Get flawless body skin: it’s time to take your beauty routine beyond just your face and neck. Your decolletage, arms, hands, legs and feet all need TLC too. Here’s how to get radiant all over
Mary Rose Almasi
Have you noticed? All of a sudden, there’s a surge of interest in skin below the neck, from the proliferation of new body products to innovative services being offered at salons and dermatologists’ offices. And while women are beginning to understand that a lifetime of healthy practices is the best route to beautiful skin, the bad news is that many women who have regularly exfoliated, moisturized and slathered sunscreen on their faces for years haven’t taken as much care below the neck. The result, they’ve come to find out, can be a bit shocking.
“Women have begun to notice a disconnect between their face and their body, which hasn’t received the same protective steps,” says Min-Wei Christine Lee, M.D., dermatological surgeon and director of The East Bay Laser & Skin Care Center, in Walnut Creek, Calif., and clinical instructor of dermatologic surgery at the University of California at San Francisco. While we’ve been so focused on our faces, we’ve simply forgotten that our body skin needs some serious pampering as well.
Now the focus is starting to shift. “Healthy, glowing skin is now considered an accessory–it’s the reason women want to show off their arms, backs and legs,” says Regina Viotto, spa director for Paul Lebrecque Salon & Spa in New York City, about this new whole-body attitude. “We crave more than just ways to keep our skin well-hydrated; every woman wants it to be flawless too.” Luckily, advances in skin treatments–both in the dermatologist’s office and at home–have caught up with the desire to maintain and restore body skin to its glowing best. Read on for the latest smoothers and radiance boosters for every area of your body.
GOAL >> to reduce mottled (excess) pigment “The chest can take on a host of changes from sun exposure, which can show up in the late 20s or early 30s,” says David Bank, M.D., a dermatologist in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. Freckles peek out first, and then an over all ruddiness/mottling called poikiloderma appears.
Professional solutions Peeling agents like glycolic acid can be swabbed over skin to get rid of the top layer of mottling (plan for four to six treatments at $150-$200 each, with slight redness for a few hours afterward).
There’s also microdermabrasion, which uses ultrafine granules to gently “sandblast” the top pigmented layer of skin (again, expect to get four to six treatments, at upward of $200-$250 each; a slight redness can result for a few hours afterward). Ruddiness, which is caused by tiny dilated blood vessels below skin’s surface, can be erased too with the V-Beam or V-Star laser, both of which seal off blood vessels. You’ll likely need two to three treatments at $500-$700 each; possible temporary bruising can result.
At-home fixes A lotion with gentle chemical exfoliators like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), including glycolic acid, or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid can help gradually even out skin tone (although it won’t give you the same results as professional peels). Most products can bring about a slight improvement after several weeks of daily use. At-home body peels also can keep skin even-toned. (A best bet: MD Skincare Alpha Beta Daily Body Peel, $78; mdskincare.com, a two-step product with skin-smoothing AHAs and BHAs, as well as antioxidants, green tea and essential fatty acids.) To prevent further damage, use sunscreen religiously. Try DuWop Revolotion ($21; nordstrom.com), a sheer, tinted SPF 15 body moisturizer, or Neutrogena Skin Smoothing Body Lotion SPF 15 ($10; at drugstores) with AHAs.
GOAL >> to minimize spider veins, varicose veins and cellulite
All of these skin-care concerns have a strong genetic link. But varicose and spider veins are also associated with increased pressure on the veins, which can be exacerbated by standing or sitting for prolonged periods and habitually crossing your legs. The veins have little valves, or flaps, that get damaged over time from gravitational pressure. Increased pressure dilates vessel walls, making them more evident, explains New York City dermatologist Arielle Kauvar, M.D. The exact causes of cellulite (deposits of dimpled fat most commonly found in the thighs and butt) are less clear, but the condition is no less unsightly. The appearance results from fat protruding between the strands of fibrous tissue that connect the skin to the muscle beneath.
Professional solutions For small spider veins, sclerotherapy–the gold standard for years–is still most often used. During a session, a saline or chemical solution is injected into the tiny veins, causing the vessel walls to collapse and dissolve. (Plan for three or more treatments at about $350 per “cluster,” and expect some temporary discoloration or bruising afterward.)
Awaiting FDA approval for the treatment of cellulite is Velasmooth, a device that combines the energies of radio-frequency, infrared laser and mechanical manipulation/vacuum to break up fat and fibrous bands as well as to tighten and smooth skin. Most cases call for an initial series of eight to 12 treatment sessions scheduled one to two times a week, then once-a-month sessions for maintenance. Cost will likely be $150-$350 per session, depending on the extent of cellulite; as of now, there are no reported side effects. “Patients in the study demonstrated a 30-50 percent reduction in cellulite after eight to 12 treatments,” reports Lee, who is one of the lead clinical trial investigators of Velasmooth.
At-home fixes Creams made to firm skin and minimize cellulite can work in two ways: by moisturizing skin so it’s plumper and appears smoother, and by temporarily constricting skin using a diuretic agent like caffeine. Try the Shape of Beauty Award-winning Estee Lauder Body Performance Anti-Cellulite Visible Contouring Serum ($50; esteelauder.com) or Avon Solutions Cellu-Sculpt Anti-Cellulite Slimming Treatment ($16; 800-FOR-AVON). Exercise and a healthy diet also play important roles in reducing the appearance of cellulite by lowering over all body fat.
Hands & feet
GOAL >> to downplay veins and smooth wrinkles
A history of sun worship can lead to an early breakdown of skin’s natural fat layer, which normally “pads” veins on the back of hands and top of feet; it’s not unusual to see these changes as early as the late 20s. “The skin on the back of hands and feet is thinner to begin with, so it doesn’t take much for these changes to appear,” explains Jeffrey Dover, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine, in New Haven, Conn.
Professional solutions Fat taken from a patient’s thighs, buttocks or hips (through liposuction) can be injected under the skin to pad the back of the hands and top of the feet. Doing so fills out wrinkles for a smoother surface. Effects begin to fade after six months, at which time you’ll need a touch-up, Dover says. (Cost: about $3,000 for the first session, which includes fat extraction, then $500 for each subsequent follow-up visit.) Temporary swelling or bruising at the injection and extraction sites is possible afterward.
Permanent fixes include treatment with a vascular laser, which targets specific sections of a thin vein, coagulating the blood and destroying the vein’s walls, which eventually dissolve to reduce the veiny look that hands and feet can get with age. (Expect to need two to three treatments at $500 each, with bruising possible afterward.)
Surgery called ambulatory phlebectomy is another option. Less invasive than vein stripping (which removes long lengths of vein and is often used on hands, feet and legs), it involves pulling out small sections of cauterized vein through tiny incisions. “It’s safe to remove veins from these areas because there are plenty of extras in places that you don’t see,” says Neil Sadick, M.D., a clinical professor of dermatology and cosmetic surgery at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. (Cost: about $2,500-$5,000 per treatment area; after the entire process is complete, the treated veins are gone permanently.) For improved surface texture, nonablative lasers in conjunction with superficial chemical peels are used to rid the hands and feet of rough skin; during a session, a laser pumps up skin by building up new collagen while superficial chemical peelings remove rough skin so newer, smoother skin can replace it. Plan for three to five treatments at $500-$600 each. Light peels are another option. Typically, two to three treatments (at $500-$750 per peel) are required to smooth out skin.
At-home fixes As with any part of your body, moisturizers will make the skin on hands and feet look smoother, says Sadick. An SPF of at least 15 for day wear is a must; try Dermalogica Multivitamin hand and nail treatment SPF 15 ($20; dermalogica.com for stores) or Neutrogena Visibly Younger Hand Cream SPF 20 ($10; at drugstores). At night, treat hands and feet with AHAs or other exfoliants (such as enzymes) that remove the outer, dead layer of skin. Or look for products with antioxidants that can help slow and even reverse sun damage. Try Nivea Restorative Night Hand Creme ($5; at drugstores) with the antioxidant grapeseed oil and the hydrators evening primrose oil, urea and glycerin; Sally Hansen Age Correct Retinol Hand Creme ($6; at drugstores) with wrinkle-erasing retinol, vitamins A and E and grapeseed oil; or Burt’s Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Creme ($7; burtsbees.com) with sweet almond oil, aloe, grapefruit-seed extract and vitamin E.
RELATED ARTICLE: multitasking best bets
The newest body products on the market do more than target one specific concern; they work to fix myriad problems–from dull skin to premature aging. Here, a few of our favorite products that can help keep body skin youthful-looking:
Sunscreens Wear a minimum SPF 15 on exposed body parts, including the hands and feet, every day. These three offer both full-spectrum coverage (protection from the sun’s ultraviolet A and B rays) and antioxidants (ingredients that help protect against age-accelerating molecules called free radicals triggered by sun exposure and pollution): Coppertone Endless Summer Ultrasheer Sunscreen Lotion in SPF 15, 30 or 45 ($10; at drugstores); N.V. Perricone M.D. Cosmeceuticals Alpha Lipoic Acid Body Toning Lotion SPF 15 ($70; nvperriconemd.com); and [H.sub.2]O Plus Multi-Active Hand Protector SPF 15 ($12.50; h20plus.com).
Antioxidants and exfoliants Use these all over to help repair daily damage from ultraviolet rays and pollution, soften skin and get rid of dead skin buildup. Products that do it all: Origins A Perfect World Intensely Hydrating Body Cream with the antioxidant-packed white tea and sodium mannose phosphate, an ingredient that helps to gently exfoliate dry skin ($25; origins.com); [H.sub.2]O Plus Body Smoother Retexturizing Complex with skin-sloughing alphahydroxy acids and antioxidants ($22.50; h20plus.com); Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Firm Lift Body Lotion with vitamin C and Iactic acid ($36; dillards.com); and Jason Mango Hand and Nail Therapy, a skin-nourishing treatment enriched with shea butter and papaya extract and fortified with vitamins A, C and E ($9; jason-natural.com).
Photography by Andrew Matusik
Mary Rose Almasi is an award-winning writer and frequent contributor to Shape.
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