With summer on the horizon, the sun and surf are waving you in. Get prepped and primed for the beach -- starting now -- in a few simple steps.
1. Stock Up on Sunscreen
It's your skin's best friend. Think you can squeeze out a few drops from last year's half-used bottle? Not so fast. "If you've had sunscreen around for more than a year, you're probably not using enough or it's probably expired. Get some new stuff," says dermatologist Thomas Rohrer, MD, of Chestnut Hill, Mass.
For the ultimate protection, look for three key phrases on the label: broad spectrum (which blocks both UVA and UVB rays), water resistant (up to 40 or 80 minutes), and SPF 30 or higher.
Don't skimp. You need enough to fill a shot glass for one application, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Reapply at least every two hours, more often when you're swimming or sweating. Lips can burn too, so give them a little love with a SPF 30 lip balm.
2. Upgrade Your Whole-Body Skin Care
Trade dry winter skin for a healthy summer glow with a one-two punch of exfoliation and moisture. "Exfoliation is a good thing to turn over the dead layer of skin on the surface," Rohrer says. "And skin always looks better when it's moisturized."
Step one: Slough off dead, flaky skin in the shower with a loofah or exfoliating scrub. Step two: Slather on moisturizer as soon as you get out of the bath or shower to lock in hydration.
Want a sun-kissed glow before stepping in the sand? A self-tanner will do the trick. Just remember that it doesn't protect your skin from the sun, so you still need sunscreen. Don't use tanning beds. Just like the sun, their ultraviolet light can cause skin cancer and wrinkling.
3. Spruce Up Neglected Areas
Get those spots you kept under wraps all winter ready for their summer debut.
Treat your feet to a warm, soapy soak. Then exfoliate dry skin and soften rough calluses with a salt scrub and pumice stone. Follow this with a thick moisturizer specifically made for hands and feet. Get toenails ready by cutting them straight across and slightly rounded in the center, which will keep them strong and prevent ingrown toenails. The perfect accessory: a fresh coat of polish.
For smooth, stubble-free skin, you have plenty of options. At-home and salon remedies like shaving, depilatories, and waxing can be easy, safe, and inexpensive.
To prevent irritation, do it a day or two before hitting the beach. For long-term removal, Rohrer suggests electrolysis or laser treatment.
4. Wear the Right Stuff
Stock your beach tote with protective gear.
"Make sure you have a hat," Rohrer says. "Baseball caps are OK but not great; it's better to have a broad brim all the way around." Broad-brim hats help protect the ears, which are often forgotten and a common place for skin cancer.
Use a leave-in conditioner or UV-protective spray to coat and protect your strands. If your hair is thinning, remember sunscreen for your scalp.
Extra layers, like a long-sleeve shirt or cover-up, help shield skin from the sun's rays. Rohrer recommends sun-protective clothing, which protects skin and dries quickly.
5. Tone Up
'It's not too late to shape up for swimsuit season.
"You can absolutely improve your fitness and muscle tone within a month – if you get moving!" says Juliet Kaska, a celebrity trainer and owner of JK Fitness Pilates Studio in Los Angeles. The key, she says, is to become active. Burn calories every chance you get by walking, running, or even dancing.
You can also boost metabolism and build lean muscle with strength training. For a power move, Kaska recommends walking lunges with oblique twists. Start with feet together, a medicine ball in front of your chest, and elbows out to the side. Step forward with your right foot, bending both knees into a lunge. Hold. Push the ball forward, then twist to your right, keeping hips still. Hold. Return to neutral, then pull the ball back to your chest. Step your left leg forward, returning you to the start position. Repeat on the left side. Do 15 times on each side.
To flatten your tummy, try Pilates. "Activating your deep core muscles draws your waistline in, giving the illusion of lost weight even if you haven't stuck to your diet," she says.
Last but definitely not least: Stand tall. Not only can good posture enhance your appearance, but it also boosts confidence, which will give you an inner glow that radiates for miles.