Warm weather and bare legs go hand in hand — the season’s shorts, dresses, and swimsuits put them on full display, so naturally we want them to look their best. Not to worry — glowy and gorgeous gams aren’t difficult to achieve. “Skin care is always evolving, for your face and body,” says board-certified dermatologist and Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan founder Michelle Henry, MD. “When it comes to maintaining silky, smooth legs, there’s no shortage of options available, such as hair removal treatments, self-tanners, laser therapies, and a variety of creams and scrubs to improve skin tone.”
Keep reading for Dr. Henry’s breakdown of the five top things to do this summer (and always) to keep your legs looking and feeling smooth.
1. Do Away With Dark Spots
Just like our faces, legs aren’t exempt from hyperpigmentation. From a proactive standpoint, it’s important to always wear sunscreen (experts recommend SPF 30 or greater) to reduce the potential for sun damage. To treat discoloration, Dr. Henry recommends exfoliating skin with products that have fruit acids and lighteners like vitamin C or kojic acid. Prescription retinoids will help reduce scarring and age spots, while steroid creams work on inflammation.
2. Look at Your Lifestyle
According to Dr. Henry, inflammatory health conditions or medications can also cause dark spots on the legs. “Examples include diabetes and chronic venous insufficiency, or poor blood circulation,” she says. “Getting these conditions under control may help with your legs.” Quitting smoking, exercising regularly, staying hydrated, and not overdoing the alcohol intake will keep the inflammation in check and help blood flow to your legs normally.
3. Consider Laser Hair Removal
The bad news: permanent hair removal is a process that takes a few months. The good word: “Some new laser treatments can provide results in as little as one to two treatments, with several visits needed for a noticeable difference,” Dr. Henry says. She recommends beginning laser hair removal in the fall since it’s best to avoid direct sunlight posttreatment to prevent burns or scarring.
4. Treat Any Veins
“Sclerotherapy and laser treatments are among the most popular and effective for spider veins and varicose veins,” Dr. Henry says. “These are minimally invasive and performed in dermatologists’ offices when other approaches such as compression, exercise, elevation, or soaking baths haven’t worked well enough.” In sclerotherapy, a chemical is injected into the vein so the vein’s walls stick together and prevent blood from flowing into them, she explains. A compression stocking is worn for a few weeks to reduce swelling. Spider veins disappear in three to six weeks; varicose veins may take a bit longer.
“With laser treatments, a laser light penetrates the vein and essentially destroys and closes it,” Dr. Henry says. It takes three or more treatments to work, and skin must be protected from the sun to avoid damage.
5. Pay Attention to Your Daily Routine
Exfoliate a few times a week to slough away dead skin cells and improve legs’ texture and tone. And don’t forget to moisturize right after you get out of the shower for optimal absorption. “When shaving, always be sure to use a clean razor to prevent infection of hair follicles,” Dr. Henry advises. Perhaps you want to follow up with a sunless tanner cream or mist to boost skin tone and blur discoloration. Have some extra self-care time during the week? Consider dry brushing; on dry skin, use gentle strokes going from the feet upward with a brush that has bristles that aren’t super stiff (but also not soft). Body brushing is useful for boosting circulation and helping reduce fluid retention in the legs, Dr. Henry says. It also makes them feel smooth as butter!