How Face and Body Skin Are Different

If you’ve ever run out of skincare, chances are you’ve found yourself wondering: is there really a difference between face and body products? If you ask a dermatologist, they’ll tell you that it’s more than just clever marketing — that your facial cleanser and your body lotion are formulated specifically for those areas, for good reason.

Turns out, there are distinct differences between the skin on your face and the skin on your body — and regions of differentiation within those areas, too. Here’s a closer look at the biological and physiological differences between facial skin and body skin — and why it’s important to your skincare choices.

A woman cleansing her face and body skin which are different

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How are facial skin and body skin different?

You may have heard that the skin on your face is more delicate, while the skin on your body is tougher. But what does this mean, exactly? Let’s dive deeper into some of the regional differences between the epidermis and dermis to learn more about why skincare gets so specific.

Epidermal layer

Remember that the epidermis is the outermost layer of your skin — the tough, outer dead skin cells that act as a barrier between your insides and the environment. It’s actually composed of 5 layers, including the innermost stratum basale and the outermost stratum corneum:

  • Stratum basale: mostly keratinocytes that are continually renewing and pushing outwards, plus melanocytes (pigment-producing cells), Langerhans cells (innate immune cells) and Merkel cells (modified nerve endings).
  • Stratum corneum: several layers of corneocytes (essentially flattened and hardened keratinocytes) bound together by fingerlike desmosomes and surrounded by lipids and natural moisturizing factor (NMF).

Differences between the face and body epidermis

  • Stratum corneum thickness: the facial stratum corneum (especially the eyelids and lips) is distinctly thinner than its body counterpart.
  • Keratinocyte turnover rate: skin cells on the face renew roughly twice as fast as body skin cells.
  • Corneocyte size and maturity: facial skin cells are smaller and younger than body skin cells.
  • Trans epidermal water loss (TEWL): rates are higher for the facial skin than for most of the body.

Key point: the epidermis of facial skin is younger, thinner, and more penetrable than body skin.

Dermal layer

The dermis lies just beneath the epidermis, and the two are intertwined via finger-like projections that increase the surface area of what’s known as the dermal-epidermal junction (DEJ). This layer gets its structure from collagen and elastin proteins that support:

  • Hair follicles
  • Sebaceous glands
  • Sweat glands
  • Blood vessels
  • Nerve endings

Differences between the face and body dermis

  • Sebaceous glands: more plentiful on the face than on the body.
  • Sweat glands: eccrine (cooling) glands distributed on face and body; apocrine (secrete a thicker form of sweat into hair follicles) found mostly in the body skin.
  • Blood vessels: more prevalent in facial skin.
  • Dermal thickness: thinner on the neck & eyelids than rest of face or body

Key point: facial skin has more sebaceous glands and blood vessels than body skin.

Salicylic Acid Cleanser, BP Lotion, Retinol Serum, Facial Moisturizer Acne System by SLMD Skincare

Why do we need separate face and body skincare products?

Now that we’re up to speed on the key differences between facial skin and body skin, we can draw some basic conclusions about the formulations created for each region. Here, we break it down by skin concern:

Acne

Dry skin

  • Face: more sebaceous glands means it’s important to choose non comedogenic moisturizers. Hyaluronic Acid Serum also contains squalane, to hydrate and moisturize without clogging pores.
  • Body: thicker skin can tolerate heavier emollients and can benefit from added exfoliants. Glycolic Acid Body Lotion and ultra-repairing Body Seal lock in moisture.

Aging skin

Dr. Lee’s last word

People are always asking me if it’s ok to use face products on the body, and vice versa. Generally speaking, it's fine to use facial skincare on the body, but not the other way around. The skin on our face is much thinner and more delicate than the skin on our body, which is why we have unique formulations for each.

—Dr. Sandra Lee

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