Pale legs? Jiggly arms? Stubborn cellulite? We’ve found the best tips and products to have you ready for warm weather in no time.
You Want: A Face That Glows
Do away with dullness: "Dead skin builds up over the winter if you don't exfoliate," says Miami dermatologist Leslie Baumann, M.D. To shed the excess come summer, use a gentle scrub — once or twice a week if you have sensitive skin, daily if it's normal. Try Olay Regenerist Thermal Skin Polisher ($13.49, drugstores) or Fresh Sugar Face Polish ($55, fresh.com).
Consider retinoids: If you're not already using Renova, Tazorac, or another of these radiance-enhancing, collagen-boosting creams, talk to a dermatologist about getting a prescription. "Summer is the best time to begin," says Dr. Baumann. "With more humidity in the air, there's less chance of dryness or irritation."
Protect, protect, protect: The sun is the most powerful skin-aging agent, so wear a broad-spectrum SPF 15 or higher sunscreen like L'Oréal Paris Revitalift UV Daily Moisturizing Cream with Mexoryl SX ($22, drugstores) every day — even if you're just driving to work or running errands. For a bit of extra protection, consider this new option: cleansers with leave-behind sunscreen that clings to your skin when you wash. Sounds strange, but experts say they can help — just don't skip the regular stuff. Try St. Ives Elements Protective Cleanser ($7, drugstores).
Look out for your lips: "They don't tan like the rest of your skin, so they are defenseless against the sun," says New York City dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D. He recommends daily use of a non-petrolatum-based SPF lip balm: "Anything oil-based attracts the sun and is counterproductive." Try MD Skincare Powerful Sun Protection SPF 25 Lip Balm ($18, Sephora).
You Want: A Younger-Looking Chest
Get in scoop-neck shape: Thin skin makes your chest supersusceptible to sun damage. To refresh and renew it, Dr. Baumann suggests exfoliating three times a week with a face scrub — not a body version. "Your chest is even more sensitive than your face, so you need to be gentle," she says. Prevent new damage by applying your daily facial sunscreen farther south, too.
See a dermatologist for serious smoothing: Consider fractional lasers, like Fraxel, that treat wrinkles and age spots with little downtime. "Fraxel is great for the chest," says New York City dermatologist David Goldberg, M.D. "And the results aren't just good, they're dramatic." Treatments are pricey, though: Expect to pay $1,000 to $2,000 per session, with four to six sessions required.
Fake flawlessness: To draw the eye away from age spots, New York City makeup artist Linda Hay brushes bronzer across the décolletage to conceal, followed by a subtle shimmer powder to reflect light. (Shimmery bronzer has a similar effect; try Lorac Tantalizer Baked Bronzer, $28, Sephora.)
You Want: Tank Top Arms
Soften scaly elbows: Hydrate these easy-to-skip spots with a rich cream morning and night; New Orleans dermatologist Mary Lupo, M.D., advises choosing one with urea or lactic acid. Try Gold Bond Ultimate Softening lotion ($6.49, drugstores). But if the dryness is severe and persistent, see a dermatologist. "Elbows are a common site for psoriasis, but a lot of people mistake it for dry skin," says Dr. Baumann.
Say so long to chicken skin: Those rough, red bumps on your upper arms could be keratosis pilaris, a condition in which follicles become clogged with dry skin. To treat, try gentle scrubbing followed up with a good moisturizer like Dermadoctor KP Duty ($36, Sephora) — a Good Housekeeping Seal holder.
Tighten those triceps: Self-conscious about arm flab? New York City personal trainer David Osorio recommends leveraged push-ups, a no-gym-required toner that works your arms and chest. The trick: Place your hands — slightly more than chest-width apart — on an elevated surface like a bench or staircase; this makes the move easier than doing it military style, with your hands on the floor. Lower your aligned body toward the stairs, then push yourself back up. Aim for three sets of 10 reps three times a week, and move down one step (which will up the difficulty level) each week.
You Want: A Flatter Tummy
Avoid the summer-treat trap: At potlucks or parties, "stay away from assembled dishes like casseroles and dips," advises Penny Geller, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition for NuKitchen in New York City. Instead, opt for grilled lean meats, steamed veggies, or mixed greens salads with low-fat dressing on the side. Satisfy cravings with 150-calorie snacks and limit between-meal munchies to two a day, says Geller. Her favorite low-cal sweet: Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches (140 to 150 calories; skinnycow.com for stores).
Whittle your middle: "You don't need crunches to strengthen your midsection," says Delf Enriquez, a personal trainer at Equinox Fitness Club and Spa in Century City, CA. "The key is to work the area as a unit." His favorite ab move: the plank. Lie facedown on the floor, then push up so that you're holding yourself in an almost-straight line with only hands, forearms, and toes touching the ground. (Too tough? Drop your knees.) Hold for 15 to 20 seconds two or three times; repeat three times a week.
Blast belly fat: What may be key: the fats you eat, according to recent research. A diet high in monounsaturated fat specifically appears to decrease ab fat. Swap saturated and polyunsaturated fats for these good fats found in foods like nuts, olives, avocados, and olive oil. To further beat bloat, be sure that you're drinking lots of water — especially if you're eating more fiber, says Geller.
You Want: A Bathing Suit Butt
Shape up your rear: Squats are an easy, effective way to tone your tush, says Enriquez. Stand with your back toward a chair, feet shoulder-width apart. Sit back until your butt just grazes the chair (don't actually sit or let your knees go beyond your toes). Return to standing. Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps three times a week. (Bonus: You'll work your entire leg.)
Zap stretch marks: Catch them in the early stages (when they're red or purple), and they may be treatable — though it will take a few trips to the dermatologist. Dr. Goldberg recommends pulsed dye laser treatments to help fade the color. Sessions run $500 and up, and you'll need around five. Once stretch marks are more established, creams won't do much, but they may help keep new marks from forming, especially when you're dieting or pregnant, says Dr. Baumann. Try Bio-Oil ($12, drugstores).
Hide the evidence: The quickest fix for less-than-perfect (and hard to reach) posterior skin: tinted bronzing or self-tanner sprays. "They immediately conceal stretch marks and cellulite," says Hay. Try Victoria's Secret Bare Bronze Body-Perfecting Spray Tint ($18, Victoria's Secret).
You Want: Great-Looking Legs
Smooth and soften: Exfoliation is step one for prepping dry legs before you bare them. Try True Blue Spa Rice to the Rescue body polish ($17.50, Bath & Body Works). Once you've de-flaked, apply lotion daily (the best time: just out of the shower, so you seal in moisture). Or switch to a body oil, which softens and adds a sexy, summery sheen. Try Sephora Dry Oil Spray ($18, Sephora).
Self-tan like a star: For a just-back-from-Acapulco application, here are Los Angeles makeup artist Vanessa Scali's top fake-it tips: Exfoliate first with a scrub, then apply moisturizer an hour before the self-tanner. Any less and you risk mixing leftover lotion with the tanner, which can cause blotchiness. Can't wait? For immediate color that washes away in the shower, opt for body bronzer. Try Tarte Glam Gams Bronzing Leg Stick ($30, Sephora).
Best new self-tanners: Bottled bronzers are the safest way to perk up winter-weary skin, but which ones are tops? To find out, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute tested 10 of the newest gradual-glow lotions and traditional, one-application tanners. Here, the results of our faux-glow face-off: Nivea Body Sun-Kissed Firming Moisturizer ($7, drugstores) led the gradual group, with the highest hydration ratings in our lab test and a color that volunteers praised for looking natural. Guerlain Terracotta Sunless Tinted Self-Tanning Gel ($50, Sephora) was the winner in the single-application category. "It made my tan smooth and sun kissed," one woman raved. Budget-friendly Neutrogena Sun Fresh Sunless Foam ($10, drugstores) and L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze ProPerfect Airbrush Self-Tanning Mist ($10, drugstores) tied for second place.
Glow — without the faux: If you're after sheen, not tanning, try a low-level glimmer lotion like Jergens Soft Shimmer Skin Radiance Moisturizer ($6, drugstores) or Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Body Gloss Lotion ($6.40, drugstores). "They have a subtle, pearl-like quality that evens out your skin tone without adding color," says Scali. "It will just look like your skin on its best day."
Stay sun safe: Bare legs are a given in summer, so it's no surprise they're a common spot for skin cancers. On workdays, try one of the new light body lotions spiked with SPF, like Eucerin Everyday Protection Body Lotion SPF 15 ($9.49, drugstores) or Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion SPF 15 ($9.49, drugstores). At the beach, opt for full-on sunblock like Coppertone Oil Free QuickCover SPF 30 spray ($10, drugstores).
Slim down the supermodel way: Here's Hay's trick to fake thinner legs (it's the same one she uses on models at the Victoria's Secret fashion shows): First, apply a tinted lotion like MAC Skinsheen Leg Spray ($22.50, department stores) for bronzy color. Then dip a fluffy powder brush into a shimmer powder like Isadora Mineral Body Glow ($20, cosmeticmall.com), and draw a line from the top of your thigh down to your toes on both the front and back of your legs.
Cellulite solutions: When it comes to this dreaded dimpling, women remain tempted by at-home potions — but no cream can eliminate cellulite, doctors say. Ingredients like caffeine might firm skin — which in turn lessens the look of lumpiness — but only briefly. "Studies show that cellulite creams last about 24 hours," says dermatologist Leslie Baumann, M.D. "So it might be worth using one if you're going to the beach." For a longer-lasting solution, talk to your doctor about these treatments.
Endermologie: Fans have long sworn by this form of deep massage and have eagerly awaited the latest generation (Lipomassage) now available. The catch: It takes time to see a difference (eight to 16 sessions) and requires ongoing appointments. "Endermologie works," says dermatologist David Goldberg, M.D., "but only as long as you keep doing it." Cost: around $100 per session.
Accent: This radio-frequency device shows real promise: In a study reported in Dermatologic Surgery in February, 30 women received treatments every other week for 12 weeks. Six months later, 27 of them still had significant improvement in their cellulite. And although prices are superhigh ($750 and up per session), results appear to last. "We looked at the women 18 months later, and half still had improvement," says Dr. Goldberg, lead researcher on the study. "I tell patients to expect once-a-year touch-ups."
You Want: Pretty Hands and Feet
Slough your soles: "There's nothing sexy about a strappy sandal with a cracked heel," says New York City celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann. To get rid of the roughness, she recommends scrubbing daily in the shower with a foot paddle or pumice stone and then following up with an ultrathick moisturizer. Try Dr. Scholl's For Her Foot Butter ($7, drugstores).
Protect those paws: Constant sun exposure makes hands vulnerable to age spots and wrinkling. Keep them from being an instant age giveaway with an SPF-enriched hand lotion like Neutrogena Age Shield Hand Cream SPF 30 ($5.69, drugstores) or Lippmann Collection
Originally published on May 19, 2008