Skin Care from the Neck Down
Recommended Body Care Products
One pertinent fact for skin anywhere on your body is that every inch has the same needs when it comes to skin-care products. Skin is skin and it needs to be protected from the sun and it is far healthier and softer (and, dare I say it, younger looking) when the products you apply are loaded with antioxidants, ingredients that mimic the structure of skin, anti-irritants, and cell-communicating ingredients. Just like the face, the skin on the body can also function better and absorb moisturizer better when it is exfoliated, so the use of a well-formulated AHA or BHA product can create smooth, even textured skin like you've never experienced before.
The following is a daily list for those often-forgotten parts of your body.
The "Don't Forget Me!" Body Care List...
- Avoid Soap: Soap or bar cleanser is almost always drying and the ingredients that keep bar cleansers solid are not the best for skin. Whenever possible, especially if your skin is dry, your body will feel and look much better using a gentle body cleanser (also known as shower gel or body wash). And this doesn't have to be expensive—it is shocking how similar these products are regardless of the price tag or claim on the label. Olay, Dove, Nivea, and Paula's Choice offer several gentle, affordable body washes.
- Neck and Chest (décolletage): The bottom line is that whatever you are applying to your face, you should also be applying to your neck and chest. Don't forget daily application of the following: sunscreen (SPF 15 or greater with UVA-protecting ingredients) if this area is exposed to daylight; at night a moisturizer loaded with state-of-the-art ingredients applied over slightly damp skin is extremely beneficial. An exfoliant can evenly and gently peel away sun-damaged layers of skin. For severe sun damage in this area, speak to your dermatologist about using a prescription tretinoin product (such as Renova) or having a series of AHA or BHA peels. You can also consider a skin-lightening product with hydroquinone to deal with skin discolorations.
- Hands and Arms: All of the basics for the neck and chest area apply here as well but it helps to be fastidious about your use of sunscreen. Hands get hammered from unprotected sun exposure. The crepey skin and brown discolorations that start showing up on the back of your hands and arms between the ages of 35 and 40 are all about sun damage. Every day of the year it is critical to apply sunscreen and be sure to reapply it every time you wash your hands. This is easier said than done, but it helps to keep a small tube or bottle of sunscreen in your purse, so you don't skip this step when you're away from home.
- Knees, Heels, and Elbows: The skin over these areas tends to be thick, rough, and often callused. A topical exfoliant containing 1% or 2% BHA (salicylic acid) can eliminate the problem when used daily. Knees, heels, and elbows also benefit from application of an extremely emollient moisturizer or balm-type product. Consider a BHA product and, for intensive moisture, follow with a body butter.
- Legs: All of the basic needs mentioned for the neck and chest area apply here. For shaving details, see The Art of the Perfect Shave.
- Don't Forget Retinol!A body treatment with retinol and other proven anti-aging ingredients can work wonders to improve crepey skin on the chest and sun-damaged, dry skin from the neck down. For best results, always keep those areas protected from further sun damage with a sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater.
Though we often think of acne breakouts as a facial issue, for those who struggle with blemishes on other parts of their body, such as backs, neck, thighs, or buttocks, they know all too well how frustrating this can be. Regardless of where a blemish occurs, the same solutions that apply for breakouts occurring on your face apply from the neck down, too:
This skin disorder is one that lots of people struggle with. It is a very common problem involving tiny, benign, raised bumps found typically on the upper arms, thighs, shoulders, and back. Keratosis pilaris tends to be more severe during the winter months but no one is sure why that is the case and it definitely isn't consistent for everyone. Basically, these bumpy rough spots are clogged pores that can get red and irritated but rarely itch. Regrettably there is no available cure or universally effective treatment, though it is generally well accepted that unclogging pores and reducing inflammation can greatly improve matters (Source: eMedicine Journal, July 2, 2001, volume 2, number 7).
AHAs (typically lactic or glycolic acid, both very effective forms of alpha hydroxy acid) can help exfoliate skin cells, but these aren't effective for dissolving the sebum (the hardened oil inside a pore) that cause the problem. As a result, AHAs can't penetrate into the pore and exfoliate the lining of the pore to help remove the plug. For this type of problem a BHA product (with the active ingredient salicylic acid) and a pH low enough for exfoliation to occur can make all the difference in the world. It is also helpful to avoid bar soaps which can irritate skin or cause clogged pores. A gentle body shampoo is best. Keep in mind you can't scrub away the plugs, this will only inflame the area more and still leave the skin feeling rough and bumpy below the surface where the problem exists and the abrasive can't reach.
Note: We hear from many readers dealing with keratosis pilaris that their dermatologist consistently recommends treating it with an AHA product, specifically LacHydrin, available at most drugstores. We're not sure why these doctors aren't recommending BHA products instead, but suspect it's because they're unaware of the small number of options available. Needless to say, the comments we hear are that the AHA product did not reduce the keratosis pilaris, and the doctor had no other options to offer, which left the patient frustrated. Given what we know about keratosis pilaris and how BHA products work, it makes sense to consider them before trying an AHA product, however well-intentioned your dermatologist's advice may be. Some cases of KP may respond well to an AHA exfoliant, but most will find BHA is the superior choice.
Another common condition that can manifest itself as visible red bumps on the arms and thighs is bacterial folliculitis. This inflammatory condition involves an infection of the hair follicle by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. It begins with mild swelling and redness around the hair follicle and may eventually become small, inflamed pustules. This condition is most common in persons with a lot of body hair, but can occur on anyone. The most common form of prescribed treatment is a course of oral antibiotics (penicillins, cephalosporins), but topically applied antibiotics are also helpful (Source: The Skin Sourcebook, 1998, pages 162-164). You can also try treating the affected area with daily application of a product containing 5% or 10% benzoyl peroxide. This topical disinfectant is often helpful in keeping these inflamed, acne-like bumps under control.
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