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If you’re paying attention to your below-the-chin skin only in the summer, it’s begging you for some love right now. Swimsuit or ski suit, your body deserves a skincare routine that’s just as comprehensive and effective as the one for your face—just not as complicated. Think of this story as your guide to the essentials for building a derm-approved body-care routine that you’ll actually be able to follow and stick to. Ahead, the 4 don’t-skip steps (spoiler alert, you need body SPF year-round), 21 must-try products, and 6 trending treatments you and your skin need right now.
The core tenets of a good body-care routine: cleansing, moisturizing, and slathering on SPF. Here’s how it’s done:
Cleanse: The only hard-and-fast rule here is to avoid body soaps and washes with sulfates (typically noted as sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate on ingredient lists). They can strip away your skin’s natural oils and compromise its protective skin barrier, says dermatologist Heather Rogers, MD. So, pls, do your skin a favor and wash with a sulfate-free formula like the three below.
Moisturize: Everyone—yes, literally you, the human reading these words this very second!—should use a body moisturizer, says dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, MD. “To effectively hydrate your skin and lock in moisture, look for a formula that contains hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and/or ceramides.” You can find them in everything from lightweight gel creams to thick body butters, like the three products below. Find one you love and apply it as soon as you get out of the shower (when your skin is still damp) and then as needed throughout the day.
While we’re on the topic of skin hydration, let’s talk about body oil for a sec. This trendy fave complements moisturizer—but doesn’t replace it. Massage it into damp skin and then layer your regular lotion on top, or mix the two together for extra dewiness, Dr. Hartman says. Shop our favorite body oils, below.
Protect: Without question, you should be applying sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on any part of your body that sees the sun, says Dr.Hartman: “UV exposure is the leading cause of premature aging, not to mention skin cancer—whether it’s July or January.” Look for a lightweight lotion formula with a fast-absorbing texture (like the editor-favorites, below) to make make applying and reapplying easier.
Everything you just read will keep your skin healthy and happy. But the serums and treatments below—all with potent, high-performing active ingredients like niacinamide and retinol—do the heavy lifting when it comes to things like brightening skin tone or fighting acne, Dr. Hartman says.
Using a chemical exfoliator a few times a week is the move here, according to Dr. Hartman and Dr. Rogers. Ingredients like glycolic and salicylic acids dissolve dulling dead skin cells, smooth rough or bumpy texture, and unclog pores. Ahead, three derm-approved body exfoliators to try ASAP.
You may have noticed we didn’t include any body scrubs here, and that’s because they aren’t our experts’ preferred method of exfoliation (Dr. Rogers says they can cause inflammation and micro-tears in the skin). But we get it: Scrubs are just…incredibly satisfying to use. So if you’re set on using one, opt for a formula that’s made with nonabrasive jojoba beads or bamboo powder (like Drunk Elephant’s Scrubbi Bamboes Body Cleanser) instead of jagged shells or seeds and use it once a week max.
This step is for bonus points. These six at-home devices and in-office therapies are your “nice to haves,” because while you don’t need them, they will absolutely level up your body-skin game.
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