Smooth Things Over
Quick Fix: While there isn't an instant at-home remedy for cellulite or stretch marks, you can minimize how they look with body bronzer or self-tanner. Try DermaDoctor Brazilian Bombshell Skin Perfecting Body Lotion ($48, dermadoctor.com), which helps blur flaws and protects skin with SPF 30. "Cellulite is genetic," says Bruce Katz, MD, the director of the Juva Skin & Laser Center in New York City, who points out that he has patients who are Ironman competitors and even they have cellulite. Staying at a healthy weight will help reduce the orange-peel appearance and prevent stretch marks, which occur when extreme changes in the skin's tension cause the collagen there to tear and then repair itself, according to Dr. Katz. Exercise also helps "by getting your blood flowing, which makes skin look better," he says. Buff trouble areas daily in the shower with Orlane Paris Aqua Svelte Slimming Scrub ($65, orlane.com). It contains caffeine and algae, which firm skin short-term.
Go-the-Distance Solution: A deep massage with a cream containing caffeine or retinol may improve the appearance of jiggly bits for a little while, Dr. Katz says. You can DIY daily or book regular sessions, like the Bliss Spa FatGirlFirm ($180 per treatment, blissworld.com). "But it's only temporary," Dr. Katz points out. For the most noticeable improvements, it takes a derm's laser. Dr. Katz recommends Cellulaze for cellulite. The laser works through a tiny incision in the skin, melting the fat that's pushing up into the skin's fibrous bands and creating the puckered texture. The laser also stimulates collagen to tighten the skin. "It's the most effective treatment, because it addresses the structural issues of cellulite and treats them all at once," Dr. Katz explains. Cellulaze requires one session, which runs $4,000-plus. For eliminating stretch marks, a fractional carbon dioxide laser targets problem areas to speed up collagen production and replace scar tissue with new tissue (cost: up to $800 a session). "It takes several treatments, but there's no recovery period," Dr. Katz says.
Nail a Perfect Pedi
Quick Fix: When time for a pedicure is a luxury you don't have, put a drop of cuticle oil on each toenail. "It's one of the few products that can penetrate, hydrate and give nails a nice shine," says Tracylee, a celebrity manicurist and Sally Hansen nail ambassador. If you need a quick splash of color, apply polish on the go with a few clicks of a pen, like the Laqa & Co. Nail Polish Pen ($14, laqaandco.com). Or swipe on any lacquer you love and keep the Cutex Corrector Pen ($5, drugstore .com) on hand to clean up mistakes. Got 10 minutes? Nail polish stickers can pinch-hit for a pedi. "There's no drying time, and they don't smudge," Tracylee says. The trick is to fit each nail. "Always go bigger," she advises. Lay the sticker against one edge of your nail and smooth it, then use a file to push off any overhang on the other side. "Pressing the file down should slice the strip beautifully; don't saw back and forth," Tracylee says. We like Sally Hansen Salon Effects Real Nail Polish Strips in Tight Rope ($9, target.com).
Go-the-Distance Solution: Gel polishes can survive the toughest conditions without chipping. For the price of one or two salon gel pedis, though, you can buy an at-home kit. "If you can paint your nails, you can do a gel pedi at home," Tracylee promises. Begin by gently pushing back cuticles with an orangewood stick, then trim and shape your nails and swab them clean with rubbing alcohol. Apply a base coat and "wipe the brush across the very tip of each nail to create a nice barrier and get more longevity," she instructs. Be careful not to paint your skin, and quickly clean up the sides with an orangewood stick if you do. "My top trick is to paint very thin layers so each cures better and lasts longer," Tracylee says. Place one foot at a time in the nail dryer (included in the kit) for 30 seconds. Repeat the entire process with your nail color and topcoat. Once the final layer is dry, wipe away any stickiness on your nails with alcohol, and your paint job will be solid as a rock. Finish by smoothing your heels with a pumice stone, saturating them with cream and drenching each nail and the surrounding skin with cuticle oil to hydrate. Try the Red Carpet Manicure Pro Kit ($80, ulta.com). When the color grows out, resist the urge to pick at it. "Peeling takes off layers of your nail and is so damaging," Tracylee warns. "That's what ruins nails." Removal secret: File the tip of nails to break the seal of the topcoat, then place acetone-soaked cotton balls on toes and wrap securely in foil for 20 minutes.
Be a Glow-Getter
Quick Fix: "You can give yourself a great tan at home and look at least five pounds thinner," says Kristyn Pradas, an airbrush-tanning specialist who sprayed the Victoria's Secret Angels for last November's runway show in New York City. New formulations make self-tanning better than ever, thanks to bonus benefits like light-reflecting particles and anti-aging ingredients. Our three faves: L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Tinted Self-Tanning Mousse ($11, drugstores), St. Tropez Self Tan Luxe Dry Oil ($50, sephora.com), and Victoria's Secret Beach Sexy Self-Tanning Tinted Spray ($15, victoriassecret.com). Prep is key, Pradas says. If you shave first, use a new razor. Then "rinse with ice-cold water or rub an ice cube on your skin to close pores," she advises. Otherwise self-tanner can collect there and create spots. Exfoliate dry areas like ankles and elbows with a nonoily scrub — try sugar and water. Later, rub a tiny dab of lotion on those areas after you have applied self-tanner so they don't absorb more color than the rest of your skin. Prevent orange fingertips by applying the lotion to your cuticles too. If you use a tanning spray, apply lotion before you spray. The application secret to a natural-looking faux tan is to start at your feet and work up to prevent creases caused by bending over, according to Pradas. "This system also helps you remember what areas you already did," she explains. If you're using a spray, don't rub it in unless you use too much and need to blot up excess. Afterward, wash your hands thoroughly and "avoid water for eight hours while your tan develops."
Go-the-Distance Solution: A gradual self-tanner will help you build color over time because it contains less of the active ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and more moisturizer than a traditional version. "Gradual tanners are pretty user-friendly," Pradas says. "Apply one just like body lotion every day until you get the color you like, then use it every other day to maintain your tan," she advises. Exfoliate once a week to remove dead skin and keep your tan even. Try Suave Professionals Visible Glow Self-Tanning Body Lotion ($7, drugstores) or Supergoop! SPF 20 Gradual Self-Tanning Sunscreen Mousse ($38, nordstrom.com).
Quick Fix: Shaving with a five-blade razor is the most "effective and easiest option for hair removal, especially for women who have sensitive skin," says Jody Levine, MD, a dermatologist in New York City who recommends changing the razor head after about eight uses. But there's an art to a silky-smooth shave. Get in the shower or tub and wait at least two minutes, then slather on a moisture-rich gel. "Hydrating hairs makes them softer and easier to cut, and the gel provides a protective layer between the blade and your skin," Dr. Levine explains. Gently pull skin taut to help the razor glide over it, and use light strokes. "Applying too much pressure will increase the chance of irritation," she says. Try Gillette Venus Satin Care Ultra Sensitive Shave Gel ($3, drugstores) and the Schick Hydro Silk Sensitive Care Refillable Razor ($10, drugstores).
Go-the-Distance Solution: Waxing is more painful than shaving, but the payoff is stubble-free skin for weeks. And the newest at-home kits make it easier than ever. "The precut strips that are warmed by rubbing them between your hands cut down on the mess and are gentle," Dr. Levine says. We like Nair Brazilian Spa Clay Body Wax Strips With Perfect Temp Technology ($8, drugstores) and Completely Bare Wax on the Go-Go ($11, kohls.com). To ward off ingrowns, exfoliate first so the wax can grab each hair at the root. When your skin is clean and dry, apply wax in the direction hair grows and pat down firmly. Then, while holding skin taut, quickly rip the strip in the opposite direction. Immediately apply gentle pressure to soothe skin. "To prevent irritation, don't wax the same area more than twice," Dr. Levine warns. "If you missed hairs, pluck them with tweezers." Use a gentle antibacterial cleanser to ward off infection. Finally, apply an oil-based moisturizer (found in most kits) to hydrate.
For lasting results, Dr. Levine recommends electrolysis. "It uses a minor electric current applied through a fine needle at the base of the follicle to permanently destroy hairs," she says. The process can take years, however, because each follicle needs to be treated. If you don't want to wait, she suggests laser hair reduction. "It's not permanent, because hormonal changes can cause regrowth, but a touch-up can remove any new hair."
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2014.