Go Back to Basics
Bacne is keeping you from rocking a cutout Lululemon top or a backless LBD on date night.
The cause: Your workout plays a role: Women sweat most on their upper middle back, according to a study published by the American College of Sports Medicine. "Back acne often has the same triggers as facial acne — hormones spur an increase in oil production, and dirt and sweat clog pores — yet it's typically tougher to treat because creams are rubbed away when you put on clothes or lie down," says Paul Frank, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. "And this type of acne can be extreme because the skin on that part of the back is thicker and the hair follicles are larger, creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria."
DIY solution: Grab a loofah that has a handle or attach the Clarisonic Body Brush Extension Handle ($25, clarisonic.com) to your go-to face tool, then lather up your back with an acne wash that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to unclog pores. Three times a week, reach for a peel with glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid, such as Cane and Austin Retexturizing Body Pads ($70 for 60 pads, caneandaustin.com). After every sweat session, take a shower or wipe down with an anti-acne towelette and change into a fresh top. "Trapped sweat can irritate skin even more," says Francesca Fusco, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.
In-office treatment: Isolaz, a pore-cleansing laser that uses vacuum technology, can make your back squeaky clean. You'll need to see your derm a few times a year for the treatment and pay about $400 a session.
Get Smooth Arms
You do a gazillion triceps dips for sexy arms, yet you've got stubborn red bumps.
The cause: Why do you have "chicken skin" on your arms but your friend doesn't? Genetic roulette. But you're not alone: About half of women have what derms call keratosis pilaris, or KP. "It's a common skin condition that is actually a type of eczema," says Jeannette Graf, MD, a dermatologist in Great Neck, New York. "Excess old skin cells build up around hair follicles, creating bumps that turn red as the follicles become inflamed and raised, causing the skin to become rough. The drier your skin, the worse the problem gets."
DIY solution: Daily buffing. Look for gentle exfoliators that have fine granules and hydrators like glycerin and hyaluronic acid. Also effective are chemical skin smoothers such as urea and salicylic, glycolic, and alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids. We like AmLactin Moisturizing Body Lotion ($16, drugstores). "These products break down dead skin on the surface, clearing the hair follicles," Dr. Graf says. Once the bumps are gone, switch to a retinol-based cream, such as Roc Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 ($20, drugstores), and apply it to your arms three times a week. "Retinol will help keep cell turnover at an even, healthy pace," Dr. Fusco says.
In-office treatment: If your KP is out of control, over-the-counter creams might not cut it. Dr. Frank suggests a stronger approach: three to four sessions, at about $400 each, with a Medlite laser. "The short pulses of light increase cell turnover, cleaning the hair follicles much more efficiently than exfoliating creams can," he says. Or you can ask your derm for an in-office peel, about $100, to kick-start cell turnover — and finally kick KP to the curb.
Do Some Leg Work
You worked hard to shed extra weight, so the last thing you need are stretch marks on your thighs reminding you of your heavier self.
The cause: "When skin grows faster than it was meant to — from rapid weight gain — its network of collagen fibers becomes uneven and creates visible indentations," Dr. Graf explains.
DIY solution: The best time to target stretch marks is when they're reddish purple. "That's when you can still stimulate collagen production to repair the skin," Dr. Fusco says. Use the same retinol (or Rx retinoid) or peptides that you use to firm your face, or try skin smoothers with silicone, such as dimethicone. To prevent stretch marks during pregnancy, slather on creams with moisturizing cocoa butter and hyaluronic acid, then follow up with a body oil. "These emollients increase the skin's pliability so it's better able to bounce back," Dr. Graf says. Try hyaluronic acid-packed Mederma Stretch Marks Therapy ($40, drugstores).
In-office treatment: Dermapen, a resurfacer that delivers tiny shots of heat to the skin to boost its natural ability to repair itself, "can help soften the appearance of scars and stretch marks," Dr. Frank says. Treatments start at around $750, and you'll need one to four.
Unsightly spider veins make you think twice before slipping on a pair of cutoffs or your favorite running shorts.
The cause: "The tiny spider veins on your calves and the backs of your thighs tend to get worse with age because the small blood vessels there don't work as well as they once did and become dilated," says M. Dean Vistnes, MD, the founder of SkinSpirit skin-care clinic and spa and a plastic surgeon in Palo Alto, California. Although they aren't pretty, spider veins are nothing to worry about from a medical standpoint.
DIY solution: Hide veins temporarily with body makeup like St. Tropez Self Tan Perfect Legs Spray ($18, sttropeztan.com). For more coverage, pat on concealer with a makeup sponge.
In-office treatment: Unlike varicose veins, which are easy to target, spider veins can be difficult to treat. Dr. Frank recommends Asclera, a detergent-like liquid that's injected into the poorly working blood vessel to break veins down. You'll need two to five treatments at $400 each. But while it might work right away, new ones will probably pop up.
No matter how good you are about eating salad for lunch and saying no to a second piece of cake, the cellulite on the back of your thighs and rear stays put. WTH?
The cause: Cellulite is actually a skin condition, which explains why even women who are a size 2 can have it. "Fibrous bands in the skin start to pull down skin and fat cells that are close to the skin's surface, creating a puckered appearance," Dr. Frank explains. Again, you can thank Mom and Dad, along with your hormones and metabolism, for how much — and where — you have it.
DIY solution: You can rub skin-tightening creams on your bum 24-7, but if you aren't downing plenty of water and eating your fruit and veggies, cellulite will appear more pronounced. "Foods that are acidic or cause inflammation, such as diet soda and processed snacks like chips, cause fat cells to swell, making cellulite look worse," Dr. Frank notes. Regular leg workouts like squats and lunges help rev up circulation, which also keeps puffiness at bay. Look for topical treatments with ingredients, such as caffeine and L-carnitine, that produce a Spanx-like effect. "They cause fluid from the area around fat cells to drain while firming the surrounding skin," Dr. Fusco says. Try caffeine-packed Clarins Body Lift Cellulite Control ($68, clarins.com).
In-office treatment: Docs swear by VaserSmooth, an ultrasonic wand that melts superficial fat and breaks fibrous bands that can result in skin dimpling and contour irregularities. The wand's high-intensity energy also steps up the body's collagen production and tightens loose skin. The one-time in-office procedure will cost you big-time, though: It starts at a whopping $4,000.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2013.