I'm really rigorous with my skincare but pretty slapdash with body care. Do I actually need to be using all these scrubs and lotions? Body brushing and what have you? I do quite often get spots on my back or shoulders, which I notice in the shower but then it's out of sight, out of mind until I want to wear something backless. Should I be bothering with more? Is it worth it?
In my time as a beauty writer, I've been a full-on maximalist, and a smarmy minimalist. I've been the girl with my suitcase groaning at the hand luggage check-in, cycling through elaborate steps at the sink every night. And I've also been the one to make everything multi-use and expect my lip balm to do everything from tidy my brows and cuticles, to make my cheekbones pop – oh, and hydrate my lips, of course. In both instances, I have survived, and no small children have run from me in terror. What I'm trying to say is: as long as you keep the basics of skincare locked down, anything else is a bonus. As long as you stay sun safe, use an antioxidant and a retinoid and wash your face before bed, you're actually clearing a lot of hurdles right there.
That being said, most of us have slightly higher demands of our faces and bodies. We don't just want our limbs to be hydrated, we want them to be buttery-soft. We don't just want healthy skin, we also want it to be clear and even in texture. We don't just want the basics. We want more because we’re human and that is our curse. So, body care. The good news? You don't have to scrub or buff if you don’t want to. Harley Street medical aesthetician, Benisha Williams, told me, "Scrubbing is good for getting rid of dead skin, but I can’t say I do it every night. Likewise, body brushing can be helpful as it stimulates the lymphatic drainage system, meaning you might feel that your skin is firmer afterwards and that you're carrying less water. But these effects have never been clinically proven; it's just anecdotal," she explains.
Benisha adds, "The main benefit of body brushing or scrubbing would be that it would make any moisturiser applied afterwards penetrate deeper, as you’ve removed dead skin." She notes that you can also get this effect by using a body cream with exfoliating acids, such as CeraVe SA Cream or Paula’s Choice Skin Revealing Body Lotion 10% AHA.
I’ve encountered plenty of body-brushing devotees in my time, and to be fair, they do usually have amazingly soft skin. (They're also usually the sort to say they 'don't need' caffeine, so I'm naturally predisposed to be wary of them). One thing that's important to denote is that body brushing cannot do anything for cellulite. In fact, nothing can. You know why? Because cellulite is normal and healthy and not something to be treated. It was quite literally invented as a concept in post-WWII Paris as a means of getting newly-minted female professionals to spend more money in spas. It's natural and good, and we all have some! Maybe just an inch! Maybe a lot more! But all thighs and butts are good thighs and butts.
Anyway, your back and chest breakouts. The shoulders and chest are a common area for breakouts, as there's a fairly high concentration of sebaceous glands and larger pores. Benisha suggests using targeted body products, again from CeraVe and Paula's Choice: CeraVe SA Body Wash has lactic acid to lift debris out of the pores and help break down oil, and then you can swipe on Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant after showering as a toner.
Another common body complaint is keratosis pilaris, which usually manifests as non-itchy but red, tiny bumps or marks on the upper arms or backs of the legs. It's painless and usually doesn't cause any irritation, but it can be a little annoying. There's no cure and you could well grow out of it – I had it in a fairly noticeable fashion until the end of my teens, when it got much milder. "It will never disappear 100%," said Benisha, "but ingredients like retinol or exfoliating acids again can really help reduce it. NeoStrata Glycolic Renewal Lotion is really good for this." I even had a small patch on my chin which I managed to bust with regular retinol use, so you could also try The Chemistry Brand Retin-A Oil for your body.
We hold the skin on our faces to a much higher standard than we do the skin on our body, but it is all the same skin at the end of the day. True, our facial skin gets much more sun and pollution damage than our bodies, so pigmentation and loss of firmness are more likely to be concerns there than elsewhere. But the same rules apply to your body: stay sun-safe, stay protected and stay hydrated.
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