BB creams, serums, emulsions and cleansing oils all for the skin below our necks. (Photo: Arthur Belebeau/Trunk Archive)
When it comes to skin care, most of our time and money is dedicated to real estate above the neck, as we apply masks, scrubs, peels, creams, oils, gels, serums and treatments in effort to stimulate collagen production and skin cell turnover, and minimize fine lines. But tending to the skin below our necks? Well, that pretty much starts and ends with a slapdash application of no-frills lotion to counter dry skin (or maybe the occasional sugar or salt scrub to exfoliate) and not a second thought.
No longer. Now BB creams, serums, emulsions, exfoliating lotions, and cleansing oils—products once reserved for the face—are being made especially for the body. But do we really need to treat the skin on our bodies with the same TLC (and plethora of products) as we do the skin on our face? We spoke with Dr. Jessica Wu, a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and Dr. Melanie Palm, a founding dermatologist at Art of Skin MD, San Diego to find out.
The first thing to know: The skin on our bodies is different from that on our faces. “The skin on the body turns over less quickly than the skin on your face,” says Wu. “This means that dead skin cells build up on the skin surface, leading to scaly patches and thickened, cracked skin.” She notes that the skin on our bodies also possess fewer oil glands. This is why our limbs can become more dry and ashy after getting out of the shower, when our faces do not.
To keep skin from taking on a reptilian texture, swap your soap for a cleansing oil made for the body like Avène A.D Lipid Replenishing Cleansing Oil ($30), which is both soap and fragrance-free. Just like cleansing oils made for the face, these emulsify with water and provide a more hydrating and gentle wash—something particularly beneficial for sensitive and eczema-prone skin.
If you don’t want to part with the super sudsing action that soap provides, follow your suds with the use of a gentle exfoliator free of plastic microbeads (which studies have shown are polluting lake surface waters) a few times a week. Exfoliators like Sans[ceuticals] Bio-active Body Exfoliant ($52) remove the dead cells that typically flake off post-shower. You can also exfoliate with a beta hydroxy acid-equipped lotion, like CeraVe Renewing SA Lotion ($15), which Palm says is formulated to make thick skin smooth.
Palm believes a body serum may help resolve persistent dry patches more quickly than an everyday lotion, since many formulations are stocked with lipids, the fats that not only moisturize, but help form the skin barrier and keep it intact. Since body serums tend to be more costly than everyday lotions, these antioxidant and lipid-packed formulas may be best used to target parts of the body that are more susceptible to dryness, such as the insides of elbows, knees, and lower legs. “Skin on the lower legs tends to get more dry,” Palm says. “We know that wounds on the lower legs tend to heal more slowly than on the arms or face. It may be due to circulation. If you think about it, the lower legs are furthest from the heart.”
Sunday Riley Juno Body Serum ($105) pairs soothing vitamin E with lipids from a blend of 13 hydrating oils. The blend of oils like sweet almond and camellia used in Decléor Aromessence Excellence ($95) are also geared to both hydrate and soothe skin. Body serums and emulsions can deliver a more elegant application experience in sticky weather, too. Aromatica Lavender Soothing Emulsion ($27) uses Shea butter to hydrate, but is lighter and melts into the skin instantly.
The trend of souped-up skin care for the body taps into more than just solving specific skin woes. BB creams (the BB stands for beauty balm) are the ultimate skin multitaskers—they work to prime, hydrate, and protect skin. Just like a BB cream for the face marries skin care with cosmetic concerns,
($10) does the same for your body by combining the hydrating qualities of an SPF 15 lotion with the illusion of even skin tone, thanks to its tint. Wu is a fan. “BB body creams are a wonderful invention,” she says. “I appreciate a little help when showing some leg, without having to cover up in hose or tights.” If you’re spending any amount of time in the sun, make sure your BB body cream has SPF in it, and avoid using it right after shaving or waxing so it doesn’t irritate your skin.
While there is no shortage of advanced skincare options for the body, the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage applies: If your current skin care regimen for the body is producing smooth, hydrated, and healthy skin, then there’s no need to upgrade your body care products. But if you’re looking for a little extra oomph when tackling crepe-y skin or looking to create the illusion of airbrushed legs, then the latest body care offerings has got you covered.