There’s an abundance of options for smoothing skin, minimizing wrinkles, and enhancing radiance — on your face. But the body is fair game for a number of in-office treatments, too, such as lasers, peels, and even radiofrequency skin tightening. They can handle everything from stretch marks to wrinkly knees, often with little downtime. With spring waiting in the wings, there’s no better time to consider treatments below the neck than now. Keep reading to discover four options that could make all the difference.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
While chemical peels gained early notoriety for their face-brightening abilities, they can work wonders on the body, too. “We typically recommend a chemical peel body treatment for patients who are experiencing acne on their back and chest, as well as for those dealing with dry skin on their arms and legs,” says Kristel Polder, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Dallas Center for Dermatology and Aesthetics℠ in Dallas, Texas. Chemical peels can also be used to address sun damage concerns on the hands, adds Tiffani Hamilton, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Alpharetta, Georgia.
The secret behind the versatility of chemical peels is in their simplicity. “Chemical peels are a skin resurfacing treatment that remove the top layers of skin,” Dr. Polder explains. “The skin that grows back after the treatment is smoother and even fine bumps are less noticeable.” Another advantage is that they can be customized based on what you’re looking for, whether that’s to treat post-bacne scarring or rough skin. Dr. Polder is a fan of trichloroacetic acid (or TCA), which is often combined with lactic and salicylic acids to resurface skin and clear away dead skin cells.
If you can’t make it to the doctor’s office — or are hoping to maintain results between visits — consider RéVive® Supérieur BodyTM Serum ($215), which has both lactic and glycolic acids to smooth and brighten skin. Or, opt for DERMAdoctor® KP Duty® High Potency Daily Body Peel ($56); it sloughs away dead skin cells with a potent blend of lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acids. You may notice that the aforementioned TCA isn’t included in our at-home recommendations — while it’s possible to find it over-the-counter, TCA is best left to a pro to administer, as it has the potential to burn and irritate skin.
Talk to your doctor to see which type of chemical peel would be right for you.
“Skin tightening procedures, such as Thermage®, were first used to address sagging skin on the face,” Dr. Polder explains. “Now, we ‘turn up the heat’ to address skin laxity all over the body.” They can be used to tighten skin on the knees, elbows, abdomen, and underarms — among a host of other areas. “Radiofrequency devices are also useful to address both facial and body skin texture, wrinkles, and scarring,” says Dr. Hamilton.
These non-invasive devices often use heat to target and damage the lower layers of skin, causing a healing response from the body that ultimately helps tighten and smooth skin. Thermage is a popular one; it employs radiofrequency energy, offers little to no downtime, and works for almost everyone, across all skin tones. Plus, “a single treatment of Thermage delivers natural-looking results, because the resulting collagen growth takes place over several months,” adds Polder.
While microneedling is best known for smoothing out fine lines, deeper wrinkles, and pitted acne scars on the face, it’s also “an effective treatment for addressing stretch marks and acne scars on the chest and back,” says Dr. Polder. It works by inflicting controlled micro-injuries to the skin, which trigger the body’s natural healing response — which, in turn, kickstarts the production of brand new collagen and elastin.
By remodeling and promoting the new growth of these supportive fibers, which are tasked with keeping skin firm and smooth, microneedling ultimately evens out the texture. And, by only puncturing a fraction of the skin’s surface area, “this process causes less damage to the epidermis and dermis, allowing surrounding skin to serve as a reservoir for expedited healing,” says Polder. That means less recovery time (typically, a day or two of sunburn-like redness — learn how to diminish microneedling-inflicted redness here).
To maintain results or take microneedling for a test drive, try BeautyBioTM GloPRO® Microneedling Tool ($199), which comes with a sanitizer bottle (a non-negotiable when you’re DIYing this at home) and a collagen-boosting red LED light. For larger areas, the ORATM Microneedle Body Roller System ($35) should do the trick.
Lasers can do it all, targeting everything from blood vessels, pigmentation, and benign vascular lesions to fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen and elastin production. “The same lasers used for these concerns on facial skin can also be used safely on body skin,” says Dr. Hamilton. “Adjusted settings may be necessary, given the difference in skin thickness and structure.”
For dramatic results, fractional laser resurfacing may be your best bet. “Fraxel® lasers emit thousands of micro-beams that penetrate the skin’s surface,” says Dr. Polder. “These precise points of light activate the skin’s natural healing response, prompting cells to produce more collagen and create fresh, healthy skin.” On the body, it can minimize wrinkles above the knees and in the inner arms, improve small bumps and overall skin texture, and even out dark or pigmented spots.
However, not all fractionated lasers are made equal. Fraxel DualTM, for instance, is less invasive and ideal for areas of the body with delicate skin, such as the chest and hands. On the other end of the spectrum, “Fraxel Re:pair® is optimized for more aggressive use on the face and neck,” she says. What may work best for you depends on what you want to treat, so it’s best to talk to your board-certified provider about your options. But, one thing is for sure: With all the options that can double for face and body, why stop at the neck?
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