If you haven’t happened upon the realization yet, you will eventually: body skin ages much like the face, with spotting, sagging and wrinkling emerging after years of sun exposure, and the effects of gravity and lifestyle all taking a toll. (We know, such fun, right?) And because of its physiology, body skin is more difficult to treat than your face.
“The outer covering, or stratum corneum, is thicker on your body, so topical treatments can’t easily penetrate to reverse aging,” explains Anne Chapas, M.D., clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Medical Center. “Body skin also has fewer oil glands, so it recovers slower and dries more easily following procedures.” Add the fact that there’s so much more surface area to treat, and even treatments you’d otherwise use with great results on your face can be cost prohibitive to apply to the body.
Luckily, in terms of what really works, making a noticeable difference is still within reach. “I believe the single best ingredient that is cost effective is a high-strength glycolic acid, with a concentration of 10 to 15 percent,” says Chicago dermatologist, Amy Taub, M.D. With consistent use, you can expect smoother, brighter skin stimulated by increased collagen production—but don’t expect dark sun freckles or wrinkling to change significantly.Another effective—and cheap!—strategy is to moisturize generously, daily. “Skin with higher water content always looks younger than dry skin,” says Chapas. Look for body lotions that contain shea butter, lactic acid, urea, glycerin and ceramides for the most hydrating results. And while it’s been said before and isn’t the most exciting advice, it remains true that the best prevention is to wear an SPF 30+ sunscreen on exposed skin every day.
“Compare the skin on your arms with the skin on your bum—that’s the difference sun protection makes,” says Washington, D.C. dermatologist, Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D.If you’re open to the pricey yet effective options offered at the dermatologist’s office, the horizon has never looked so youthful. For body wrinkles, sun spots and loose, crepey skin, Fraxel Restore Dual is showing the most promising results of today’s lasers, according to both Chapas and Tanzi. “Multiple treatments are required, but people who start now can have younger-looking skin by summer,” says Chapas. And if it’s laxity right above the knee that’s bothering you, the Thermage laser—more commonly used to tighten the face and neck—shows particular effectiveness in this area, says Taub.
Cellulite can be a frustrating body issue that intensifies with age, and procedures offered at spas and dermatology offices have notoriously produced minimal results at maximum cost and time. However, Taub says she considers the Apollo, a new radiofrequency device, a “second generation cellulite treatment with better results in fewer sessions, and no discomfort.” We’ll take an order of that, please.