Beauty Below the Chin

Do you baby your face but neglect the rest of your skin? Dermatologists say that below-the-chin skin needs just as much TLC to remain smooth, firm and spot-free. The outcome of inattentiveness: premature aging, or even worse, skin cancer. Manhattan dermatologist Francesca Fusco points to a World Health Organization study that shows the torso is the most common location for developing melanoma in young women. The area continues to be vulnerable well beyond these years if there has been sun exposure without protection. 

Pamper and protect all of you pronto with this neck-to-toe guide!

Neck and Chest
“The skin here is delicate, so it needs treatment like the face but with a lower concentration of active ingredients,” says Dr. Fusco. Exfoliate with gentle micro-beads once a week to help treatment ingredients penetrate. Dr. Fusco recommends strengthening the skin’s collagen and elastin with an over-the-counter retinol (vitamin A) every other day, a daily application of peptides (look for the words oligopeptides, pentapeptides or tetrapeptides on the label) or the antioxidant vitamin C in cream form. “SPF 30 is still a must,” says Dr. Fusco. If freckles are already marring your decolletage, you can still change your spots by applying a moisturizer that contains a gentle bleaching agent like kojic acid twice a day.

Hands and Arms
If you don’t treat and protect from frequent washing and constant exposure, they’ll show age early in the form of dryness, discoloration and loose skin. Beverly Hills dermatologist Ilya Reyter recommends slathering on a moisturizing ingredient like petrolatum to curb dryness. “It acts like plastic wrap, locking in the moisture that’s already in your skin and preventing water loss,” says Dr. Reyter. His nighttime tip for soft, smooth hands: Soak in water for 10 minutes, coat in petroleum jelly and slip into cotton gloves.

Back-of-the-arm bumps, a common problem called keratosis pilaris, are trickier. “These are dead skin cells that have hardened into little balls inside the pores and become inflamed,” says Dr. Fusco. “You can’t scrub them away, but a drugstore moisturizer containing 10 percent urea or ammonium lactate applied when skin is damp can be effective.”

A creamy bodywash combined with an application of shea butter moisturizer or body oil right after a shower helps this area stay supple. If your shoulders, back and bottom tend to break out, squeeze a bodywash with 2 percent salicylic acid onto a loofah sponge and shimmy on all acne-prone parts each time you shower, advises Dr. Fusco. Tinted benzoyl peroxide can simultaneously hide and treat blemishes that have already erupted. “This kind of acne or folliculitis can sometimes be caused by staph bacteria, but you should always check with your doctor to be sure,” notes Dr. Reyter. “In that case, using an OTC chlorhexidine bodywash twice a week may work best.”

Legs and Feet
Keep your gams and feet soft and sleek by buffing twice weekly with a scrub or exfoliating gloves, but always hydrate after. “The top layer of skin holds moisture in, and when you take it away, that moisture escapes,” says Dr. Reyter. He recommends dousing legs in a moisturizer that lists glycerin as one of the first few ingredients. This humectant draws water from the atmosphere. The backs of the calves are a surprisingly common melanoma site, so coat them in SPF too. Your feet will get drier if you wear sandals a lot because, again, moisture evaporates. Soothe your feet with moisturizer containing petrolatum, simethicone or mineral oil -- all these ingredients act as barriers preventing that moisture from escaping -- and slide on a pair of socks two nights a week.

Knees, Heels, Elbows
When don’t these dry spots need special attention. For extra sloughing power, apply a product with up to 20 percent of urea, ammonium lactate or glycolic acid to heels, knees and elbows, then rinse off after 10 minutes. Do this once a week. If heels are parched to the point of cracking, use a solid stick, spray or powder containing the ingredient tolnaftate. “It gets rid of fungus, which may be lurking in the fissures, preventing them from healing,” says Dr. Fusco.