Understanding The Difference Between Facial And Body Skin

With Charlotte Clague, Alpha-H Retail Training and Education Manager

When you compare the amount of money you spend on products dedicated to your face versus those for your body, there’s no doubt a significant discrepancy. 

Technically it’s all the same thing though, right? Well, yes and no. 

The skin on our bodies protects us from the outside world. It provides a barrier against environmental stressors such as pollutants, bacteria and protects us against water loss. It also provides a flexible covering for our vital organs and plays a crucial role in regulating our body temperature.

Our body skin can appear like the skin on our face, however, it has some unique differences to facial skin and as a result, requires particular care.

The main differences between facial and body skin

Skin thickness: Facial skin is thinner than the skin on our bodies. Of course, this varies depending on which part of the body, however in general, the fat layer under the skin is thicker on the body than the face. Another unique difference is that some areas of our body such as the hands and soles of the feet have a whole extra layer in the epidermis (the top layer of the skin) that covers them. This additional layer allows for increased resilience and stretch in these areas. 

Skin cell turnover rate: There is a naturally occurring slower skin cell turnover rate in the skin on the body, often resulting in drier, thicker, and scalier skin. As it takes longer to replace existing skin cells with new ones, dead cells can linger for longer on your body making it appear dry, dull and sometimes even flaky.

Dryness: The skin on the body has fewer oil-producing sebaceous glands than the face–the highest concentration being found in our t-zone–so dryness tends to be more of a concern.

And how does the skin on the body age compared to the skin on the face?

The skin on our body–apart from frequently exposed areas such as the arms and hands–does tend to have better protection against UV rays because we generally cover it up. As exposure to the sun is one of the primary causes of skin ageing, this means that the rate of extrinsic or external ageing in covered areas will be much slower.

Age-related changes to the skin on the body are like those on the face in that they can include thinning, sagging, wrinkling and in areas frequently exposed to the sun, the appearance of age spots. Broken blood vessels and areas of dryness as well as skin health concerns such as skin cancer are also more common as we age and appear on the skin on our body. 

So, how can we care for the skin on our bodies?

Most of us follow a regular skincare regime that pays special attention to the skin on our face, while the skin on our body generally plays second fiddle. But, it is equally important. A simple yet effective routine should be applied to body care too. 

To start with, turn down the heat and ensure that you take showers or baths using warm water. Warm water is much less drying than hot and helps to avoid unnecessary capillary dilation which can lead to visible broken capillaries. These are quite common across the decolletage which is the primary area we tend to have the shower beating down on us. Also when cleansing the body, choose mild gentle cleansers that do not strip vital oils as this may cause irritation and lead to a compromised barrier and dehydration.

For problem areas such as chest and back breakouts, try a naturally antibacterial non-foaming cleanser such as Alpha-H Clear Skin Daily Face & Body Wash.

Each morning ensure that body skin exposed to the sun is adequately protected and apply a broad-spectrum SPF, ensuring that you re-apply according to directions if you are out on the sun for prolonged periods, swimming or exercising (try: Alpha-H  Daily Essential Moisturiser SPF 50+).

When it comes to hydration, a daily hydrating lotion or body moisturiser is key. Remember to reapply after showering and pay special attention to particularly dry areas such as elbows, knees, and heels. 

Regular exfoliation is particularly important for the skin on the body

Our skin is constantly shedding dead cells. In young healthy skin, this process occurs naturally around every 30 days and encourages fresh new cells to push their way to the skin’s surface. These fresh cells are plump and smooth and change the appearance of the skin giving it increased luminosity.

However, the skin on the body sheds slower than facial skin. As we age, the rate at which this process occurs begins to slow down even more and dead skin cell build-up accumulates on the top layer of the skin. This accumulation of dead cells can make the skin appear dull.

Exfoliating dead skin cell build-up from this outer layer of the skin to speed up or mimic the skin’s own natural process of shedding helps to reveal fresher, smoother skin underneath. Regular exfoliation can also help products penetrate the skin more evenly and effectively, encouraging the production of vital proteins that form the skin’s supportive layer such as skin-plumping collagen.

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