I'm a skincare fanatic. My medicine cabinet shelves (and my closet, and my drawers…) are bursting at the seams with serums, toners, and moisturizers, and I take my time each night to thoughtfully treat my face and neck with hydrating and pore-cleaning products. But the skin on my body? That doesn't get nearly as much love. I cleanse it with body wash and use some in-shower lotion, but that's the extent of my bodycare. Writing out my negligence as it pertains to my neck down spotlights the hypocrisy and the illogical nature of my routine, and my only explanation is laziness. As a 27-year-old, I'm not currently noticing signs of aging on my body like I am on my face, so I'm not as proactive about preventative care—out of sight, out of mind, I suppose.
But here's the thing: As we age, our skin goes through two different and major forms of aging: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic aging refers to aging that occurs internally, such as thinning of the epidermis (the top layer of skin), as well as a process called elastosis where changes in the connective tissue reduce the skin's strength and elasticity. The sebaceous glands also begin to produce less oil, which leads to dry, crepey skin. Extrinsically, our skin is aged via the environment and lifestyle choices, such as smoking and sun exposure. And while we can't technically prevent intrinsic aging, there are several science-backed ways we can put up a shield to external factors thanks to the help of hardworking products. So to find out which fountain-of-youth potions will best help keep our body skin looking smooth, we turned to a few top dermatologists for their thoughts.
We know. You were hoping for a cool body serum or easy spray-on that'll make your skin look like Beyoncé just blessed it with holy water. But the number one recommended anti-aging product by almost every dermatologist interviewed was good ole sunscreen.
"The simplest anti-aging product for your body is a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays," Says Rachel Nazarian, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group. "It is much easier to prevent the aging effects of the sun and environmental factors than it is to treat the damage they can cause. My favorite sunscreen right now is EltaMD."
Jeremy Brauer, MD, agrees. "The best products for anti-aging are broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protective sunscreens and UPF/SPF sun-protective clothing (hats, shirts, gloves) that all help to prevent the sun damage in the first place," he says.
Bauer also praises retinol for its "skin-thickening" abilities. "The best topical overall is use of a retinoid-/retinol-containing product that has been shown to help stimulate new collagen." Retinol slows the loss of elastin, prevent the rise of collagenase (the enzyme that breaks down collagen), and lighten discoloration in addition to minimizing the look of fine lines.
We know the benefits of using glycolic acid on our facial skin (deep exfoliation revealing smoother, more even skin), so it's no surprise it's such a well-regarded remedy for the skin on our bodies too.
"The best anti-aging products for the body that I recommend is glycolic acid," says Gervaise Gerstner, MD. "I personally use 20% glycolic pads."
Sun exposure can lead to hyperpigmentation and aging indicators like liver spots on the skin, so if you weren't diligent with your SPF, you might try a reactive measure such as SkinMedica Lytera 2.0, SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense, and SkinBetter Even (sold at your dermatologist's office). Brauer likes these because they lack hydroquinone, a skin-lightening ingredient found in some dark-spot treatments that has side effects such as burning, stinging, redness, and severe dryness.
Up next, check out the moisturizers that delay our editor's Botox appointments.