Seven ways to keep yourself resplendent all season long.
We've always associated the glorious, intoxicatingly warm and languorous days of summer with getting gorgeous. That's when we can let down our hair (or casually pin it up, exposing a glimpse of neck or shoulder and maybe, too, exuding a light, luscious burst of scent), strip off the layers of cotton or wool, and go barelegged and sometimes barefoot, savoring the delicious freedom of naked skin against the soft air. So it's with great delight that we report that the job of getting gorgeous (and staying that way) has just gotten a whole lot easier.
Here are seven ways to keep yourself resplendent throughout this season and beyond.
Protect Your Haircolor
Why it fades faster in summer: Swimmers, take note. "Water is the principal cause of fading," says Christine Hall, research and development director at John Frieda. "It penetrates the hair and dissolves the dye, causing it to rinse right out." And if hair is sun damaged or overprocessed, it's even more likely that dyes will escape. Women who lighten their hair with permanent color have been known to struggle with another fade-related problem: brassiness. "The coloring process first lifts melanin from hair, and an orange-yellow shade results," says Hall. "It then deposits cool dyes on top, but they fade quickly, exposing the brassy tones."
The fix: A scarf, cap, or UV-shielding cream will protect hair from the sun. (Redken UV Rescue Brunette Guard or Blonde Guard color-saving swim creams, $13, block UVA/UVB rays and prevent hair from absorbing drying chlorine and salt.) But what to do about water? A shower cap is a wise idea on days you don't shampoo. When you do, color-protecting shampoos and conditioners can help stop fading by laying down silicones to seal the hair shaft.
Pamper Your Face
Why skin suffers: Free radicals. The antagonists of any skincare story, these unstable molecules-produced by sun, pollution, stress-attack healthy cells and cause inflammation, triggering enzymes to break down collagen and elastin.
The fix: Our heroes-antioxidants. "They're like fire extinguishers for free radicals," says David McDaniel, MD, assistant professor of clinical dermatology and plastic surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School. They wipe out rogue molecules and reduce inflammation. The antioxidant idebenone, a derivative of coenzyme Q10 (and the active ingredient in the doctor-dispensed wrinkle cream Prevage), is regarded as a "star chemical" by some doctors. Like most antioxidants, idebenone is primarily preventive, but in independent testing, McDaniel found it to be reparative as well, since it decreased collagen-degrading enzymes in the body. Another superantioxidant, plant-derived ferulic acid, has been shown to bolster the natural photoprotective effects of topically applied vitamins C and E, says Leslie Baumann, MD, associate professor of clinical dermatology at the University of Miami. Come October, Baumann adds, look for the oral antioxidant Heliocare, which contains a fern extract that protects skin from UVA damage. Green tea also prevents inflammation and photoaging when ingested or applied topically in very high concentrations. (Topix Replenix Serum, $44, contains 90 percent.)
Nourish Your Neck
Why: The skin on our necks, more delicate and thinner than facial skin, loses elasticity faster.
The fix: There are a few ways to reshape sagging on the neck; all depend on the type of sagging you have. One of the more common: two defined folds that run from under the chin to the lower neck. Relaxing those bands with Botox can make the neck look softer and firmer for about six months, but treatment can be expensive, says Mary Lupo, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine. The only surefire fix for more general sagging is a neck lift, which, according to Kyle Choe, MD, director of facial plastic surgery at the Laser Skin & Vein Center of Virginia, typically involves lifting both the neck and lower face to create a distinct jawline and taut neck-at $7,000 to $9,000 plus ten days' downtime. Tightening lasers and infrared devices such as Fraxel and Titan are showing encouraging early results. "But they're not a substitute for surgery," says David McDaniel, MD. "They're simply an alternative for people who don't want a lift or aren't ready for one." Because sagging is difficult to improve, Leslie Baumann, MD, preaches daily prevention: Use a moisturizer with SPF, and retinoids, such as Differin or Retin A.
Moisturize Your Body-All of It
Why you're dry: Dry heat, hot showers, harsh detergents, and... forgetfulness? It's true: Eighty percent of us claim to have dry skin, according to Olay, the global skincare brand, but only 43 percent moisturize daily. You do the math.
The fix: "Moisturizer draws water into the epidermis and prevents it from escaping," says Howard Murad, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA. And because they work best on wet skin, new in-shower body lotions-which you use after cleansing, like a conditioner, to hydrate and soften skin-make a lot of sense. They also make it easy to moisturize (or remember) hard-to-reach places like our back and stomach. Most formulas contain a humectant, such as glycerin, to attract water and a concentrated dose of ultraemollient petrolatum to lock it in. The real trick for scientists was getting the stuff to stay on when you rinse. David Canestrari, senior research and development manager for Unilever Skin Global Innovation Center, says that their in-shower lotion (Suave Skin Therapy Skin Conditioner, $3) has a slight positive charge, so it adheres well to skin, which naturally has a slight negative charge. (Whatever. It works.)
Smooth the Cellulite
Why you've got it: In women, fat is stored in honeycomb-like sacks. When these sacks expand, they push up into the dermis, compressing connective tissue and creating visible dimples in the skin.
The fix: "You can't 'cure' a woman of cellulite, because she needs this stored fat for pregnancy and lactation," says Mitchel Goldman, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego. You can temporarily smooth lumps by stimulating blood flow to help eliminate fluids and by strengthening the walls of the "honeycomb" compartments. A recent French study proved that when Endermologie, a combination of suction and deep massage with rollers, is performed twice a week for eight weeks ($80 to $120 per session), it can reduce the appearance of cellulite for up to six months. Another procedure, the TriActive System, incorporates a low-energy laser, a skin-cooling mechanism, and suction massage to stimulate collagen, circulation, and lymphatic drainage. It's painless, says Goldman, and study results seem promising. VelaSmooth, the newest cellulite machine, uses radio frequency, infrared light, suction, and massage to increase blood flow and push fat cells back into the fat layer, where they won't show through the skin. Both VelaSmooth and TriActive can reduce cellulite by 40 to 60 percent after 12 to 16 sessions (at about $200 each).
Zap Spider and Varicose Veins
Why you've got them: Both result from damaged valves. "If you're genetically susceptible—i.e., female—your vein walls tend to be weak and prone to leaking," says Robert Weiss, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The fix: You can help strengthen veins by exercising your calf muscles often. But the reality is, no matter what you do, 50 percent of women will have spider and/or varicose veins by age 50. Sclerotherapy-injecting a solution to dissolve the vein-is still the gold standard for spider vein treatment because the solution treats a large area in a small amount of time, says Weiss. (Glycerin, a relatively new, nonirritating sclerosing agent, is known to have fewer side effects than others.) Lasers, which use heat to collapse veins, work best when targeting just a few isolated spider veins. Both treatments require only one or two sessions at $250 to $350 each. Endovenous closure, a one-puncture procedure performed under local anesthesia, is the newest and most effective treatment for varicose veins. "We insert a catheter, then thread a radio frequency or laser fiber into the vein, under ultrasound guidance, and apply energy to heat the vein wall, causing it to shrink or collapse," says Weiss. Swelling is relieved immediately and vein size is reduced by at least 50 percent. The best part: Many insurance companies cover most of the $2,000 to $3,000 cost.
Treat Your Feet
Why: You've been good about going to the gym. But you left your flip-flops at home. "In the last two years, I've seen a major increase in foot fungus," says Suzanne Levine, a podiatric surgeon in New York City who attributes the rise to the increased popularity of spas and health clubs. You don't just develop fungus, she says; it has to be introduced from an outside source, such as contaminated nail clippers or a dirty shower floor. "People with hyperhidrosis [excessive sweating], who constantly feel like their feet are swimming in their shoes, are more prone to fungus," says Levine.
The fix: If you've already contracted a fungus, ask your doctor for prescription-strength antifungal topicals, such as Lamisil or Penlac. Over-the-counter products are rarely strong enough, says Levine. And in the warm weather, why not give yourself the pretty punctuation of a bright polish with a pedicure? (To be safe, bring your own tools.)