You've gotta love legs.
No matter how scaly, fuzzy or flabby they become in the off-season, with a little effort you can whip them back into summer shape.
The reason? "Legs get less sun damage because, unless you're in Florida, they're covered most of the year, unlike your chest and face," says Jeannette Graf, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
"Plus, leg skin is thicker, making it less prone to wrinkles." And, adds celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, they have a lot of muscle, making them receptive to quick toning. Bring yours back to fab with these pro-tested tricks.
Any degree of bronze makes legs look fitter. Since a real tan is off the table (melanoma is often found on the lower leg), go faux.
For an instant fix… Try a tinted lotion or spray; color shows up immediately and washes off in the shower. "You can rub it on fast to give legs some warmth," says celebrity makeup artist Troy Surratt. We like Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs lotion ($14; at mass retailers), which is water- and transfer-resistant, and Victoria's Secret Instant Bronzing Tinted body spray ($15).
If you have a little more time…Opt for a self-tanner that gets you a full shade darker in a single session. Apply early—it takes 8 to 12 hours for the color to develop. Creams and lotions require more attentive application to avoid streaks, while sprays give an even glow. Hold the can 6 inches away and apply in a circular motion. "When you get to the knees and ankles, let up a bit on the nozzle for a lighter finish," advises Tamar Vezirian, owner of Gotham Glow in New York City. We like Brownberry Clear Sunless Tanning spray ($45 ), which—bonus—moisturizes skin and smells really fresh.
If you have days to plan…Use a gradual-glow lotion that builds over a few days with multiple applications. Wearing surgical gloves (to keep palms clean), apply four quarter-size dollops to each leg (one for the front, one for the back, one for each side); blend in a circular motion. Try St. Tropez Gradual Tan Plus Firming 4 in 1 ($40). "For dry spots, like knees and ankles, mix tanner with a squirt of moisturizer to prevent the formula from collecting and creating dark patches," says Vezirian.
Stretch out that salon spray tan
A pro glow can run you up to $80, so you want to make it last. Show up to your appointment with clean, lotion-free skin, advises Vezirian, and change into loose clothes post-treatment. To get the color to hold the full five to seven days, moisturize diligently and avoid long, hot showers, as well as sweaty workouts, for the first two days. The results will be so worth it.
The bad news: There's no cure for cellulite. The good news: There are ways to help smooth things over.
At home: Exercise helps by lowering body fat, increasing lean muscle and aiding in lymphatic drainage (preventing toxin and fat buildup), says Doris Day, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Beyond that, certain over-the-counter items can temporarily minimize the rippled effect, caused by fat deposits. Try cellulite creams with caffeine or L-carnitine, an amino acid that aids in fat removal, such as Nivea Skin Firming Cellulite gel-cream with Q10 ($14; at mass retailers). Some plant extracts, like celosia cristata, also have dimple-busting potential. Find them in Clarins Body Lift Cellulite Control ($68).
At the doctor's office: Dermatology options range from a filler, like Restylane ($500 a pop), which plumps dimples instantly, to the laser procedure Cellulaze (roughly $5,000).
Secrets to getting the smoothest at-home results—no matter which method you choose.
Best for: Anyone prone to ingrowns (a side effect of waxing) who is looking for a quick fix.
- To avoid irritation, "shave at the end of a shower, when skin is soft," says Dr. Day.
- Use a shaving cream or gel, which primes the skin, allowing for fewer passes, Dr. Day adds. We like Eos 24-Hour Moisturizing shave cream in Pomegranate Raspberry ($4; at mass retailers).
- Keep your razor in a secure spot so it won't fall (damaged blades are likely to cut skin). Try Schick Hydro Silk disposables ($10 for 3; at mass retailers).
Best for: Someone who has a high pain threshold, wants a longer-term fix and doesn't mind a little stubble (you have to let hair grow out a bit before waxing).
- Take an Advil a half hour pre-wax to dull the pain. And avoid waxing around your period, when you're more sensitive.
- Wax needs to be hot, but if it's too hot it will scorch skin. "Try it on the back of your hand first," says Eileen Cornell, owner of MaxWax in New York City. Veet EasyWax Electric Roll-On kit has a self-heating system that warms the wax until it hits the right temp ($40; at mass retailers).
Best for: Those who can't stand to have any stubble: Depilatories use a chemical reaction to break down hairs instead of cutting them, so you're spared prickly razor-cut ends as hair grows back, says Dr. Waldorf.
- Got sensitive skin? "Test the formula on a small area of skin before slathering it all over your legs to make sure it won't cause irritation," suggests Dr. Waldorf.
- For less mess, opt for an in-shower hair remover, such as Nair Brazilian Spa Clay Total Care Body Trio In-Shower depilatory ($14; at Target).