I think it's finally safe to say that I won the battle against my cuir de crocodile. Long time readers may remember that extremely dry skin on my limbs had plagued me since early childhood. Legs that looked like parched earth, arms that flaked at first touch. You can imagine my mortification as a kid and a teen, the mockery, and the vats of lotions, oils, and other remedies that I've slathered over the decades. I can probably grease my way to the moon and back with all that body butter. It's been under control in recent years. Having access to the best products (of which there are many, unlike in the 70s and 80s) and doing a lot of research has definitely paid off. I've reviewed many oils, lotions, creams, and treatments on this blog over the (nearly ten) years, and a quick search will bring you the best of the best among them. I'm still loving everything shea butter, L'Occitane, Tatcha, and Nuxe products, various elixirs (Aftelier), and have added La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume to my arsenal, as well as the drugstore wonder AmLactin. But the most important part is having a simple routine that works, and exfoliating within an inch of my life. And that's what this post is about.
It starts even before the shower. Dry skin brushing is good for skin, circulation, and feels amazing. I get my brushes on Drugstore.com and often see similar ones at Ulta. I also use this brush during my shower, because why not? Best back-scratch ever.
The game-changer is the 5 Acid Body Peel from Makeup Artist's Choice ($52.50, makeupartistschoice.com). I use various peels on my face, so it makes sense to have one for the body as well, especially since over the years I've learned that lotions that contain some form of AHA are the best long-term treatment. It took me some time to perfect my shower routine around the body peel. The annoying part is that you need to use it on clean skin, then let it sit for ten minutes before rinsing. It's not like I can watch YouTube makeup videos in the shower while waiting, and since you have this sticky substance on you do not want to wander in the buff all over the house. I find that using on damp skin shortens the waiting time. I use these five minutes to file and exfoliate my feet. It might not be the perfect solution, but it works for me and gives me the coveted results; soft, normal looking skin. The first couple of rounds I did have resulted in visible flaking for the first day after usage. Since then it's just maintenance of that soft skin (the peel contains 20% Lactic Acid, 5% Glycolic Acid, 5% Mandelic Acid, 2% Citric Acid, and 1% Salicylic Acid, so it's quite potent, and I can't stress enough the importance of patch testing, especially if have no previous experience with these acids).
I love oils for face, body, and hair. Other than my severe (and growing) allergy to coconut oil I've found that I can use almost anything, but my favorite over the last couple of years has been camellia oil. There are some sumptuous blends on the market, especially those from natural perfumers, but I'm hooked on this simple Japanese-made, organic, cold-pressed oil that can be ordered on amazon (around $27, 16 oz). It's unscented, so all you smell is "oil", and I use it on damp hair and body before leaving the bathroom.
I still use AmLactin (12% lactic acid with the green label and green pump, available at drugstores and from countless online sources, around $20 for 20oz but varies) at other times. If I showered at night it is my morning treatment, and vice versa. I usually keep the bottle by my bed, so it's within reach and sight. It's an AHA treatment, but very very mild compared to a peel, and the results can be seen long-term. The smell is the one problem. Don't use it before a romantic date, unless your thing is burnt plastic with a touch of urea. The only solution I've found is topping it with a scented body oil (Aftelier hair and body elixirs are a favorite, but also Caudalie Divine Oil, Nuxe dry oil, and just about anything to make the smell go away). I also use AmLactin as a hand cream, since it absorbs right away and doesn't smear on the keyboard.
La Roche-Posay Lipikar ($30 at Ulta) might just be the best body cream I know. It's unscented, absorbs right away, and clams my skin if it's itchy or sensitive. I don't need it as much as I used to before my peel+camellia oil routine, but I keep a tube on my dressing room to use before getting ready, especially when tights and lycra are involved. It's also great post hair-removal and gives me that satisfaction that all French pharmacy cosmetics do, like I'm part of a special club. Obnoxious, I know, but these mildly-priced overachieving French products work like nothing else.
There you have it. All my secrets for not looking and feeling like a hairy armadillo. I wish I could travel back in time and help my eight, fourteen, or twenty year old self who felt that all the Nivea cream in the world could not help.
Top image: Basel Zoological garden by Hedwig Keerl Thoma, 1922