5 Steps to Getting Gorgeous Legs
Problem 2: Scary Bruises
Do your legs often look as if you just played a game of one-on-one with David Beckham? You probably haven't gotten clumsier—but you may have lost some padding. "As we age, we lose the fat just beneath our skin that protects our blood vessels from trauma," says Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. You can't do anything about the fat loss, but you can cut down on medications and supplements that make you more prone to bruising, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and vitamin E. Fusco also recommends taking 250 to 500 milligrams of vitamin C, which can strengthen collagen in the blood vessel walls, every day. Once the damage is done, bromelain supplements may help the discolored areas heal more quickly; take 500 milligrams twice a day, says Leslie Baumann, MD, professor of dermatology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that topical arnica creams (try Boiron Arnicare Cream, $6) speed healing.
Problem 3: Saggy Knees
We think it's a fine idea that our knees are located smack in the middle of our legs: Without knees, so many delightful things—walking, line-dancing, the lotus position—would be a challenge. But when we recently noticed that our knees weren't looking as taut as they once did, their prominent placement began to seem unfortunate. Firming the quadriceps may improve things. "Tightening the muscles above the knees helps lift them," says Johanna Subotovsky, a trainer at Equinox Fitness. Sit at the edge of a chair and extend each leg until it's parallel to the floor, to boost quadriceps strength.
The only way to fully restore knees to their former glory involves surgery: No thanks. A less-invasive option could be coming soon. Doctors are investigating laser and radiofrequency treatments (brands include Titan and Thermage) as potential knee lifters. These procedures heat collagen, causing it to contract and tighten skin over time; one treatment (about $3,000 for both knees) is supposed to yield results over six months, and the effects can last up to two years. "I'm not confident in these treatments yet, but as the technology evolves, the knees will be an area that could be treated successfully," says Ranella Hirsch, MD, president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology & Aesthetic Surgery.
Problem 4: Visible Veins
Maybe you noticed a couple of faint squiggles around your ankles a few years back. Now you see blue lines, like kudzu gone wild, creeping behind your knees, over your thighs. You have several options to get rid of them, depending on the type of veins you're dealing with; all require a doctor's appointment.
Itsy-Bitsy Spiders: The tiniest veins can be zapped with a Vbeam, YAG, or diode laser. The beam destroys the walls of the veins (it will feel like a few quick rubber-band snaps), causing them to disappear within about two weeks. About three treatments, at $300 to $400 each, are necessary.
Smooth Squiggles: When a vein is large enough to be threaded with a small needle, sclerotherapy is the most effective option. A solution is injected into individual veins to irritate and collapse them; the body then reabsorbs them over the following weeks. Glycerin works for smaller veins, and saline or Sotradecol (a sodium sulfate compound) is most effective on larger ones, says Neil Sadick, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The injected sites may sting slightly for about five minutes, says Heidi Waldorf. When larger veins are treated, they sometimes feel slightly sore, like a muscle ache, for a day or so. Two or three treatments are usually necessary, and the veins look worse before they get better (in about a month). Treatments cost $300 to $500.
Ropy Bulges: When veins protrude, doctors recommend "endovenous closure," a procedure performed under local anesthesia in which a radiofrequency or laser fiber is inserted into the vein; energy is applied to heat the vein's walls, causing it to collapse. One treatment is sufficient, but can cost from $3,500 to $6,000 per leg (doctors usually treat one leg at a time). Most patients experience pressure and burning for about five minutes of the 30-minute procedure, says vascular surgeon Norman Chideckel, MD, assistant clinical professor of surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. Afterward you have to wear compression stockings and endure some discomfort (mild enough to be treated with Advil) for several days.
Next: Camouflaging lumps and bumps