The skin on your face likely gets pampered with every day, but what about the skin from the neck down?
In the world of skincare, your body skin isn’t as prioritized, but there’s a strong case for giving your body skincare routine as much consideration as you do your face. “The skin on the neck, chest and tops of the hands is thin and delicate, so they’re even more susceptible to signs of skin aging [than the rest of your body skin],” says Marisa Garshick, M.D., a dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York. “Additionally, as we get older, we naturally lose ceramides and hyaluronic acid which can lead to dryness of the skin.” Just like the skin on your face, the skin on your body is also exposed to daily stressors, like free radicals lurking in the environment that lead to premature aging, cold, drying temperatures as well as certain fabrics, and even cleansing or showering products that can be irritating.
“A body care routine can help keep the skin clean, hydrated and healthy,” says Garshick. In other words, if you want the skin on your body to match the skin on your face throughout the changes in seasons as well as the years, you may start to pay more attention to it with the dermatologist-approved solutions below.
Few things might feel more well-earned than a steaming-hot shower at the end of a long day, but dermatologists warn that this is one way to fast-track yourself towards dry skin. “Washing for an extended time or taking multiple showers a day can strip oil from the skin — especially if that water is hot,” says Camp. “A daily, lukewarm shower that is no more than 5-10 minutes long is best to prevent drying out your skin.”
And while you’re rinsing, pay attention to the soap you’re using to lather up. Camp warns that some traditional bar soaps remove too much of the skin’s natural oils and may shift the skin’s naturally acidic pH towards alkaline. “Cleansers are, in effect, more moisturizing than soaps because they leave behind more of the ‘good’ oils that make skin feel soft and smooth,” he says. The best advice is to look for gentle cleansers that won’t strip the skin of its natural oils but will help replenish and restore moisture and support the skin barrier, according to Garshick.
Exfoliate at least once a week
Exfoliating can be helpful for sloughing off dead skin cells and revealing smoother and brighter looking skin underneath. Just like the skin on your face, the method you use depends on the skin type, how strong the exfoliant is (if you’re using a chemical exfoliator), and your lifestyle.
- Chemical exfoliants: These involve alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) that safely remove any dead or rough skin and improve cell turnover. If you’re new to exfoliation, an acid exfoliator can be great for beginners or if you have sensitive skin. You’ll also get a more uniform exfoliation and it’s harder to overdo (unless you use them too often).
- Enzyme exfoliants: Similar to acids, they digest and dissolve dead skin cells. The differences are that enzymes are fruit-derived and work more superficially than acids.
- Physical exfoliants: Just like it sounds, physical exfoliation can encompass using a sugar scrub, exfoliating gloves, loofah, washcloth, or sponge to physically rub off the dead skin cells thanks to friction.
- Dermaplaning: Another type of physical exfoliation, this in-office procedure involves using a blade to remove peach fuzz and superficially exfoliate the skin, explains Ilyas. “The result is smoother appearing skin especially when light reflects off the skin given the fact that there is less buildup of hair and dead skin on the surface,” she says. You can have dermaplaning done by your local esthetician or dermatologist, but it’s recommended that you don’t do it at home for the risk of injury.
- Dry brushing: Dry brushing is also a form of physical exfoliation. Before getting into the shower, you can use a dry brush (which usually features very soft, short bristles) in circular motions to manually remove dead skin and increase blood circulation.
No matter which method you pick, it’s important not to overdo it to avoid causing excess injury or microtears to your skin barrier. Clean your exfoliating brushes and tools every week to avoid any bacteria build-up.
Indulge in a massage
Or, if your massage therapist’s office is still closed, consider giving yourself a massage by using a dry brush or larger jade roller (like the Esker Allover Roller, which is 7”). Massaging your skin isn’t just about feeling more relaxed, but it can improve your skin’s tone and texture when you have increased blood circulation.
Don’t just use your face moisturizer on your body (and vice versa)
Despite what you may think, face moisturizer and body moisturizer aren’t different products just to be a marketing ploy. Body formulas will usually be thicker and more emollient than facial formulas to account for the fact that your body skin is thicker. Face creams usually have more active ingredients that cater to the unique, sensitive needs of your facial skin. The primary goal of a body moisturizer is to combat dry skin (face moisturizers are often more targeted), so it’ll likely contain heavier ingredients like mineral oils that provide a protective barrier for your body skin in low-humidity conditions. Especially in the cold weather months, you can consider body butter and creams “that contain more oil than lotions, so they’re a good option for preserving soft, smooth skin in winter when the air is dry,” says Brendan Camp, M.D., a dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York.
When choosing a moisturizer, the ingredients list is key. Reach for hyaluronic acid-containing products, as they are extremely effective at drawing moisture and hydrating the skin at the surface, says Erum Ilyas, MD, a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology. Other superstar ingredients include glycerin-containing products, which is another lightweight, mild and effective hydrator, as well as niacinamide (a.k.a. vitamin B3), which is both hydrating and anti-inflammatory.
For tough feet, she recommends moisturizers containing keratolytic, an ingredient meant to chemically exfoliate the skin. Moisturize both morning and night like typically would with your face.
Use your facial antioxidant serum below the neck
The skin on your neck and upper chest are among the thinnest on the body and show signs of aging early on, warns Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center. To prevent premature aging in those areas, he recommends using the same antioxidant serum on your neck and chest as you are applying on your face. “Antioxidants, like vitamin C, act like fire extinguishers to put out free radical damage and help promote healthy collagen production.”
Pssst… if you don’t already use a vitamin C-based facial serum, try the Sunday Riley Fairy Godmother Shimmery Body Oil Gel to infuse antioxidants all-over your skin. Plus, it gives it a subtle shimmer (and who doesn’t want that?).
Wear sunscreen daily
This might sound like a no-brainer, but too few people actually apply sunscreen all over their body. “It is important to remember to apply to all exposed areas regularly and this includes the chest, neck and hands,” says Garshick. “Cumulative sun exposure in these areas, similar to the face, can lead to signs of aging including fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots and fullness.” Remember that even when you’re working from home all day, UV rays can penetrate through a window and even your clothes.
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