How To Solve The Skin Concerns On Your Body

Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
A couple months back, we addressed how to fix all sorts of skin concerns that appear on your face, from fine lines to cystic acne. Treating the face is often at the forefront of what we cover in beauty because, let's be real: It's what people see every single day.

Many of us neglect taking proper care of the skin on our body, despite the fact that it ages just like everything above the neck. Sometimes, it's not until major issues occur that we realize just how important the skin hiding underneath our clothes really is.

When skin concerns arise on the body, they can sometimes be more alarming than what's on the face — they can sometimes accompany other image issues we may have, or make us feel like we can't disrobe, go out in public, or wear certain clothes. The reality is, you should always feel beautiful in the skin you're in...even if loving it might get a bit more complicated than normal. 

To help you out, we consulted aesthetician Renée Rouleau, dermatologists Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, MD, PhD, and Sejal Shah, MD, and Gold Skin Care's Michael Gold, MD, on everything from eczema to psoriasis. Click through to see how to treat it, what to buy, and what you need to know.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Eczema Or Dermatitis
"Eczema is the umbrella term for skin inflammation," explains Dr. Shah. "There are several different types, but they're all characterized by itchy, dry, flaky red patches of skin. These may look hyperpigmented (darker) or hypopigmented (lighter), depending on your skin tone. In more severe cases, you may see blister-like bumps oozing of fluid."

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, atopic dermatitis — the more specific, genetic term for eczema, which we will discuss here — is more common today than it was 30 years ago, with about 1 to 3% of adults suffering from the condition.

"Treatment for it usually starts with avoiding any potential triggers," Dr. Shah explains, "and prescribing topical medications like steroid creams, ointments, or antihistamines. You should shower just once daily using lukewarm water and mild cleansers."

A couple of years ago, Avène launched XeraCalm A.D., a line specifically devoted to people with atopic dermatitis. One of its hero products is a cleansing oil for the body that seals in moisture and can be rinsed off. (Avoiding sulfates and detergents is essential.)

Lotions and creams that are formulated to restore the lipid barrier — which is significantly depleted where patches occur — also become essential. Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, another NYC-based dermatologist, often recommends Lancôme Nutrix Royal Body.

For patches specifically, it may be tempting to reach for petrolatum-based ointments, but those mostly just act as an occlusive barrier. (In other words, they hydrate like whoa...but, they don't necessarily heal.) Try a dollop of Medicine Mama's Sweet Bee Magic, instead — it's got propolis, honey, olive oil extract, and all sorts of other good-for-you ingredients you and your skin will love.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
"This is a chronic skin condition that causes skin cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin, resulting in red patches with thick, silvery-white scales," Dr. Shah says. "These patches may get itchy or even painful."

The tricky thing about psoriasis, though, is that so much is still being learned. "It appears to be influenced by environmental, genetic, and immune factors," Dr. Shah adds. Guttate psoriasis, for example, is not genetic — rather, it comes as a sort of hyperactive immune system response after an infection, like strep throat.

"More targeted therapies at the molecular level are being developed. We call them 'biologics,' and they're used more and more for those with severe cases of the condition," says Dr. Gold.

Patches occur on many parts of the body and come in all sizes, but you can mostly spot them on the elbows, knees, buttocks, and scalp. Many things are used to help treat it, including topical steroids and moisturizers. Retinoids, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and bathing in epsom salts are also used as "adjunct" treatments. But, don't worry: Doctor's orders don't always have to be unglamorous — try Chantecaille's Retinol Body Treatment in conjunction with your steroids to keep yourself feeling pampered.

"Some individuals with limited disease may benefit from phototherapy," says Dr. Shah. If not, the biologics — including Enbrel, Humira, or Stelara — may be suggested, but it all depends on how much of the body is covered and how severe the condition is.

Unfortunately, since so much is still being learned about psoriasis, there's no telling how long it will last or how quickly it will respond to treatment. And, in many cases, patients will have to go through rounds of trial and error to see what works best for them.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Body Acne
According to skin expert Renée Rouleau, this particular concern can occur in both teens and adults. "Just like acne on the face, it's caused by increased oil getting trapped under dead skin cells, encouraging a growth of bacteria within the pores. The process is very often triggered by hormones," she says, adding that it can range in severity from mild (1 to 2 eruptions per month) to more severe (several per day).

To help get rid of it, she recommends showering often — up to twice a day — using a "powerful antibacterial cleanser to deep clean the skin and remove oils and acne-causing bacteria." Rouleau cautions against using products with sulfates, since they can be stripping, which only signals the skin to produce more oil. A typical acne face wash should do the trick — try her AHA/BHA Cleansing Gel, or check the ingredient label for SLS on your own.

"Back breakouts can especially be made worse when there's an abundance of dead skin cells, so it's crucial to remove that buildup by exfoliating the back each time you shower," she says. For this, grab a antimicrobial wash cloth — we love the ones by Stacked Skincare — and be diligent about getting them washed at least once per week.

"If your back acne is really severe even after all this treatment, try applying a thin coat of a mask for problem skin," Rouleau adds. (Dermalogica's Sebum Clearing Masque should do the trick.) "By applying it on freshly cleansed and exfoliated skin, you're allowing the active ingredients to get down and dirty and work their magic. Follow up with moisturizer as necessary, but make sure it's still formulated to fight breakouts." CV Skinlabs Body Repair Lotion is specifically developed for acneic and sensitive skin — go nuts.

Lastly — and you probably know this already — but you want to be careful when rinsing out your conditioner. "It's intended to coat your strands, which can create blocking of the pores on your back," Rouleau explains. "Clip your hair up after you rinse, then cleanse your back to be diligent."

If you don't see results after a few weeks, see your dermatologist to discuss antibiotics. "Some cases of back acne, especially when it's cystic, may find this to be a better option, and it may be needed to avoid long-term scarring," she says.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Stretch Marks or Striae
"Stretch marks appear as lines of thinned skin, either hypopigmented or pink in color, with a slightly wrinkled or depressed surface," says Dr. Shah. "They represent scars in the dermal layer, with thinning of the overlying epidermal layer of the skin, literally caused by stretching, which leads to 'breaks' in the connective tissue, and, therefore, damage of collagen and elastin."

The funny thing about them, though, is that sometimes, they heal on their own! "Especially in pregnant women, they often resolve, and we have no good explanation for this," Dr. Gold adds.

Here's the thing about stretch marks, though: Lots of people have 'em. And, while they may look unappealing to some, they're moreso a fact of life — a part of your body's history. Getting rid of them is kinda like trying to get rid of cellulite (more on that later) — it can be a total rat race, and, Dr. Shah adds, the efficacy of treatments can vary from patient to patient.

If you want to get serious, though, (and many women do), there is a relatively new fractional microneedling device called EndyMed Intensif. "The microneedling technology penetrates the skin, alters the collagen, and stimulates the pigment, improving many white-colored marks," Dr. Gold says. "Several treatments may be needed with this fractionated technology, but results thus far have been promising."

For red marks, Dr. Gold administers a pulsed dye laser, like Vbeam or Cynergy, to correct the color and help it match the skin.

Another solution? Banding together and learning to love 'em. But, what works for you is most important.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
"This is a genetically and hormonally-influenced skin condition that affects the skin with dimpling, noted most commonly on the thighs and buttock regions," Dr. Gold says. "It's said that 95% of women have it...and the others don't look for it."

It can range from mild to severe, but basically, if you want to get serious about getting rid of it, a visit to the doctor is in order. "We use radiofrequency devices to improve the appearance of cellulite," Dr. Gold says. "Different doctors us the ones they think work better than some of the others. In my clinic, we use the Venus Legacy, Endymed 3DEEP, and the Syneron VelaShap III."

Some women have gone to a further extreme with something known as mesotherapy, which Dr. Shah describes as a process wherein the substances are injected into the skin to help break down the fat. This has not been FDA-approved, though, and it's associated with risks like swelling, infection, and irregular contours.

As for those topical options? A few months back, we had one writer test anti-cellulite creams on her backside for two months — one on each cheek. Surprising exactly nobody, both of them yielded minimal results at best. At the end of the experiment, she wrote: "The biggest lesson I learned from all of this: Maybe we should just stop considering cellulite a problem."

Can we get an "Amen?"
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
"This can be light or dark spots on the skin, and there are a host of conditions that can cause either — sun damage, melasma, vitiligo, post-inflammatory skin changes, idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis, and a type of skin lymphoma called mycosis fungoides," says Dr. Shah.

The treatment depends entirely on the condition, but usually results in topical treatments, light therapy, or a combination of both. "Any light spots should be evaluated by your dermatologist," Dr. Shah insists.

Topical lightening creams (hydroquinone) and a daily use of broad-spectrum SPF is essential, she points out, adding that chemical peels and laser treatments may also be necessary.
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Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
Tinea Versicolor
"This is a superficial fungus infection that's an overgrowth of a fungus that's actually a part of our body — something we all have that helps protect the skin," Dr. Gold says. "We usually see whitish-orange scaly patches on the chest, shoulders and back."

The good news? It's usually mild to moderate in most, but Dr. Shah adds that it most commonly occurs in the summer. "It can happen anywhere on the body, but you most commonly see it on the chest and the back," she says. "The affected areas don't tan the way the normal skin does, so the spots become more noticeable when you've been out in the sun."

There's no real distinct cause for tinea versicolor, but some doctors believe it could do with genes, humid environments, oily skin, increased sweating, or a weakened immune system. (So, basically anything.)

"We usully treat with topical or oral antifungal medications. Because recurrence is common, prophylactic treatment can be helpful," she adds.
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