5 Steps to Getting Gorgeous Legs
Problem 1: Ghostly Pallor
The obvious (and best) solution: self-tanners—master dissemblers, gifted at bending the truth. See the best self-tanning products.
The No-Fail, Four-Step Perfect Self-Tan
After plenty of experience with dark patches and strange stripes, we've finally found a method that works every time.
1. Exfoliate. Are you more likely to follow directions when you know why you're doing something? Here you go: Since self-tanners react with the upper layers of your skin, if certain areas have thicker skin than others, your "tan" will be more concentrated there. In other words, you'll be splotchy. Buffing your skin with a scrub (look for one that's not too oily, like Neutrogena Energizing Sugar Body Scrub, $10) evens the tanning field. Give scalier areas, like your knees and feet, extra attention.
2. Moisturize. A thin coating of moisturizer smooths the surface of your legs and prevents streaks. It dilutes the self-tanner a bit—but what you lose in intensity you make up for in uniformity. Use a light lotion, like Nivea Smooth Sensation ($6); apply a generous dose to your palms, too—it'll keep the tanner from tinting them.
3. Apply. The directions on the bottle might tell you to start from your feet and work up—but don't. "Think about where the sun hits," says Kara Peterson, who trains aestheticians in the art of fake tanning at Clarins spas. "Start off in the middle of your thighs and the middle of your calves and blend out." Your feet and knees should get only whatever's left over. Also, do the job standing up, says Peterson—when your knees are bent, you might apply too much to the stretched skin.
4. Shimmer. After your self-tanner has done its work, blend a slightly iridescent lotion over the front and back of your thighs, along your shins, and down to your feet. "The strategically placed shine has a slimming effect," says Linda Hay, head makeup artist for Victoria's Secret Beauty. If you have olive or dark skin, you're lucky—just do step four.
The 10-second leg beautifier: If self-tanning sounds too involved, there's one thing that makes legs look better in a flash: lotion. As we age, cell turnover slows down, and legs start to get scaly, says Heidi Waldorf, MD, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center. If you have dark skin, this dryness may manifest as an ashy cast. A rich lotion smooths roughness and improves luminosity. Slather one on postshower, while your skin is damp. Waldorf likes Eucerin Plus Intensive Repair Body Creme ($8.50), which contains lactic acid to slough away flakes as it softens. (After you shave, though, use an acid-free lotion to avoid irritation.)
Next: Hiding saggy knees and visible veins