Prepare to Bare

Ready to show a little leg in summer's skimpier styles? Check out these simple steps to below-the-neck skin care and you'll be slipping happily into that bikini.

 

Shower Less

Dial down the showers, says Dr. Jeannette Graf, a dermatologist in Great Neck, NY. "We take showers that are too hot, too long, too frequent. Think of your skin as paint on a house. If it rains every day, in a few years you'll have no paint!" Okay, she's exaggerating, but the point is you'll strip skin of its natural protectants if you overdo it. And when you consider what your skin's up against in summer—salt water, wind, sun, chlorine-laced pools—it makes sense to keep showers short and lukewarm, and even to skip a day here and there. 

 

Shed Your Winter Coat

By that we mean, the rough, dull cells on your skin's uppermost layer, the stratum corneum. Smooth skin reflects light better and lets moisture penetrate deeper. Plus, if you use self-tanner you'll have a nice even surface to work with, so you won't wind up with blotches. Here's how:

  • Once or twice a week in a luke warm shower, use a salt or sugar scrub, like L'Occitane Verbena Body Salt Scrub ($34 for 14.1 oz at USA.LOccitane.com) or one of those micro-dermabrasion kits. According to Dr. Graf they work well on your body. Don't use anything with pits or shells—their irregular edges can tear skin.
  • Apply scrub to damp skin in gentle but firm circles, paying a little more attention to scaly elbows and knees, but going easy on the thinner, more delicate skin of your decolletage.
  • If you have annoying little bumps on the backs of your arms (officially called keratosis pilaris), Boston-based esthetician Sharon McEntee suggests an exfoliant that contains salicylic acid or tea tree oil, like Dermadoctor KP Duty Body Scrub ($44 at Sephora.com).
  • On days when you're not exfoliating, use a moisturizing body wash, like Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Wash ($5.67 at CVS pharmacies nationwide). Or for very dry or sensitive skin, look for one that's pH-balanced, like Eau Thermale Avene Emollient Cleansing Gel ($21.99 at DrugStore.com).
  • Skip bar soaps, even if you're sweaty and dirty, says Dr. Graf—they swipe the lipids from the stratum corneum, and it can take up to four hours for your skin to replenish its moisture barrier.
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