How to Build a Body Care Routine, According to Experts

How to Build a Body Care Routine, According to Experts

How to Build a Body Care Routine, According to Experts

One thing about us: we’re very serious about our body care routine. After all, the skin is the largest organ in the body. Any skin problem that can occur on your face — dryness, acne, sun damage, skin cancer — can crop up on the rest of your body, too. And like any other organ, the skin should be cared for comprehensively.

Having a proper body care routine is not only good for your skin, but it can also be relaxing. While some people fall asleep in their outside clothes without even bothering to wash their face, you slip into bed clean, slathered in moisture, with skin so smooth and glowy that you can see your reflection in it. Starting a routine can be daunting, so we asked three board-certified dermatologists to break it down for us. Below, find all the steps to build the perfect body care routine.

Step 1: Cleansing

First things first, regular cleansing sets the foundation for a great body care regimen. “Just like the skin of the face, we need to care for the skin of the body as well—we need to cleanse to remove dirt, oil, sweat, and impurities,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King. However, cleansing the body really depends on your skin type. For those with sensitive skin, dermatologist board-certified Dr. Omer Ibrahim recommends fragrance-free and hypoallergenic washes. For those with acne-prone skin, washes that include glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or ketoconazole help reduce breakouts on the trunk. Dr. King adds, “Look for body washes or beauty bars that contain gentle surfactants to thoroughly cleanse, as well as humectants and emollients to hydrate the skin and support the skin barrier.”

Cleansing Product Recommendations

  • Youth To The People Superfood Body Wash 
  • Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash
  • Natura Ekos Açaí Revitalizing Triple Phase Shower Oil
  • Kosas Exfoliating Body Wash

Step 2: Exfoliation

We’ll let you in on a little secret: regular exfoliation is key to glowing skin. As Dr. King explains, “Physical and chemical exfoliation can help to brighten and smooth the skin by sloughing off the old dead skin cells and revealing the fresh new cells underneath.” Exfoliation removes the outermost layers of the epidermis, unclogging pores, keeping skin clean, and reducing acne breakouts. It also exposes a fresh layer of skin that is ready to retain hydration when moisturizer is applied afterward, helping to plump the skin with moisture, making it look younger, smoother, and healthier. “Over time, regular exfoliation can increase cell turnover and stimulate collagen production,” says Dr. King. One thing to note is that exfoliation can be either chemical or physical.


Chemical exfoliants include salicylic acid, glycolic acid, fruit enzymes, citric acid, malic acid, and others, explains Dr. King. These may be applied in high concentrations by a dermatologist or in lower concentrations in over-the-counter products. Chemical exfoliation involves the use of products containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), or enzymes that act to loosen the glue-like substance holding the cells together, allowing them to ease away.


Mechanical (physical) exfoliation, on the other hand, involves physically scrubbing the skin with an abrasive. Mechanical exfoliants include microfiber cloths, adhesive exfoliation sheets, microbead facial scrubs, crepe paper, crushed apricot kernels or almond shells, sugar or salt crystals, pumice, and abrasive materials such as sponges, loofahs, and brushes.

According to Dr. Ibrahim, “Manual exfoliation is only necessary one to two times per week, and only if needed, to help rid the skin of any debris or dead skin layers.” However, most people tend to over-exfoliate. “Our skin is so perfectly engineered to exfoliate itself at a fairly constant and predictable rate. As such, gentle exfoliation is all that is necessary for the majority of people,” he adds.

Ingredients To Look For

Whether you are using a physical or chemical exfoliant, Dr. King recommends looking for a formulation with a moisturizing base to help lock in moisture and protect the skin barrier during exfoliation. “Look for humectants like glycerin or hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin, emollients like triglycerides or ceramides to support the skin barrier, and occlusives like petrolatum to lock in moisture,” she says. 

Exfoliating Product Recommendations

  • OSEA Undaria Cleansing Body Polish
  • Versed Buff It Out AHA Exfoliating Body Scrub
  • Isle of Paradise Confidently Clear Body Polish Scrub
  • Sidia The Body Exfoliant

Step 3: Target Your Concerns

“Just like facial skin, body skin can benefit from ingredients to target specific concerns,” explains Dr. King. Some of the most common body care concerns are acne, signs of aging, sagging, and hyperpigmentation. She details some key ingredients that target these concerns below.

  • Niacinamide: Helps improve tone and texture.
  • Antioxidants: Vitamin C and other antioxidants help brighten the skin and protect it from damage caused by free radicals. This is also a star ingredient for hyperpigmentation.
  • Retinol: Retinol and anti-aging peptides are effective for anti-aging, and salicylic acid is useful for treating acne and keratosis pilaris (KP).

If body acne is what you’re dealing with, it’s important to figure out the cause. “Some bumps are not true acne, but instead can be ‘fungal’ acne (pityrosporum), folliculitis due to pseudomonas or other bacteria, or other acne mimickers,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anar Mikailov. For basic acne, he suggests using a benzoyl peroxide body wash for two weeks, showering after sweating, and wearing loose, breathable fabrics that do not trap sweat. If the bumps do not subside, see a board-certified dermatologist.

Product Recommendations

  • Nécessaire The Body Retinol 
  • Paula’s Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment
  • Naturium Salicylic Acid Body Spray
  • First Aid Beauty KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub

Step 4: Moisturizing

No matter how lazy you might feel once you step out of the shower, moisturizing is a crucial step in any body care routine, especially if you want to prevent ashiness or scaliness. According to Dr. King, moisturizers should contain humectants to hydrate the skin, emollients to support the skin barrier, and occlusives to lock in moisture. She adds, “Dry skin types may need heavier emollients and occlusives, while acne-prone skin types should look for non-comedogenic formulations.”

  • For all skin types: Dr. Mikailov suggests moisturizers that are rich in plant-based ingredients like coconut oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, squalane, and ceramides. “These are naturally rich in various antioxidants, fatty acids, and plant compounds that lock in moisture and maintain the skin barrier.”
  • For atopic dermatitis, body acne, or other daily skin conditions: Dr. Mikailov says it is still important to keep the skin of the body moisturized to maintain the skin barrier. This can help minimize any dryness and itching while keeping the skin as healthy as possible.
  • For sensitive skin, dry skin, and eczema-prone skin: Avoid body moisturizers with fragrances. Look for products with minimal ingredients that absorb quickly.

Moisturizing Product Recommendations

  • Glossier Body Hero Daily Perfecting Lotion
  • Jergens Melanin Glow Hand and Body Lotion 
  • Charlotte Tilbury Magic Body Cream
  • Eucerin Advanced Repair Body Lotion

Step 5: Use Sun Protection

“Protecting our skin from sun exposure makes the single most dramatic difference in how our skin ages over time,” warns Dr. King. In other words, wear sunscreen every single day and reapply every two hours, as well as after swimming or sweating.

Much of the sun damage that accumulates in our skin is the result of daily incidental sun exposure, says Dr. King. Sunscreen reduces your overall UV exposure and lowers your risk of skin cancer and sun damage. “Regular daily use of SPF 15 (30 is even better) sunscreen can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40% and lower your melanoma risk by 50%. It also helps prevent premature skin aging caused by the sun, including wrinkles, sagging, and age spots,” she adds. Additionally, for many individuals, areas with chronic sun exposure like the forearms and neck can become very prone to spontaneous bruising as they age. “That’s due to chronic UV damage that breaks down the protective sheath around blood vessels, making the skin very prone to bruising. The skin texture can also change, leading to a crepe-y texture, due to collagen breakdown,” says Dr. Mikailov.

What to Look for When Shopping for SPF:

  • Broad-Spectrum Protection: “No matter the type of sunscreen you purchase, it must say broad-spectrum on the package,” says Dr. Mikailov. This indicates it’s been tested to filter out both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Ease of Application: When it comes to body SPF, it should spread and apply easily over a large surface area to ensure that every square inch of skin is protected. 
  • Water Resistance: For body sunscreen, look for one that is water-resistant, as people tend to sweat when outdoors under the sun or going in and out of water. “It’s safer to use one that is water-resistant,” says Dr. Mikailov.
  • Sprays: While creams are generally recommended, if you go the spray route, make sure each body area is sprayed over at least three times. Better yet, use your hands to rub the SPF in. This helps ensure that no body parts are missed.

SPF Recommendations

  • Blue Lizard Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+ 
  • CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen
  • Supergoop Unseen Body Sunscreen
  • Coola Organic Sunscreen Spray 

Step 6: Incorporate Tools As Needed

Additional body care practices, such as dry brushing, sculpting/massage tools, and Gua Sha, can be added at the end of your routine to relax and massage the skin.

Dry brushing, for example, is a form of physical exfoliation where a dry brush is used to gently massage dry skin. Dr. King explains, “Gentle dry brushing will help to remove dead skin cells and reveal a brighter complexion. Over time, exfoliation can speed up cell turnover and help minimize some of the effects of aging.” She continues, “I recommend starting with very gentle pressure for only thirty seconds at a time, two to three times per week.” Depending on how your skin reacts, you can slowly increase to up to three minutes at a time once daily (times are per area). A soft brush is all that is needed for manual brushing. Especially if you have sensitive or dry skin, it is very important to use a brush with soft bristles and to apply only very light pressure. The pressure should be very gentle and should not hurt. If it hurts, you are rubbing too hard. “If you are using any type of Gua Sha or massage tools, make sure the skin is well moisturized so the tool glides smoothly,” adds Dr. Mikailov.

Tool Recommendations

  • Goop G Tox Dry Brush
  • Kate McLeod The Body Gua Sha
  • The Skinny Confidential Butter Brush 
  • Love Wellness Bye Bye Bloat Lymphatic Massage Roller

The Final Takeaway

While you don’t need to spend hours every night on your body care routine, there are a few simple steps like cleansing, exfoliating, and moisturizing that are non-negotiable. If you have specific skincare concerns like acne or hyperpigmentation, you may need to customize your body care routine and incorporate targeted treatments.

If you’re following this routine in the morning, don’t forget your sunscreen! And for those who enjoy the ritualistic aspect of a body care routine, feel free to enhance the experience with tools like a dry brush or gua sha.


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