Our body’s largest organ, the skin is in charge of protecting our body and regulating our temperature, not to mention all of our sensory recognition. Therefore, taking care of your skin is an important part of your daily routine — despite rumors that skin care is “frivolous” or a “waste of money” — those just aren’t true! Did you know that the skin on your face and the skin on your body aren’t exactly one in the same?! It’s true! Because taking care of our skin is equal parts crucial and a wonderful part of self care, it’s important to understand the differences between what’s on our faces and what’s below the chin… and how to care for each in the proper ways!
The Skin On Your Face
The skin on our faces is usually the oiliest, and that’s because there’s an abundance of pores on our complexions. A pore, which is also a hair follicle, serves as a tiny tunnel through which sebum (the name for your body’s natural oil) travels to reach the surface of the skin. There, it creates a layer of protection that hydrates and “waterproofs” our bodies, preventing bacteria and dirt from getting in and water from getting out.
That sebum is created by sebaceous glands, which are found connected to the pores all over the body (with the exception of our palms and the soles of our feet). Most of these glands are attached to the pores & hair follicles on our faces and scalps, which explains why some people have particularly oily faces and hair.
In addition to being prone to excessive oil production, our facial skin in thinner that the skin that’s found on the rest of our bodies. The average thickness of the skin that covers your face is between 0.05 millimeters (for the thinnest skin on our bodies, which is around the eyes) and 0.1 mm. That’s compared to those particularly well-covered palms and soles, which have skin that measures around 1.5 millimeters thick. Male’s skin is typically thicker than female skin, and can be as thick as 4.0 millimeters.
This means that our faces can be more sensitive to certain ingredients or formulas, and likely means that your face is susceptible to wrinkles and fine lines sooner than your body. Bad news, we know! Another huge impact on your facial skin is the environment — damaging UV rays from the sun, plus other environmental factors (think harsh winds, chlorine, or extra dry air). In other words, our faces end up putting up with a lot every day, and that’s why we need to make sure we’re taking protective and preventive measures to ensure our face stays healthy and safe!
The Skin On Your Body
The skin on our bodies is quite different from the skin on our face for a variety of reasons, the main one being the thickness of our dermal layers. Come again? The dermis is the second layer of our skin — it’s beneath the epidermis (our top layer) and it contains tough connective tissue, hair follicles, and sweat glands.
While the thin, sensitive skin on our face feels like it would be the one to worry about, the thicker skin on our bodies comes with its own set of issues — the main one being dryness. With fewer sebaceous glands attached to the pores on the body, and the general thickness of the skin across the body, the skin below our chin can sometimes end up with a buildup of dead skin cells. Did you know that your skin regenerates every 27 days, making way for new, fresh skin? Crazy, but true!
Because most parts of our bodies see the sun less frequently than our faces, the skin on these typically hidden areas is subject to burn when we step out in our bathing suits or on those sunny spring and summer days. Just another reason why taking the time to slather on SPF is so important.
Then why do we get acne on our face AND body?
Remember when we explained how dead cells get stuck on your bod? Well, if you’re acne prone, it’s important to know that breakouts happen when extra oil and bacteria combine with (you guessed it) dead skin cells and clog up our pores. Boom, now you’ve got blackheads and whiteheads. When P. acnes bacteria begins munching on the debris caught in your pores, your body senses an infection and sends white blood cells to fight the invader. Boom, now you’ve got red, inflamed pimples.
So this is why an exfoliating routine is just as important on say, the chest or back, as it is on your face — and that’s especially true if body breakouts are an issue you deal with. Even if you don’t have acne, but just find that your skin just looks dry, dull, or rough, it’s probably because your bod needs an extra hand exfoliating away all those dead cells it’s trying to shed.
All that said, whether you get pimples on your cheeks, chest, or both, the body and the face are equally susceptible to breakouts for these reasons:
Genetics: Your parents and skin type play a role in whether you breakout on your body, so if one or both of them have acne or oily skin, chances are that’s what your condition can be traced back to.
Hormones: Whether you see breakouts occasionally or all the time, acne is a skin condition attributed to a hormonal imbalance, particularly in regard to androgens — like testosterone. During times when our hormones tend to go a little haywire (we’re talking about puberty, pregnancy, or menstrual cycles, just to name a few) those extra, unbalanced hormones can make your sebaceous glands go into overdrive. That means they’re producing more sebum, which can lead to more clogged pores, which can then lead to breakouts.
Bacteria/Sweat Covered Skin: Sweating doesn’t cause acne, but not washing your sweaty skin post-workout can lead to breakouts, especially if you’re hanging around in tight, sweat-soaked clothing, which can block pores and introduce excess bacteria.
Pore-Clogging Products: Sometimes the very things we used to treat our skin can have an adverse effect on our skin… especially if you’re already acne-prone. Thick, oily products containing parabens and occlusive ingredients can block pores and make the skin on your body more susceptible to acne. If you’re struggling with breakouts, look to labels marked oil-free and noncomedogenic.
Okay, so how should I treat my face and my bod?
The most important thing to keep in mind, and something that might save you from a lot of time, money, and frustration down the road, is to never assume that just because a product works on one area, it will work for another. Mild or moderate body acne may respond to a medicated facial wash, but if your breakouts don’t seem to budge, look to a wash designed to treat body acne — likely one with stronger active ingredients in a more robust formula. And whatever you do, don’t use that body wash (or bar soap) on your face — those detergents will dry you out in no time, and may be too much for your thinner facial skin to handle.
The same thing applies to body moisturizers – they’re formulated to be thicker and heavier for the skin on your body, and they may block the pores on your face and cause irritation or even breakouts.
When it comes specifically to treating facial and body acne, the idea is essentially the same, with just a few minor adjustments to keep in mind.
First things first, you’ll want to take care not to overdry either area, as stripping the skin of oil will only trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more oil to make up for what was lost. Stop the cycle by reaching for the right formulas! The SLMD Acne System is a great option for helping to treat acne-prone skin with an easy, 3 step system.
If body acne is an issue for you, you’ll want to take extra care to make sure any affected areas are cleansed gently without zapping that already thick, acne-prone area of all it’s necessary oils. Look for medicated washes that swap drying detergents for a higher percentage of active ingredients. Our favorite is the SLMD Acne Body System, which has a Salicylic Acid Body Wash and a Salicylic Acid Body Spray that contain 2% salicylic acid to treat acne while gently exfoliating the skin.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’re cleansing your skin — no matter where it is on your body — of any dirt, oil, makeup, bacteria, or other buildup that can collect. This is especially true of your complexion and especially important before bed!
A good rule of thumb is to wash your face no more than twice a day and get your suds on in the shower once a day. In both cases, make sure you’re using a cleanser that’s designed to treat your specific skin type — acne prone, oily, dry, sensitive, etc. If your acne is chronic, or you’re just experiencing an influx of breakouts, follow up with a leave-on treatment. Same goes for your back and chest — a body treatment spray like the SLMD Salicylic Acid Body Spray can keep working overnight or throughout the day, as many times a day as needed. Finally, follow up with a moisturizer that’s got SPF — essential for the face, and equally important for any exposed skin on your limbs, back or chest.