Holy cow! What is that blinding shade of white emanating from below the waist? Oh, they're my pale as all, slightly hairy, possibly not-as-toned-as-they-could-be, legs. For some of us, as the weather warms and we look toward lighter clothes and less coverage, paying attention to what's happening down south becomes a priority. For others, who bask in the glory of their well insulated, winter-white flesh, perhaps less so. For me, I'm not too excited about slipping on those shorts, skirts and sandals until I've at least done a little tune-up. Let's take a look at potential concerns and how we might address them, as naturally as possible of course.
Banish Lizard Legs
Feeling a little reptilian? Step one to improving the look and feel of our legs when they get dry, rough or when we are plagued with those little bumps on the thighs is to exfoliate and moisturize. Pay a little extra attention to knees, where skin tends to thicken. For double duty, I love to use an oil based sugar scrub, like the Monoi Sugar Scrub by Te Natura (smells a-mazing), which both sloughs off those dead skin cells that make skin dull and rough and helps unclog follicles that cause bumps while moisturizing that freshly revealed skin with Tamanu nut & rice bran oils. You can also make your own with 1 part organic, unrefined olive oil, 2 parts organic sugar. Don't soap up after lest you strip your skin of those beneficial oils, but do take care in the shower as surfaces tend to get slick.
Are you looking at your family tree pondering the potential of a relation to the woolly mammoth? While some of us are totally cool with going "au natural," some of us are less so. Having very fair leg hair, I can often get away without a daily shave, but there are some - ahem - regions where if you're going to bare them, they really are better off well tended. Shaving is one obvious option. I love Preserve razors; they are made from recycled plastic and unlike other razors, they're 100% recyclable when they've reached the end of their useful life. Waxing is another option beloved by many (masochists). Truly though, once you do it a few times, it gets easier, and over time, less hair grows in. DIY hair removal kits like Parissa or Moom are also an option for the truly stout of heart, and I gather these two work well for those brave souls, but I just can't bring myself to inflict that much pain on myself intentionally. Finally, laser hair removal is an option for some, but we'll save that for a later discussion.
A Bronze Hue
Not a fan of the nick name Casper? You can certainly change your hue by opting for some exposure to that glowing orb in the sky; just make sure to make your sessions short, before noon or after 4pm (avoiding the most potent and damaging rays), apply a physical nano-particle ( vs. chemical) zinc or titanium oxide based sunscreen. I like True Natural's Active Sunscreen SPF40, especially if I'm going to be outside for a long time and active or in & out of water. Keep in mind, though, that even a "natural" tan is still damaging to the skin, and with a high SPF, it might take you all summer to achieve a golden glow.
The alternative here is self- tanning. Self tanners use dihydroxyacetone, a sugar that reacts with the proteins in your skin to create a sun-tan like color. It sounds like a pretty scary ingredient, but most studies indicate it's pretty safe to use. It tends to be the rest of the ingredients in the bottle that you want to avoid, so stick with a clean formula. I like Lavera's Glow & Go, a spray gel for easy application, instant glow and a medium depth tan and True Natural's Anti-Aging Self-Tanner, a light, pleasant smelling formula creating a medium depth tan. If you're new to self tanning, I suggest going slow and gradually building color over time. Make sure you've exfoliated well and applied a light moisturizer to the knees, backs of the ankles and toes as those areas tend to absorb more product and darken to a deeper shade.
Beyond DIY is the option of getting a professional spray tan, which can yield some pretty impressive results but will set you back $30-$100 a pop, depending on where you go, and inhaling spray tanner is something you might wish to avoid according to the FDA. That said, there are a few 'organic' spray tan salons, including Chocolate Sun (who also has a line of self tanners with good reviews) in Santa Monica and West Hollywood, CA and The Organic Bronze Bar in Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA.
Disguise & Smooth
Cottage cheese can be a great lean protein to include in your diet, but some of us would prefer it not to show up on the backs of our legs. Let me begin by saying that 90 percent of women have cellulite; it is not a disease or affliction, and nothing in a bottle is going to make it go away permanently. Cellulite is not, as far as I've learned, the result of 'trapped toxins', as many will claim, but rather a product of the way women's bodies are built. We all have a layer of fat over our muscles held in place by a layer of sub-dermal, fibrous connective tissues largely made of collagen. Yes, the thicker the layer of fat, the more cellulite you may have, but even super skinny women have cellulite because the real culprit is the structure of the fibrous bands that support our skin. Men have a cross linked layer that holds fat in effectively, while women have more of a column like structure that allows fat to bulge through.
A combination of a healthy diet to minimize body fat, resistance training to build muscle and keep the legs toned and keeping the skin in good shape by exfoliating and moisturizing, are your best bets. If you're still feeling self-conscious, tan cellulite tends to be less noticeable than white cellulite, so a good self tanning job can help mask it.
Finally, there are a few cellulite treatments and products that may temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite by plumping up the skin or tightening it up to smooth things out. I, for one, am a sucker and still hold out hope that I'll find that magic potion in a bottle. So, I'm giving these a go, even if the improved appearance lasts only as long as I'm wearing my swim suit that day. A couple good options with promising formulas that steer clear of bad actor ingredients include Slimming Gel by Melvita and a new one coming out soon by REN. I plan to put each through my own personal trial, the results of which I'll share with you in about 30 days. Nothing short of a miracle is going to take it away completely, so perhaps a little self-acceptance is in order here. And yes, I need to take my own advice.
There you have it. The four step plan to soften, de-hair, tan and smooth out those legs for a little prime time summer exposure. Of course, you don't have to buy in to one iota of this. Keep in mind that perfectly smooth, bronzed, hairless legs do not occur in nature. They are the product of our modern day image of "beautiful" and frankly, if you've got two strong legs that work and allow you to walk, run, jump, dance and play, that's pretty damn beautiful.