Monday, December 15, 2008

Look-Better Legs

Exchanging long pants for bare legs is one of summer’s great pleasures—but only if you feel good about how your legs look. While few of us have flawless gams (especially after a kid or two), you don’t need a perfection permit to wear shorts. But your legs can look a lot better fast. With these simple strategies (plus some easy fake-its), you’ll be a shameless show-off in no time.

“Dry skin is unhealthy skin,” says Sandy Johnson, M.D., of the Johnson Dermatology Clinic in Fort Smith, Arizona. “Well-hydrated skin provides a better barrier to the environment.” And it makes legs look smoother and prettier too. To fight flakiness:

Choose the right moisturizer
Our skin is naturally hydrated in the summer because of extra moisture in the air,” explains Dr. Johnson. That means you can retire the rich creams in favor of lighter formulas. Lotions are the least heavy, because they contain more water and less oil than creams. Dr. Johnson recommends picking one with water as its first ingredient.

“Whatever moisturizer you decide to buy, apply it while your body’s still damp,” she says. “This seals the water into your skin.” Try Burt’s Bees Thoroughly Therapeutic Honey & Orange Wax, Beauty Bar.

Do a serious scrub
Unless you exfoliate first, even the best moisturizer can’t do its job. “As we age, our skin becomes drier because the bottom layer doesn’t regenerate as frequently,” says Dr. Johnson. Exfoliation strips away flakes on top, allowing fresh cells to come to the surface. Try Lemon Exfoliating Massage Bar, Beauty Bar.

Soften in the shower
Get a head start on hydration whit the latest generation of body washes: cream oils. These products—usually a mix of glycerin, oils and petrolatum—cleanse and soften all at once. “Cleansing can strip moisture from the skin, but cream oils have been shown to improve skin’s moisture content after washing,” says Ellen Shepard, senior research and development scientist at Uniliver. Try Mint Condition, Soap Opera.

Miracles may not come in jars, but a tube of self-tanner comes pretty close. Besides banishing a weary pallor, a tanner evens out tone, hides imperfections, and just makes everything look a whole lot better. The color should last at least three to five days (or longer, depending on which product you use; tanners containing high amounts of dihydroxyacetone—DHA—are usually the slowest to fade). If you fear that self-tanner is too tricky to apply, relax. Thanks to new formulas, getting a glow is easier than ever.

Prep for perfection
Yes, exfoliate (it’s the key to even, long-lasting color). But also be sure to shave or wax before you tan. “Removing hair soon afterward will remove the tan as well,” says Pam Oullet, spa director at Willow Stream Spa at Banff Springs in Alberta, Canada. And since self-tanner affects only the top layer of skin (the DHA causes a chemical reaction that darkens the cells of the epidermis), exfoliation will strip away color too. So skip the scrubbing for at least three days post-tan.

Try a tinted version
Formulas that are slightly bronzed make it easy to see where you’ve already applied tanner—and which spots you’ve missed. Try Prestige Cooling Leg & Body Bronzing Stick, Beauty Bar.

Put it on like a pro
Apply creams and lotions by rubbing firmly in a circular motion; smooth away extra product to avoid streaks. One lotion we like: Saucy Girl Shimmering Leg & Foot Balm, Beauty Bar. Try Model Co. Tan Airbrush in A Can, Beauty Bar.

Ace those trouble spots
Dry knees, ankles, and feet tend to sop up extra product and then turn darker. Oullet recommends sooting on a regular moisturizer beforehand, which will lessen the amount of tanner that’s absorbed. To avoid a line where your ankles meet your feet, she says, “do your leg first, then add a little moisturizer to the residue that’s left on your hands and run hands from your leg to your feet.” Use a tissue to rub around nails to remove excess.

Nervous? Tan gradually
Tanner-lotion hybrids have low doses of color combined with moisturizer, so it’s harder to make a mistake. You’ll see a suble difference a few hours after you first apply it, with the color increasing each time you slather it on. Try Duwop Revolution Tinted Body Moisturizer, P1350, Beauty Bar, or a body bronzer like Sally Hansen Vitamin K AirbrushLegsä, at department stores.

Stubborn spider varicose veins can mar the look of your legs. For permanent solutions, talk to your doctor about in-office treatments such as lasers and sclerotherapy (around P15,000 to P32,000 per treatment). In the meantime, there’s plenty you can do at home to minimize the look of prominent veins—and to help prevent new ones from forming.

Stuck in line? Stand on the balls of your feet and contract your calves to keep blood moving, says Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of Body for Life for Women.

Pop a baby aspirin
One a day thins blood and improves its flow, taking stress off veins—but ask your doctor first, says Thomas F. O’Donnell, M.D., director of the Venous Center at Tufts-New England Medical Center.

Don’t cross your legs
It cuts off blood circulation, says Dr. Peeke.

Cover up with makeup
The right heavy-duty concealer (one designed for the body, not the face) can really disguise spider veins. Go for a long-wearing, water-resistant formula like Ever Bilena Pro Leg Makeup, P125 at department stores.

Get a glow
A self-tanner’s allover color will reduce contrast on your legs, so discolorations are less noticeable.

Consider creams—carefully
Don’t expect an over-the-counter potion to completely erase veins, says Paul M. Friedman, M.D., a dermatologist and director of the DermSurgery Laser Center in Houston. Only medical treatments can produce those results. But some creams can improve the appearance of capillaries. One product that seems to show promise: Hirudoid Cream, P242, Mercury Drug.

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