Chances are good that if you own an antiaging cream, it’s for your face. We’re so focused on our reflection that we forget there’s other territory affected by time: the skin below our necks. While this thought may depress you (“Oh, great, now I’ve got to start looking for wrinkles on my back!”), it’s meant to be encouraging. “The skin on the body is so neglected that just by regularly using something–anything–you can make a visible difference,” says Nicholas Perricone, M.D., assistant professor of clinical dermatology at Yale University.
Products for the body are more effective than ever, because skin-care companies–including Estee Lauder, Jergens, Lubriderm, Neutrogena, and Olay–are tweaking formulas used in facial products to target thicker-skinned, less-sensitive areas. That often involves increasing concentrations of active antiaging ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids, vitamin C, and retinol. So read on to find out how to get younger-looking skin–without having to join a gym or police what you put in your mouth!
HOW OLD IS YOUR SKIN? DEPENDS WHERE YOU LOOK
YOUR YOUNGEST SKIN
Where Inner arms, buttocks, lower abdomen, breasts, thighs
Why “These areas have had virtually no UV exposure or wear and tear in terms of flexing and bending,” says Tim Fowler, senior scientist for Olay skin care. “So they’re the closest you’ll get to baby skin.”
What’s next The signs of aging that will eventually appear in these areas are mostly due to genetics, not external factors. You can expect to see gradual dryness and lack of elasticity, but probably not until your 50s or even your 60s.
YOUR MIDDLE-AGED SKIN
Where Elbows, knees, bottoms of feet, cuticles
Why The physical stress, pressure, and friction endured by these areas create rough, dry, scaly patches. “The almost-constant bending and bumping gives skin on these body parts a dull and unhealthy appearance,” Fowler says.
What’s next If ignored for too long, deep cracks can develop, especially on feet. The good news? “You can treat these areas and see immediate improvement,” Fowler says. “Just body lotion will go a long way.”
YOUR OLDEST SKIN
Where Neck, upper chest, hands
Why These body parts tend to age even more rapidly than the face, because they get as much or more sun and little or no help. “Women protect their faces with sunscreen or makeup, but skip these areas,” says Deborah Sarnoff, M.D., a New York City cosmetic dermatologist. “The skin here tends to be not only thinner, but also slower to heal, so cumulative sun damage has a very visible effect.”
What’s next Check these regions for the first appearances of age spots and crepiness.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THREE NEW “MIRACLE CREAMS”
Timed to beach season, a new slew of creams offer help for that dimpled and dappled look. Competing for attention are Lubriderm Skin Renewal Firming Body Lotion, Jergens Skin Firming Moisturizer, Neutrogena Anti-Cellulite Treatment, RoC Retinol Actif Pur Anti-Cellulite Treatment, and Remede Slender Active Amplifier–but should we get our hopes up?
Well, yes and no. Recently, manufacturers have begun backing away from their more ambitious claims; you’ll notice that many of them are calling the newer products “firming lotions” that can “tone and tighten” skin rather than eliminate cellulite (defined in medical journals as inexplicably uneven deposits of fat). These pared-down promises are pretty accurate: Most creams in this category use reliable antiaging ingredients such as retinols, antioxidants, and enzymes to improve elasticity and tone, which can make the cellulite less noticeable. And they provide an immediate, although temporary, camouflaging effect from light-reflecting pigments–a trick borrowed from facial moisturizers.
Most of the over-the-counter lotions targeting this problem claim that they will prevent the formation of new marks (by making skin more elastic), not that they will make existing marks disappear. However, dermatologists say the tendency to develop stretch marks has less to do with your skin’s suppleness than with its genetic blueprint, so creams can’t help much.
To lighten existing marks, some doctors are prescribing glycolic acid and retin-A. “But even the biggest believers will tell you that they work best on pink or red marks; the older, whiter ones seem to be untreatable,” says Fredric Brandt, M.D., a New York City dermatologist. Even more experimental are treatments with vascular lasers. At this point, Dr. Sarnoff says, “There is nothing you can do to get rid of stretch marks completely.”
Spider veins These leg wreckers can be successfully zapped with a laser, but new products (such as Dr. Perricone Alpha Lipoic Acid Anti-Spider Vein Leg with Toxotrienols) have an obvious appeal: Who wouldn’t rather apply a cream than sit through stinging laser sessions or uncomfortable saline injections?
According to Peter Pugliese, M.D., a cosmetic chemist in Reading, Pennsylvania, it’s too soon to say whether these lotions work: “These types of formulas have been popular in Europe for years, but they’re relatively unstudied.” So for now, the smartest tactic, if you decide to try these products, is to check the return policy.