BODY CARE 101:
When you think about body care, it can be just as overwhelming as face care in terms of the options. There are so many products on the market and so many different versions of the same thing. Just think about how many options you have for soap. From bar soap to liquid body wash and everything in between. And that's just to get you cleansed. What about the rest?
Let's break down the steps that should be a regular part of your body care routine, and then we'll get into the rest of the details. Bare minimum (in my opinion) should be cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing and in that order. Each have a very specific function, starting with the cleanse.
You want to wash with a soap or body cleanser to wash off dirt, excess oils, sweat, pollution, etc. every time you shower. Depending on your skin type and climate, you will want to look for a cleansing product that is antibacterial and possibly moisturizing. Look for soaps that contain ingredients such as shea butter, glycerin or olive oil which will not strip the skin like regular soap. In terms of liquid vs. bar soap, it mostly comes down to preference as they are mostly similar.
If you're wondering why we don't scrub first, it's because we want to get all the dirt off with our cleanser. Scrubbing is for another thing entirely - getting rid of dead surface skin. If we're only cleansing and not exfoliating, then the job is only half done. Getting rid of the surface dryness will then allow our moisturizing products to penetrate better and our cells to generate new healthy skin.
We don't need to exfoliate every time we cleanse. Doing so could actually be detrimental and irritate the skin. As with our face care exfoliants, less is more. Think every other day or every 3-4 days depending on how sensitive your skin is. You don't want to strip your skin of too many natural oils either. A few times a week is plenty.
When it comes to how we exfoliate, we have a lot of options. You may find one more compatible with your skin type or you may like to switch it up. Either is fine. We recommend having at least two options and maybe rotating regularly, as each method has its own benefits.
Body Scrub: This is probably the most common method used by people who exfoliate. Scrubs are a rather delightful treat, as they can be not only very aromatic but also very moisturizing and pampering. Often made from sugar, salt, honey, and oils, they provide natural exfoliation and hydration. Depending on your preference you can look for light exfoliation from things like jojoba beads and coffee grounds, to more gritty exfoliants like nut powders and fruit seeds. The variety is one of the best parts about using scrubs!
Scrub Gloves/Towels/Loofahs: Popularized in the late 90s, textured scrubbing tools come in many forms. From natural versions like a loofah to synthetic sponges, these are great tools that can be used in conjunction with your body wash, soap or scrub to enhance exfoliation. New technology even allows you to choose how much exfoliation you want at different levels of intensity. Just be sure to wash them regularly are replace them frequently.
AHA/BHA Exfoliating Washes: Think of these as an "active" body wash. Similar to a glycolic cleanser for the face, active body washes incorporate enzymes or other forms of chemical exfoliation to help loosen dead skin on the surface and exfoliate as you cleanse.WeI like using these types of products when shaving the legs, in addition to the natural exfoliation that shaving provides. These cleansers are also great to use a couple of times a week, if you struggle with breakouts on your back or elsewhere on the body.
Dry Brushing: Although it's not for everyone, dry brushing is something most people should do on a regular basis. Dry brushing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Using a coarse brush, you brush upwards in small circular strokes, starting at your feet and working your way up the body toward the heart. You do not want to scrub too harshly or break the skin.
The idea is to gently exfoliate but also encourage circulation, and help rid the body of toxins. All of which are good for your skin. Dry brushing is even thought to help diminish cellulite. The best time to do dry brushing is first thing in the morning for a few minutes before showering. However, you should still take days off and not exfoliate with a dry brush every day.
Next comes the part most of us know to do. Moisturize. We do this almost instinctively when our skin starts to feel dry, itchy or ashy. But often, by the time our skin is at this point, it's already late in the game. If we do our other steps regularly - particularly exfoliation - and then moisturize regularly to boot, our skin doesn't have to get to the point of no return. We can keep it soft and supple with regular care.
In addition to staying hydrated internally, we need to feed and hydrate the skin of our whole body externally. For most people this means a lotion or a body cream. Other people use oils. I'll explain both and what they are good for, but I advocate for both being part of your routine in some capacity.
Body Lotions, Creams and Butters: These things are mostly the same, save for the consistency. Lotions tend to be light weight (sometimes even taking the form of "body milk") whereas creams get thicker and body butters are traditionally the heaviest form of moisture. All are great depending on your preference. However, the more dry your skin tends to be, the more you should opt for a thicker body moisturizer.
Unlike the face, the body has larger pores and can absorb thicker blends containing shea, coconut and cocoa butter. These ingredients tend to melt at body temperature and are therefore easily absorbed by the skin. (Especially if you exfoliated first.)
Body Oils: For centuries, oils have been used in pure form to treat the body and the skin. Argan oil, for example is immensely popular. Olive oil and coconut oil are other ingredients that have been used over time and are still widely used to this day. Oils are great as they provide quick nourishment for the skin. However, because they lack the water-based ingredients contained in creams, they are not always enough to properly hydrate the skin. Oils work best when used in conjunction with a cream, lotion or moisturizing scrub.