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You Need a Body Skincare Routine

But only if you care about being healthier and hotter.

You Need a Body Skincare Routine
Trunk Archive

Like many people, I got into skincare in a big way during the pandemic. I researched, I sampled, I trialed, and overall spent many dollars and hours finding the best products for my skincare needs. Recently I needed to stock up, and headed to Sephora for my tried-and-trues: my Tata Harper, my Tatcha, my Sunday Riley. Then I went to CVS for my drugstore body lotion and $7.49 body wash. Somehow, it didn’t hit me until that moment just how bizarre it was that I hadn’t given more than a passing thought to my body care. I’d become a certified armchair skincare expert, but was doing the bare minimum to care for 98 percent of my actual skin.

While the body shows age much less dramatically than the face, it’s hard to think that “minimal to no maintenance” would be the best way to go. I started to research body care and saw that there was comparatively little information on what we should be doing for our body skin. Most of what I found was purely commercial, i.e., brands trying to convince me I needed this dry brush or that exfoliating glove. To sort through all the noise and get some actual dermatological advice, I turned to Dr. Emily Wood at Westlake Dermatology for her expert opinion on whether I should be doing more for body skincare—or if Gwyneth Paltrow just made the whole thing up to sell dry brushes.

Dr. Wood confirmed that, indeed, most people don’t do enough in terms of body skincare. She identified the key products that we should be using on our bodies, such as sunscreen, retinol, peptides, and growth factors to stimulate collagen. She also points to sunscreen as the best anti-aging skincare and recommends a mineral SPF that is at least SPF 50 or higher. In her words, “The most important product to use on the body is sunscreen. All other products are a waste if you are not.” In terms of problem areas on the body to pay extra close attention to, Dr. Wood says that “a neglected neck and decolletage are a dead giveaway of your true age,” recommending a prescription retinoid used 1-2x weekly on those areas to show dramatic improvement.

Armed with this information, I set about trying products according to Dr. Wood’s advice. As I have somewhat sensitive skin, I decided to start with mostly natural, non-prescription products. I was also intrigued by the idea of treating my body like my face, so I went for products with facial-grade ingredients. I used the scale of “how good I felt walking my dog after applying” to rate the products I was trying. I began to notice a new spring in my step on my usually cranky morning slog. I felt pampered. I felt cleansed. I felt smooth like a dolphin and, for once, sufficiently moisturized without feeling greasy. Amazed at the difference, I reached out to Monique Meneses, the founder of iota, a body skincare brand I had tried and was infatuated with that works from the idea that skin health (as in, the health of the biggest organ in our body) is an oft-overlooked pillar of wellness that deserves our attention, to see if she had any insight on why I was feeling so much better.

“The most important product to use on the body is sunscreen. All other products are a waste if you are not.”

I connected with Monique over Zoom and first noted, of course, her trust-inspiringly amazing skin. Monique told me about how she had noticed that most body skincare products either just cleanse, scent, or treat issues after they occurred–as in, exactly what I was doing by just stripping my skin when cleansing, then trying to reverse the damage with moisturizer. Monique likens our skin to a blank canvas, one that gets muddied with daily exposure to things like pollutants and various products. She explained that when we then apply things like vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, it’s not able to properly do its job if the canvas is unhealthy and “muddied” to begin with. That’s why Monique created products that get our skin to its healthiest version of itself by restoring a supported, uncompromised natural skin barrier. Monique found that, just like our gut, our skin microbiome needs to be cultivated with pre- and postbiotics to get that skin barrier healthy and proactively prevent issues like acne and eczema, instead of simply treating them after the fact.

Monique’s approach helped explain why iota’s body serum was revolutionizing my body skincare. I kept putting it on and being befuddled that my usual lotion was pilling. I have pretty dry skin and usually have the opposite problem of having to slather on multiple layers of lotion to feel fully moisturized. But iota’s serum was enough for my skin to feel hydrated, protected, and oh-so-smooth. Clearly, what my skin had been crying out for was some skin barrier repair, not just the damage control of piling on gobs of Lubriderm in hopes of compensating for whatever I loofah-ed away while cleansing. Oh, and my problematic keratosis pilaris that I’ve had my entire life? It’s gone. No more chicken skin, just smooth, sleek arms like a raw, skinless chicken breast.

Overall, my body skincare experimentation has led me to the definitive conclusion that it’s absolutely worth incorporating into daily life. I feel healthier and more confident in addition to cosmetically improved, which is all I had initially expected when I started this journey. I’ve found some excellent daily products that make me look and feel so much better, along with some that are good for use once a week or so and others that are nice as a fun monthly treat. Below are my favorite products that are now incorporated into my permanent routine, plus some recommendations from Dr. Wood.

Supercloud Body Serum+

This serum is the product that had me questioning everything I thought I knew about body skincare. Lightweight and yet deeply penetrating, it takes half the time to put on as drugstore lotion and leaves me ten times more moisturized. It’s a true powerhouse of a product, containing C, B, and E vitamins, niacinamide, trendy mandelic acid, copper peptides, and more, all naturally derived from ingredients like sea moss and dragonfruit and accompanied by iota’s innovative skin microbiome support. I have also been blown away by their Supervitamin Body Wash; my skin was so instantly softer and smoother, it’s hard to believe something that gets washed off can be so effective. I also enjoy their retinol-alternative Supermatcha Body Lotion+.


The Neck Serum

I initially got this product as a gift with purchase and was confused as to why Nécessaire was giving out such a comparatively pricy product for free. Now I know why. Much like a drug dealer, Nécessaire was counting on me getting hooked after the free sample and now has my business for life. I have terrible tech neck wrinkles, but their appearance has been drastically reduced in the short amount of time I’ve used this serum. Its 9 percent peptide formula can also be used on décolletage, which I plan on doing as soon as warmer weather inspires me to be sluttier. While I have also been enjoying Nécessaire’s Multi-Peptide Body Lotion, the Neck Serum is a true miracle product in my book.


Body Wash

I couldn’t believe that a simple body wash was improving my skin so much, to the extent that I stopped using it a couple of times just to be sure it was really what was making such a difference (it was). This plant-based cleanser is a creamy, coconut-derived emulsion formulated with skincare-grade oils to replenish the skin’s moisture levels and banana and chamomile extracts to tone and soothe. All the available scents are heavenly, and I’ve been loving the woody Santalum in particular. I also tried Corpus’ Body Butter with facial-grade moisturizers and their katrafay Body Scrub. The body butter smells incredible and works great, but is a bit thick for everyday use for me, and out of all the physical exfoliators I’ve tried, I liked this scrub the most for how smooth and nourished it made my skin feel (it is however an intense level of exfoliation, so I just use it a bathtime treat every so often).


The Body Exfoliant

I didn’t want to start slathering an intense body retinol on my sensitive skin quite yet, so I decided to try this body wash containing bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative proven to be just as effective and less irritating. I use it as often as I feel I need some exfoliation, about twice a week. It smells wonderful, with notes of eucalyptus, tea leaves, and citrus, and makes my skin so soft and smooth. I originally found the rice exfoliators a bit harsh, but using a loofah solved that problem handily. I also tried their body serum and loved it. With squalane and hyaluronic acid, it’s intensely moisturizing, and the ergonomic applicator is a revelation that more brands need to start copying stat. I’ve been using it as an extra moisture boost when needed, and it works great with lotions and other serums.


Body Plane

As I said, I’m not a big fan of physical exfoliators, but these products were the only ones to get an A+ using the “how good I feel on my morning dog walk” system. I love using oils on my face, so I was intrigued by the oil-and-body-planing method. It’s not the most efficient exfoliation method (I usually only use chemical exfoliators), but as I discussed with Monique, sometimes skincare is about the ritual and self-love as much as it is about the dermatological results. The smoky, floral scent of Esker’s oil is positively spa-like, and my skin feels so pampered after using it that I’ve had no trouble making time for the process, feeling like Cleopatra bathing in precious oils at an ancient bathhouse each time I do.

Esker Beauty

Honey Meil Anti-Aging Hand Cream

I tried a few different peptide hand creams for this experiment but ended up back at my tried-and-true Perlier Honey Miel. I originally found this product years ago on some listicle about what lotions hand models use, and apparently, my younger self was on to something. I’ve been using their 16.2 percent peptide phyto-complex for years and always get compliments on how soft and smooth my hands are. After trying some other products it became clear none compared to Honey Miel, which is also fantastically scented with a creamy combination of almonds, Italian organic honey, and pure royal jelly. I liked this product so much that I gave out mini versions in gift bags for my bachelorette party, and should not have been surprised to have officially confirmed that it’s the best anti-aging hand product out there.


Bio Cream Firme Riche

Dr. Woods recommends this product as a great facial moisturizer containing peptides and growth factors that can also be used on the body. Containing proprietary peptides that help skin to look firmer, this product can also replenish healing skin and is thus a great choice for recovery after cosmetic and dermatological treatments. I am personally not in the right income bracket for this product, but the before-and-after pictures of its efficacy at smoothing wrinkles and fine lines have definitely convinced me to bookmark it aspirationally.


TransFORM Body Treatment with TriHex Technology

Another rec from Dr. Woods, this body treatment is particularly effective at treating crepey skin. Hydrating the skin from the inside out with hyaluronic acid, glycosaminoglycans, and key botanicals like dill extract, this product also has some absolutely astounding before-and-after photos showcasing its skin-tightening effects, making a great case for splurging on it if you’re specifically looking to treat skin laxity.


Uradin Podos Moisturizing Gel

One last hot tip for my fellow KP girlies! According to Dr. Wood, this product–usually marketed to treat dry, cracked heels–works very well for treating KP, with Dr. Wood saying she uses it herself for that very purpose. With lactic acid and a formulation of 10 percent urea, I will definitely be picking this up if my KP flares back up. Dr. Woods notes that chemical exfoliation is the best way to treat KP, as physical exfoliators like beads or scrubs are often too harsh. Thus, I’ll definitely err on the side of avoiding the physical exfoliators and picking up some multi-use foot cream if my KP rears its ugly head again.

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