Still hiding your legs behind long skirts and pants—even on the hottest days of the season? Unsightly veins, rashes, stretch marks and (ugh!) cellulite are all common signs of aging below the belt, but you don’t have to sweat them this summer. Feel confident in shorts and capris again with this guide to both long-lasting and fast fixes for all of your embarrassing leg issues.
Fix it: Red spider and bulging varicose veins can detract from what would otherwise be a pair of well-toned gams. Thankfully, the painful process of “vein stripping” has for the most part been abandoned and replaced by treatments that require very little downtime (or distress). Sclerotherapy, during which a chemical is injected into the veins to seal them shut and turn them into less visible scar tissue, is a quick and easy option. Laser treatments to destroy larger veins “may cause some bruising or tenderness, but not enough to interfere with daily activities,” according to Dr. Margaret Weiss, of the Maryland Laser, Skin & Vein Institute in Hunt Valley, Md.
Fake it: When special occasions require a higher hemline, makeup is a great way to make veins less visible. Physicians Formula celebrity makeup artist Joanna Schlip recommends using a concealer to hide visible veins, then applying powder to set the concealer. Just make sure both products are in a shade that matches the skin tone of your legs. Finish by smoothing a transfer-resistant, body glow product all over your body (try Fake Bake’s Tinted Full Body Glow, $13.95).
Fix it: Despite a plethora of creams and miracle treatments that claim otherwise, cellulite is extremely tricky to treat in the dermatologist’s office and at home. Because cellulite becomes noticeable when fat deposits push through the connective tissue beneath the skin, a healthy diet and exercise can help reduce its appearance and prevent future dimpling. Caffeinated anti-cellulite creams may also have a limited effect, as they help loosen and carry away fat that’s being stored or trapped under the skin. As for in-office procedures, dermatologists are constantly trying new devices that aim to eradicate the orange peel effect, but Weiss recommends that “consumers be very skeptical about treatments as they investigate what is available in their community.”
Fake it: Self-tanners can help instantly minimize the appearance of cellulite; giving your skin a deeper color has a receding effect to the eye, effectively diminishing the uneven texture of a cottage cheese complexion. “Be sure to use a product with light diffusing shimmer,” Schlip suggests.
Fix it: The sooner you work to get rid of stretch marks, the better. Newer marks will have a red appearance and can be treated with a vascular laser in just a few visits to the dermatologist. Another option for red stretch marks is the long term use of tretinoin (though related products like Retin A are not safe during pregnancy or while nursing). Once stretch marks have turned white, various fractional resurfacing lasers can be helpful, but which will work depends on each patient’s skin color.
Fake it: For a fast fix—that’s also much less expensive than multiple laser treatments—look to body makeup sprays, like Lorac’s TANtalizer Award Show Glow ($10). Schlip says they’ll conceal the discoloration of stretch marks and create a more even-colored look to legs and thighs. The coverage isn’t typically waterproof, though, so this isn’t an option for pool parties.
Fix it: Only a dermatologist can tell you what kind of skin condition you’re dealing with, so be sure you visit your doctor for a diagnosis. The redness and itching of both psoriasis and eczema can often be treated with cortisone creams and topical steroids. That said, these products aren’t usually recommended for people with diabetes, 33 percent of whom will have a skin disorder that’s caused or affected by diabetes at some point in their life. Properly managing your diabetes can help prevent rashes on the legs (which occur due to poor circulation), but talk to your doctor for more specific methods of treatment.
Fake it: A good coating of moisturizer may be all you need to reduce the look of scaly, red, rashy skin—if only temporarily. You’ll need to reapply once the lotion’s moisture has been absorbed. When concealing a red rash with makeup, be sure you use a product that’s dermatologist-approved, as well as non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic to avoid aggravating already irritated skin.