How to Create a Body Skincare Routine for Healthy Skin, According to Dermatologists

Because skincare shouldn’t stop below your face

Body Skincare Routine: universal image of a woman applying lotion on her neck
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When we think about skincare, we tend to concentrate on our faces. But that seems to be changing in recent years with more people taking an interest in caring for the skin below their necks, too. In fact, according to Pinterest Predicts, a forecasting report from the company that shares emerging trends, the term “body skincare routine” is up 1,025 percent since last year, which is also reflected in the increase of body care products we’ve been seeing as well. If you’re ready to invest in your own body skincare routine but aren’t quite sure where to start, we worked with two board-certified dermatologists to put together a streamlined plan for you ahead.

Here's Why I Moisturize My Entire Body

Meet the Experts

  • Anar Mikailov, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the co-founder of Skintensive, an award-winning and science-backed skincare brand founded by two Harvard-trained dermatologists including Mikailov. He is also the co-author of the world-famous Fitzpatrick’s Color Atlas and Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology, 9th Edition, a best-selling dermatology textbook. Mikailov is dual-board certified in both Internal Medicine and Dermatology, and he practices medical and consultative dermatology full-time in Rochester, New York.
  • Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology. She received her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. She then went on to do a research fellowship at Harvard Medical School at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine.

Why Should You Have a Body Skincare Routine?

“The skin is the largest organ protecting our bodies from harmful microorganisms and environmental stressors by providing a protective layer. It’s important to maintain its health and strength by having a good body care routine,” explains Dr. Shirazi, adding, “Routines, in general, give us structure and stability and if you have one for your face, [it makes sense that you’d want to] extend that onto your body as well.”

Dr. Mikailov agrees. “Good routines lead to good habits,” he says. When applied to your skincare, “Having a consistent routine can help address any existing problems (i.e., body acne) and prevent future problems from arising.”

On that note, some other benefits of having a regular body care routine include:

  • Preventing breakouts: If you’re active or prone to breaking out, washing with a cleanser that has ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid in it can help keep your skin clear.
  • Keeping your skin smooth and soft: Our skin needs moisture everywhere and often. In fact, there are certain areas below the neck—like the elbows, knees and the soles of our feet—that need more supplemental moisture (via lotions, creams or oils), as there are fewer sebaceous glands in these areas.
  • Providing sun protection: Our skin needs sun protection everywhere it’s exposed to UV rays to prevent skin cancer and premature signs of aging. Apply a broad spectrum of at least 30 daily and wear UPF clothing and accessories whenever possible for additional protection.

What Are the Steps of a Basic Body Skincare Routine?

“An ideal skincare routine should be simple and minimal,” says Dr. Mikailov. “When showering, concentrate on cleansing the skin folds (i.e., armpits, groin, buttocks, elbows, behind the knees, under the breasts) and using lukewarm water is much better than hot water, which can strip the skin of its natural oils,” he advises.

Not to worry, we’ll walk you through each step in more detail ahead.

Body Skincare Routine: a woman's back covered in soapy suds
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1. Cleanse

“How often you cleanse your body will depend on your lifestyle, activity level and skin propensities,” says Dr. Shirazi. “In general, I recommend washing daily or every other day. If you’re showering more than once daily, then you may be overcleansing, therefore stripping your skin of its natural oils, which causes dryness, irritation and possibly breakouts,” she cautions.

You also want to choose the right cleanser for your skin type and lifestyle. In most cases, Dr. Shirazi recommends looking for cleansers with gentle surfactants and hydrating ingredients such as glycerin and niacinamides (and if you’re prone to body odor, she suggests using a benzoyl peroxide wash to cleanse your armpits periodically).

Body Skincare Routine: a woman in the bathtub scrubbing her feet with a pumice stone
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2. Exfoliate

“Exfoliation is recommended no more than two times a week using a glycolic or salicylic acid-based product to help remove dead skin cells, even out your skin tone, reduce breakouts and smooth out skin texture,” advises Dr. Shirazi.

“In general, chemical exfoliants are favorable, as they work at the cellular level to renew skin cells, while also evening out your skin tone and texture.” They also tend to be gentler on your skin. That said, there can be a time and a place for physical exfoliators (i.e., a scrub, towel, mitt or pumice stone for your feet), depending on your skin type and needs. No matter what you use, make sure not to overdo it—again, there’s no need to exfoliate more than twice a week—and be gentle with how much pressure you use, particularly in the case of physical exfoliators like a mitt.

Body Skincare Routine: a woman applying body lotion to her arms
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3. Moisturize

Dr. Mikailov recommends moisturizing after every wash. “Ideally, you want to do it right after you shower within three minutes of stepping out.” This will help lock in the moisture before it evaporates completely from your skin.

As for choosing the right moisturizer, Dr. Mikailov says to look for plant-based ingredients that help maintain the skin barrier like coconut oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, squalane and ceramides.

Body Skincare Routine: a woman applying sunscreen to her arms

4. Protect

Rain or shine, you should be applying broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on any part of your body that is exposed to sunlight. UV exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer and signs of premature aging, including sunspots and wrinkles. Luckily, using a daily sunscreen can offer protection against both, and there are plenty of newer SPF formulas that feel light on your skin and absorb better than the thick, chalky sunscreens we used as kids.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Do You Really Need to Shower as Part of Your Body Skincare Routine?

This depends on multiple factors, including your skin type, your activity level, odor and the weather. “Daily showering is appropriate for the majority of individuals. More often is generally not recommended unless the individual’s activity level is marked. Every other day showers are also quite appropriate for individuals who live in much drier climates, during winters, or who have a dry skin type,” says Dr. Mikailov.

Should I Try Dry Brushing?

Dry brushing can help exfoliate the skin and also temporarily boost circulation and lymphatic drainage. That said both dermatologists caution that “it can be overdone leading to micro tears in the skin and irritation from its abrasive nature.” TL;DR If you choose to dry brush, be sure you are moisturizing regularly and if you have body acne eczema or psoriasis, you should avoid dry brushing altogether.

When Should I See a Dermatologist for My Body Skincare Routine?

If you have any skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or persistent body acne, it’s best to see a board-certified dermatologist, who can curate a body skincare routine to help treat these skin conditions.

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...