How To Build The Ultimate Body Care Routine

Your skin from the neck down deserves TLC, too.

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It’s easy to get caught up in the plethora of creams, serums, and masks that are designed for the face. But while your skin from the neck down isn’t as visible to the outside world, it’s equally deserving of attention. According to Dr. Whitney Tolpinrud, M.D, board-certified dermatologist and Curology Medical Director, the skin on the body is susceptible to the same issues as those on your face. “Signs of aging such as dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles can be readily seen on the body,” she says. “The skin on the body can become dry like facial skin, making it important to moisturize and maintain a healthy skin barrier.” Of course, you’re also susceptible to UV-related damage from head to toe. The solution? Building the best body care routine that nourishes skin and targets your specific concerns.

Weather-related skin changes can wreck havoc, too. During the winter you’re more likely to experience dryness, redness, irritation, and increased cracking and chapping on certain areas such as the heels of the feet, lips, hands, and knees, says SkinSpirit Aesthetic Nurse Specialist Jamie Lynn Johnson. Colder temperatures coupled with indoor heating systems can add another layer of decreased moisture, making it that much more important to incorporate hydrating body butters, serums, and creams to your routine. As for the summer months, Johnson says you may notice an increase in acne flareups on certain areas of the body that trap heat and sweat such as the upper and lower back, forehead, and chest. Looking to kick your body care up a notch? Here’s how to develop the perfect routine for you.

How To Build The Best Body Care Routine


A body wash is likely already in your shower lineup, but there are several formulas available that may enhance your experience. “Foam and gel cleansers are often best for those who have oilier skin types as they are designed to cut through oil and dirt on the skin,” says Dr. Geeta Yadav, M.D, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Facet Dermatology in Toronto, Canada. “Creamier cleansers are more nourishing and better for those with dry skin, as they leave moisturizing ingredients behind to keep skin comfortable and soft.”

Even though body washes are rinsed off, Dr. Yadav says ingredients still matter. “Look for the same ingredients you'd look for in a facial cleanser: plant oils, chemical exfoliants, and humectants like aloe, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid are all beneficial,” she says. “If you're using something with an active ingredient, you can always leave it on for a few minutes while you wash your hair or shave to get greater benefit from the product.”


Just like your face, exfoliating your body helps break down dead skin cells that may contribute to a dull-looking complexion. It also unclogs pores that lead to acne, and can improve your overall texture. There are two main types of exfoliators that’ll get you one step closer to more supple skin: physical and chemical. “Physical exfoliants use particles like sugar, salt, jojoba beads, or crushed shells/seeds to physically remove dead skin cells,” says Dr. Yadav. You’ll be able to physically feel these particles while scrubbing the product on your skin (this also applies to exfoliating gloves that are made with a gritty texture). If you find physical exfoliators too abrasive, you can opt for a chemical one. Dr. Yadav says chemical exfoliants help to break down the protein bonds that cause dead skin cells to stay "stuck" to the surface of the skin — in essence, they help them shed naturally.

One all-star chemical exfoliant for the body is glycolic acid, an AHA that helps improve rough texture, smooth fine lines and wrinkles, and fades discoloration. “I'd recommend glycolic acid to anyone looking for brighter and more even skin,” says Dr. Yadav. If you’re looking to target pores, turn to salicylic acid, a BHA that helps the skin shed the dead cells that are clogging the pores' linings, which can lead to breakouts, says Dr. Yadav, who recommends this ingredient for those looking for clearer skin.


There are some areas of the body that are prone to dryness (like the elbows, knees, feet, and hands), but if you’re someone who experiences dehydration all over, there may be room for improvement in your routine. Body serums are a relatively new addition to the market, but they come with several benefits for the skin. In general, these products are lightweight, fast-absorbing, and typically have a higher concentration of active ingredients compared to products like a body butter or lotion. “Due to their lightweight texture, serums can penetrate deeply into the skin, ensuring effective delivery of active ingredients,” says Dr. Tolpinrud. “This makes them highly customizable, easy to incorporate into a skin care routine, and easy to layer with other products without feeling heavy or greasy.” They’re also usually made to address a specific skin care concern, be it acne, dullness, or roughness.

But if you’re struggling with severe dryness, a body butter may be your best bet. Think of them as a warm hug for your skin, delivering a myriad of hydration benefits via a rich, luscious texture. Butters are often used to moisturize and protect the skin's barrier function, and can be beneficial for those with dry or sensitive skin who require more emollient and nourishing formulas, says Dr. Tolpinrud.


The pitfalls you experience on your face can happen from the neck down, too, making targeted treatments that much more important to your body care routine. Acne is a common issue that can form due to an increase in bacteria, dead skin cells, and oil, all of which causes irritation and clogging of pores simultaneously, says Johnson, who notes that you’ll typically find body acne on areas that may hold sweat (like the back).

You also may notice visible signs of aging on the body. Think: crepiness all over, dark spots and volume loss on the hands, dark spots on the chest and shoulders, and skin laxity on the arms and thighs, says Dr. Yadav. “Like the skin on our face, the skin on our body begins to weaken with age as our collagen levels naturally deplete, leading to skin laxity and wrinkles,” she explains. Retinol-infused products can be helpful in the fight against aging, as can glycolic acid, which helps speed up cell turnover.

If you’re struggling with bumpiness and rough texture on your arms, thighs, and buttocks, this may be a sign of keratosis pilaris (or KP), which occurs when the keratin around the hair follicles doesn’t shed properly, says Dr. Yadav. Try chemical exfoliants to help remove dead skin cells as well as moisturizers with ingredients like urea, lactic acid, or ceramides to keep the skin well-hydrated and soft.


You’re religious about applying sunscreen to your face, but only commit to applying it to your body if you’re having a beach day. Sound familiar? Johnson says that while body SPF is something people typically only apply when they’re deliberately spending time outdoors, all skin that may be exposed to UVA and UVB light needs to be protected. “Almost everybody experiences exposure to these damaging rays on their neck, chest, and hands, even if it’s indirect exposure from home windows, walking to the mailbox, or driving in the car,” she says. “Physical (or mineral) sunscreens are preferred for body SPF as they contains zinc oxide, which creates a protective film on the skin’s surface to deflect the harmful UVA and UVB rays.”

There are also chemical sunscreens available, which absorb the UV rays and convert them to heat before releasing them from the body. While physical sunscreens have come a long way in terms of look and feel, some prefer the blendability and lightweight texture of a chemical sunscreen.

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