When I slipped into my first dress of the season without tights, I thought to myself, “Daaamn, Holly! Back at it again with the white legs.” (Admit it: It’s catchy.) They’re pasty, dry, and spotted. Oh, and seemingly more dimpled than this time last year. The transition from winter to spring isn’t always pretty.
Happily, there are simple beauty solutions for all those common annoyances. Read on as top experts share strategies for sexy legs this spring.
Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate
For many of us, the seasonal change reveals legs that resemble an alligator’s. “Dead cells build up on the surface of skin, creating a scaly look and feel,” says Alysa Herman, MD, a dermatologist and skin surgeon in Miami, FL. To uncover the baby-soft layer underneath, she suggests using a sugar-based scrub, which is less likely than salt to cause stinging or redness, with added hydrators like coconut or jojoba oil. Try Herbivore Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polish ($36; sephora.com). Massage a palmful of product over damp skin, using gentle pressure and circular motions to increase circulation for a healthy glow; rinse thoroughly.
Amp up the moisture
Heavy creams are so last season. Consider adding body oil (hear us out!) to your routine instead. “Oils are rich in essential fatty acids and protect the skin’s lipid barrier,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “Plus, they lend a sexy sheen to legs.” Look for heavy-hitters like argan, jojoba and almond oils. Worried about the slick-ick? Dry oils, like Suave Moroccan Infusion Dry Oil Body Spray ($5; amazon.com), deliver the same amount of moisture without the greasy feel. Spritz onto legs immediately after showering while skin is still wet and can retain the moisture that is left on its surface; allow time for oil to absorb completely before dressing, and shine on.
Coming off of a break from your razor? Use these smooth moves to take back your silky legs: Shave at the end of a warm shower when skin is soft and the hair follicles are loose. For the closest cut without irritation, Dr. Gohara suggests using short strokes in the direction of hair growth. Always apply a thick layer of shaving cream first to condition the hair so it easily slides off, and rinse the blade frequently to remove buildup. Try Kiss My Face 4 in 1 Moisture Shave ($7; walgreens.com). If you feel the need to press into skin in order to reach stubble, it’s probably time to replace the blade (typically after five uses).
Build a (faux) glow
The secret to achieving swimsuit-model stems: bronze—and bronze again. “Layering on more than one coat of self-tanner at a time builds the most even, natural-looking color and helps elongate the legs,” confides celebrity makeup artist Allan Avendano, who prepped the ladies of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. We like the new St. Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse ($19; amazon.com)—it goes on evenly (see ya, streaks), is formulated without parabens, sulfates, or phthalates, and dries quickly.
Before you get started, Avendano says, make sure your legs are clean, dry and unmoisturized so color will adhere to skin. Using circular motions, blend self-tanner downward from the top of legs, then immediately blot areas that crease—like the knees, backs of knees and ankles—with a damp cloth to prevent streaks. Allow 30 minutes for the first layer to dry before applying a second.
Tone down the look of dimples
While there’s no miracle cream for cellulite (sigh), a product that’s infused with caffeine will temporarily tighten skin and deflate the fat cells that cause puckering. A good one to try: Clarins Masvelt Body Shaping Cream ($65; amazon.com). “Give yourself a deep tissue massage when applying,” says Dr. Gohara. “This helps further break up the dimpling and plumps the skin by increasing circulation.” If you’re really determined to ditch the dimples, dermatologists are excited about Cellfina, a minimally-invasive procedure that releases the fibers between cellulite bundles to keep thighs smooth for up to three years ($2,000 to $5,000 a treatment).
Make sun spots, scars, and spider veins appear with a temporary body bronzer. It will smooth the the appearance of skin, while light reflecting particles will diffuse the look of blemishes and squiggles—and it washes off at the end of the day. Vita Liberata Body Blur Instant HD Skin Finish ($45; sephora.com) imparts natural-looking color that blends beautifully with every skin tone. Apply in pea-sized dots along each limb, then buff it in using circular motions.
Soften pesky bumps
Those sandpaper-like bumps on the buttocks and backs of thighs are known as keratosis pilaris. “It’s a genetic condition whereby skin proteins get trapped in the follicle, creating a rough texture,” explains Dr. Gohara. The bumps may seem more obvious coming off of winter, when skin is dry and perhaps more irritated. While treatment is usually unnecessary, dermatologists recommend using an exfoliating alpha hydroxy acid, such as glycolic or lactic acid, to smooth the texture. Find the former in Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash ($24; amazon.com).
Don’t forget SPF!
Newsflash: The most common area for melanoma in women is the leg. “Applying sunscreen when the legs are exposed not only significantly lessens your risk for skin cancer, but also helps prevent the photodamage that surfaces in the form of dark spots, dilated capillaries and crepey skin,” says Dr. Herman. Make your sunblock do double duty by applying one that’s high on SPF and has added hydrators and antioxidants to fight off aging. A derm fave: La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk ($36; target.com), which leaves skin cashmere-smooth, never sticky.