. Also, make sure you are aware of the levels of exfoliating in other products in your skin-care regime. If you’re using a product with retinol then you can skip acid-based exfoliants altogether. It’s way too much for your skin to handle and will lead to redness and inflammation.

Put oily skin through the gauntlet

If you have combination to oily skin and are prone to blackheads, then your skin should be able to withstand more harsh exfoliation and peels. Use a salicylic acid–based cleanser, like Garnier Pure Daily Deep Pore Wash (R69.99), to remove pore-clogging oil, without traumatise the skin like a physical exfoliant. But, once again, don’t think that just because your skin can withstand more exfoliation that you shouldn’t monitor your skin’s reaction to the products. Keep a close eye on your skin and if you notice any signs of inflammation give it a rest!

Just a spoonful of sugar

Sugar is actually the most gentle scrub so if your skin is prone to inflammation then it might be best to use a scrub with sugar crystals. If you only have a few spots of dryness on your face, say around your mouth or on your chin then a sugar scrub is the right choice for you. The sugar is a mild scrub and will dissolve dead skin cells without irritating the skin. Sugar is also great for exfoliating think areas around the mouth and eyes.

Call in the big guns

If your skin is flaking, then try using a cleansing brush or an at-home microdermabrasion device. A cleansing brush, like the Clarisonic, which will help to transform the texture of the skin while also reducing the appearance of pore size and creating a softer, smoother, more radiant complexion. An at-home microdermabrasion device, like the Environ Cosmetic Roll-CIT, uses tiny stainless steel microneedles to help enhance the effectiveness of the ingredients in your products and help improve uneven skin tone and texture.