How to build a body care routine

Tips and tricks on giving your body the attention it deserves.

6 minute read

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We’re here to tell you what we know, but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider about your specific health concerns.

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Finding and building a skincare routine that works for you is a major accomplishment, but it isn’t the only routine you should think about. The skin below your neck is just as important as the skin above it, and your whole self deserves some care.

That doesn’t mean you should use your facial products everywhere, though! The skin on your body tends to be thicker than the skin on your face, so there’s no guarantee that your facial products will cut it—even if you have similar skin concerns, like acne or dryness. Luckily, we’ve compiled some resources to help you build a body care routine and give yourself the pampering you deserve.

Figure out what’s causing your body acne

If you have body acne, it can help to identify potential causes—which can be tricky, because anything that might lead to acne on your face can also lead to acne on your body. Some common causes are:

Not showering after working out. Exercise and sweating don’t cause acne, per se—but the moisture of sweat can be a great breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to breakouts. After you’re done exercising, shower and change clothes right away.

Tight clothing. Tight clothes that don’t let your skin “breathe” are another potential trigger. They trap heat and cause friction on your skin, which makes breakouts more likely to occur. 

Laundry detergent. It might sound bizarre, but patients sometimes find that their body acne improves when they switch to a detergent without sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. There’s no proof that this really does make a difference, but it might be something to consider if you’re dealing with a particularly stubborn breakout! Look for products labeled as sulfate-free or SLS-free.

...and is it really body acne?

Bumps on some parts of the body—like the scalp or butt—often aren’t true acne. “Butt acne,” for example, is actually often the result of damaged hair follicles or just plain ol’ genetics. But for all intents and purposes, it may help to treat “butt acne” as you would regular body acne—so using antibacterial soaps or cleansers with salicylic acid may do the trick.

The scalp, on the other hand, is a whole other thing. Acne along the hairline isn’t unusual, but bumps on the scalp likely aren’t acne—so it may be worth getting it checked out by your in-person provider.

Use a body wash that works for you

With so many body washes out there, we’re really spoiled for choice. In general, it’s smart to stick with something gentle and hydrating. Be sure to thoroughly read the labels, too; some ingredients can clog pores and make a breakout worse—like cocoa butter, coconut oil, isopropyl myristate, laureth-4, and sodium lauryl sulfate.

For body acne, we often recommend using a zinc pyrithione soap, which can help get rid of bacteria and fungi that live on the skin. To make sure the zinc pyrithione has enough time to do its thing, we recommend leaving the soap suds on your skin for about a minute before rinsing it off. 

Suggested zinc pyrithione soap bars:

If bar soap isn’t your thing, a body wash with salicylic acid (like the Curology acne body wash) might do the trick! Look for one that’s gentle enough to use a few times a week (or even every day!) and doesn’t include ingredients that can potentially clog pores or worsen breakouts, like sodium lauryl sulfate.

Suggested acne body washes:

Exfoliate regularly (but gently!)

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead cells from the surface of your skin and can be a great way to help keep your skin healthy and clean—although it’s not strictly necessary. There are two types of exfoliation: physical and chemical. Physical vs. chemical exfoliation is a personal choice, but the key to both is to be gentle and not overdo it!

Physical exfoliation

Physical exfoliation is when you, well, physically rub off dead, rough skin. Some common examples of exfoliators are konjac sponges, rotating brushes, and even sand! They can be harsh when used too often, so we recommend against aggressive scrubbing.

Chemical exfoliation

Chemical exfoliants are acids that help to clear away dead skin cells. Two of the most common types are AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid, aka salicylic acid). Both work by dissolving the “cement” that holds dead skin cells to the skin’s surface. They’re a great way to avoid physical scrubbing altogether, but beware—overdoing it can lead to irritation and may actually make your acne worse. If you have sensitive skin, it may be wise to lay off on chemical exfoliants entirely or use one with a lower strength active ingredient.

Chemical Exfoliant models

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

Moisturizing your face is an important step to help keep your skin cells healthy and prevent irritation—and the same goes for your body. What kind of moisturizer to use really boils down to personal preference, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure that any products you use on your body are non-comedogenic (aka don’t clog pores) and don’t contain irritating ingredients.

Body lotions: light consistency, with more water content and less oil

Body creams: heavier than a lotion, with more oil content and less water

Body butters: the heaviest and densest of the three; great for packing in deep hydration

Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Sunscreen is one of the most important steps in your body care routine, and for good reason: sun damage plays a significant role in skin aging. As warm and relaxing as the sun can be, it also emits UV rays, which are known to cause skin cancer and photoaging. In other words, fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots can all be caused by sunshine.

Sunscreens can be classified as physical, chemical, or both, depending on the ingredients.

Physical sunscreen

  • Contains titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, which may help soothe irritation

  • Physically reflects or “bounce” sunlight away from the skin

  • Certain kinds of physical sunscreen may leave a white cast on the skin (unless rubbed in well, micronized, or tinted)

Tip: Got acne-prone and/or sensitive skin? Physical sunscreen tends to be better tolerated and less irritating for some, so it may be the sunscreen type for you!

Chemical sunscreen

  • Contains ingredients such as avobenzone and octisalate

  • Absorbs UV light so that it can’t penetrate the skin

  • May irritate or cause an allergic reaction in certain people’s skin

Sun protection tips:

  • Wear broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+ every day (even if you’re indoors!)

  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours of sun exposure (or more often if you’re swimming or sweating)

  • Practice sun avoidance by seeking shade and wearing sun-blocking clothing (like sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats)

Suggested sunscreens:

Get back at bacne

Still not quite sure where to start? Don’t worry, that’s totally normal—and that’s where Curology comes in. Sign up for a free trial* of Curology to get a prescription formula customized to your skin’s unique needs, plus shipped straight to your door. 

Curology bodywash bottle

Want something that’s designed to kick back acne to the curb? The acne body wash has you covered (literally) with its gentle, lightly foaming goodness. A splash of salicylic acid washes, treats, and helps prevent—easy.

Check out our other guides for more skincare tips and tricks, and remember: we’ve got your back!

• • •

We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.

Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Trial is 30 days + $4.95 shipping and handling.


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