When thinking about skin and skin care, most people have primarily facial skin in mind. We spend hours attending to every need of our facial skin and we expect the most sophisticated formulas with highly efficient active ingredients. Yet, when it comes to skin below the chin, we somehow take it for granted or ignore it entirely. Our body skin has a much larger surface area than our facial skin and performs important vital functions for human wellbeing. So, why do many of us pay so little attention to body skincare? Let’s explore the topic of body skin, take a look at the social movements surrounding the cult of the body and the resulting product developments in the cosmetics industry.
Skin – reasons to be
The significance of our skin is easily underestimated; it is seemingly just a simple shell, after all. But no other organ serves us in so many different ways. The skin keeps dangerous pathogens at bay and protects us from UV radiation. It lets us feel the world around us – tender touches, the sand under our feet, the prick of a needle. The skin can be a mirror of our inner, emotional and biophysical processes. If we are ashamed, we blush. If we are frightened, we turn pale. Some chronic skin diseases, such as psoriasis or atopic dermatitis, manifest themselves very clearly on certain areas of the body skin. Furthermore, pregnancy is an incredible challenge in many areas for the skin, especially on the body. And last but not least, our skin physically separates us from the world, distinguishes our self from everything that surrounds us and is therefore an important part of our identity.
The largest human organ is the skin and it represents a vast spectrum for science. Even though, structure and functions of this fascinating and vital organ have been researched for a very long time, there is still much to learn and experience. In fact, to date there is no 100 % replacement for natural skin in the entire scope of its functions, which is an important challenge not only for medicine; for example, after severe skin burns.
At the same time, science is already “getting close” to replicating skin with many different approaches and functions: from 3D bioprinting skin models with scientific purposes to electronic skin with sensory and mechanical properties for prostheses or robots. Will science ever be able to replace the complex organ skin? According to research artificial skin is and will become significant for many areas of our modern life and economy.1 It is a very challenging project for scientists worldwide and it is exciting to see how close science will get to natural skin in the future.top
It is all about body image
Although the concept of beauty varies widely among different cultures, throughout history, attractiveness has always been linked to the beauty of the human body. How do you feel about your body? Do you see imperfections? Are you satisfied? Many people have concerns about the appearance of their body. These concerns often focus on weight, body hair, the shape or size of a certain body part and also skin. How we feel about our body is not only an individual perception, but an image that is strongly influenced by society, (social) media and popular culture. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines body image as “the mental picture one forms of one’s body as a whole, including its physical characteristics and one’s attitudes toward these characteristics.”
Today, social media is a factor that can have a big effect on someone’s body image and how they see themselves. Especially for younger people, social media shapes what defines beauty and attractiveness. The experience of divergence from the digital abstraction of what is considered beautiful can cause some people to feel uncomfortable in or even disconnected from their own body.
Fortunately, keywords like “Body Positivity”, “Body Shaming” or “Body Neutrality” represent new narratives within the beauty discourse, promoting a healthier, more loving relationship with one’s own body. A positive body image means you feel good in your skin, regardless of whether your body meets the definition of what those around you would consider the ideal shape. There are social movements protesting against the use of photo editing programs and social media filters by encouraging untouched postings of authentic bodies or imperfect skin. Furthermore, reinforcing messages of self-acceptance empower consumers to look at themselves from a positive, respectful point of view. According to Mintel, 77% of US beauty consumers would like to see plus-sized body types in beauty advertisements.2
The key to a healthy relationship with our bodies is to learn to accept and love ourselves the way we are, for instance by taking time off to take care of our body. On days when we feel less confident and put under pressure by simply unattainable beauty standards, it can be helpful to stop focusing on how others might perceive us and more on ourselves. Instead of fixating on how our legs might not be perfectly straight, have scars or an uneven skin tone, we can thank them for carrying us through life by paying attention to their needs and e.g. giving them a massage with a soothing body lotion after a long day. It is a human instinct to nurture and protect what we love and self-love is no exception. In times when we feel overwhelmed or anxious it can be helpful to focus on breathing and the sensations in our body – a body care ritual can be a powerful tool for reconnecting with our bodies in stressful times.
Having a healthy body image and a healthy body skin are essential parts of mental and physical wellbeing and it is important to remember that body shape and body skin is unique with different genetic and cultural traits. According to social media analytics platform Infegy Atlas, “loving oneself and embracing one’s body shape remain central themes of body positivity.”3 Consumers, brands and governments are aligning their efforts to stand up for a natural and inclusive concept of beauty. And that is the right step forward.top
Mapping the body skin puzzle – Skinification from head to toe
Body care has been standing in the shadow of facial care for a long time, but below the face skin does not stop being skin. Depending on the body area, the skin has a slightly different structure and also behaves differently. The thickness of the epidermis varies depending on the region of the body; it is thickest on the sole of the foot and thinnest on the eyelids and in the intimate zone. In addition, seasonal changes often pose great challenges for the body’s skin. The attitude towards body skin as well as demands on care products differ between regions, cultures and generations. In Europe, body care is strongly associated with skin health, whereas in Asia, among other things, even skin tone still plays a major role.
Compared to facial skin, body care options, however, have always been kept basic for the cosmetic industry: cleansing with shower gel, occasional hydrating with a simple emollient and a deodorant. The products used were more practical, and only the feet and hands may have been treated with additional products. Sun care or protection tended to focus on facial skin and protecting body skin from the sun’s rays was not of similar concern. Also, the aging process of body skin was perceived more in the upper part of the body, such as the face, neck and décolleté. In fact, sophisticated body care products were more anchored in the pharmacy, aesthetic or spa and wellness industry.top
The time of body care – what next?
Body care is booming and body care products are more sophisticated than ever. As we come out of hibernation in the post-pandemic world, several new trends have emerged over the past two years. Self-care has taken center stage, the lines between cosmetics and wellness products are blurring, and the demand for multifunctional products and highly efficient active ingredients has never been more important.
Many facial care brands have been expanding into the field of body care in recent years, and these products fulfill the human desire for sensual experiences in many areas. The scent, playful and innovative formulas, and ultimately the effect of active ingredients used are taking body care to a new level. It is not surprising that eco-friendly and sustainability claims are mirrored in body care products, too. According to research, there will be a rise in targeted treatments for concerns like body acne, keratosis pilaris (“strawberry skin”), ingrown hairs, stretch marks and loss of firmness during the menopause4,5. Powerful, natural ingredients from facial skin care are being transferred into body care, using claims such as glow, anti-aging and brightening.
Consumer behavior is changing in the body care space, too. Self-care practices like full-body gua-sha, dry brushing, and lymphatic drainage are gaining mainstream attention. High-tech beauty gadgets are no longer reserved for the face either, and according to research, body devices will be the new face tools. The fitness industry has discovered fascia training for firm connective tissue and aesthetic medicine is using cryolipolysis. Also, textile cosmeceuticals are a trend to note.6 It is impossible to imagine the wellness industry without algae and algae color therapy when it comes to body care and it is currently experiencing a renaissance. CutiGuard CLR™ is obtained from the red alga Galdieria sulphuraria and is the ultimate wellness ingredient. It perceivably prevents and reduces stress-related effects on skin and improves the skin´s smoothness.
Body skin and body care shifted into the focus of the cosmetics industry, which has a lot of catching up to do. Today, shelves are stocked with innovative new launches for head-to-toe skincare needs. The advancements in body care highlight the increasing consumer demand and show it is a category brands will keep investing in. The skin is our largest organ, the outer limit of our body – and our “jewelry”. Enough reasons to take our outer shell seriously and treat it with care, we do!
(1) Low ZWK , Li Z , Owh C , Chee PL , Ye E , Dan K , Chan SY , Young DJ , Loh XJ: “Recent innovations in artificial skin”. Biomater Sci. 2020 Feb 4;8(3):776-797. doi: 10.1039/c9bm01445d. PMID: 31820749
(2) Mintel: “Diversity and Inclusivity in Beauty – US, 2022” (January 2022)
(3) Mintel: “Big Conversation 2022: Finding comfort in Beauty” (June 2022)
(4) Mintel: “A year of innovation in body, hand and footcare” (May 2022)
(5) Mintel: “The future of Skin Glow” (September 2021)
(6) Govindan, Subramanian: „Integration of Cosmetics with Textiles: An emerging area of Functional Textiles – A review”. Lupine publishers Apr 20. doi: 10.32474/LTTFD.2018.02.000126