Touch your forehead. OK, hold that position. With your other hand, gently rub your knee. Not alike at all, right? Skin is your largest organ, but it changes from one area of your body to the next. Understanding what different spots need can help combat dullness, dryness, and fine lines for a healthier, glowier-looking you.
1. Eyelids: Super Delicate
Meet the thinnest skin on your body. Your lids are about .05 mm thick — that's slimmer than a sheet of paper. It's why they're so sensitive to aggressive skin-care products and easily become red and irritated. Lids are also prone to allergen aging — when they're so chronically puffy that skin stretches, causing lines and droopiness.
Treat them right: While washing your face, keep cleanser away from the area; a splash of water is good enough if you aren't wearing makeup. If you are, go for a gentle, fragrance-free make-up remover. Got allergies? Talk to your doctor about medication or lifestyle strategies (allergen-free bedding, staying indoors on high-pollen days). If you can't figure out what's causing the irritation, a derm can pinpoint the culprit with a patch test.
2. Forehead: Keep Deep Lines at Bay
One of the best things about your face is how expressive it is, but every time you smile, frown, or scowl, lines show up. When you're younger, there's enough collagen to help skin bounce back, so those little wrinkles disappear. But years of UV exposure and the hormonal changes that occur around menopause degrade collagen and elastin, allowing expression lines to set up shop.
Treat it right: Don't ever stop smiling, but slather on SPF to prevent some of the collagen loss. At night, use a serum or moisturizer that contains hydrators like ceramides. To address existing wrinkles, use a product with retinol, which stimulates collagen production. If your skin can't tolerate retinol, pick up a cream with collagen-building peptides.
The deal with expression lines: Those little crinkles appear when you smile because muscles are attached directly to skin in this area of your face. That's different from, say, your arm, where the muscles attach to bones, not skin. (Biceps wrinkles? Not a thing.)
3. Nose: What Are Those Spots
Show of hands: Who's spent extra mirror time examining the tiny black dots on her nose? They're often sebaceous filaments, hairlike structures that channel oil from the pore to keep skin soft. Your nose is affected because the T-zone has the most oil glands (very oily skin types may contain more). When oils mix with dead skin and bacteria and block the pore, it's a blackhead; they're often larger and darker.
Treat it right: Don't squeeze — it can cause scarring. A pore-flushing cleanser with salicylic acid can help minimize the appearance of sebaceous filaments and blackheads. Prescription retinoids or laser treatments can also make them less noticeable.
4. Lips: Moisture Needed
The skin on your lips sports very few oil glands, which is why they can dry out and chap this time of year. They're also exposed to lots of sunlight. (Yes, skin cancer can happen here too. Your lower lip is 12 times more vulnerable than your upper lip because it protrudes more.)
Treat them right: When lips get dry, the first thing you want to do is lick them. Resist — or at least swipe on a lip balm with SPF right after. Otherwise, skin will dry out even more when the saliva evaporates. That rumor about becoming physically dependent on lip balm? Total myth. The structure and function of your lips don't change in response to lip balms, though mentally you may crave that supersoft feeling.
5. Scalp: It's Snowing, Baby
Dandruff is really a skin condition. Of the 2 million hair follicles on your body, 100,000 of them live on your scalp. Surrounding every follicle is a sebaceous gland that pumps out an oil called sebum. When that oil builds up and mixes with skin cells, it can cause an overgrowth of a fungus that naturally lives on most scalps. The result: flakes.
Treat it right: Look for shampoos with salicylic acid or zinc pyrithione. Or talk to a dermatologist about a prescription-strength formula.
6. Neck: Don't Forget About Me
We give our faces all sorts of TLC, but our necks tend to get nada. The skin here is crying out for some attention; it's thinner than the outer layer that covers your face but is frequently exposed to the sun. That makes it more vulnerable to collagen-sapping UV damage, which can cause it to appear crepey and red.
Treat it right: You don't need a neck-specific cream. Just slather the anti-agers (retinol, peptides, SPF) you use on your face on your neck, too.
7. Hands: Think Silky
Your mitts are like a two-sided coin: The backs have skin that's smooth and thin, while the palms are home to some of the thickest skin on your body. Moisturizers have a hard time penetrating this thick area, so it easily suffers from dryness and cracking, especially during cold and flu season when you're constantly washing your hands.
Treat them right: For really chapped hands, look for a thick cream that has glycerin, shea butter, and mineral-rich Dead Sea mud to lock in moisture. Keep it next to the sink so you're reminded to slather it on after every wash. (If your palms are still cracking, apply olive oil to wet hands and slip them into cotton gloves — the perfect excuse to put your phone down and relax for a few.) And smear a layer of moisturizer with sunscreen on the tops during the day.
The dishwashing dilemma: Harsh cleansers in grime-fighting detergents can do a number on your hands. Go old-school and wear gloves.
8. Arms: Battle Roughness
As if plain ol' dry skin weren't bad enough, winter is bad for keratosis pilaris, a.k.a. the chicken-skin bumps that dot the backs of your arms. It's a common genetic condition that affects 40% of adults when the skin grows too thick around hair follicles.
Treat them right: Keratosis pilaris isn't curable, but it is treatable. Derms recommend using an exfoliating cream containing urea, ammonium lactate, or alpha hydroxy acids to thin skin out and smooth its texture. But go easy on the exfoliation. Too much friction from loofahs, exfoliating gloves, or scrubs can cause more angry redness.
9. Back: It's an Oil Hot Spot Too
Your back contains a high number of oil glands. When oil and bacteria build up, it can plug the hair follicle. That, my friends, is bacne.
Treat it right: If you notice a cluster of pimples, cleanse the area with a body wash that contains an exfoliating and antibacterial ingredient like benzoyl peroxide three to four times a week. Then use an exfoliating body scrub once or twice a week to keep pores clear.
10. Legs: Keep 'Em Smooth and Silky
A reason to take a few days off from shaving: folliculitis. These red bumps sometimes happen when razor blades injure the longer, deeper follicles found on the legs, allowing bacteria in. The skin here can also dry out as you get older (thank those hormonal changes).
Treat them right: Hold off on shaving and use a benzoyl peroxide – based body wash to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation. If dryness is your issue, regularly slather on a rich cream.
Shave the right way: If you're prone to red, inflamed bumps, always use a sharp blade when you shave and swap your foam for one of the new shave oils to help your razor glide along.
11. Feet: Let's Not Sweat It
Thanks to their 250,000 sweat glands, your tired dogs can produce — yes, pee-yew — a half pint of sweat per day. Another challenge: The bottoms of your feet don't contain oil glands, but the skin there is thick. Without this natural moisture, soles can become rough and cracked.
Treat them right: If you're dealing with bothersome sweat, dust on a medicated anti-fungal foot powder and wear moisture-wicking socks to keep things fresh. To soften, soak them in a warm bath for 30 minutes, then slather on a rich hydrating lotion that contains alpha hydroxy acids to exfoliate and smooth.
12. Elbows and Knees: No More Sandpaper Skin!
When you put your elbows on your desk at work or your knees on the floor at yoga, the pressure and friction cause skin there to thicken to protect itself.
Treat them right: Suds up with a cleanser that has glycolic acid. Moisturize knees and elbows with a glycolic acid or urea — based cream to break down dead skin.
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.
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