After months of hiding out under sensible trousers and chill-chasing tights, your legs are finally (finally!) ready for their day in the sun. Unless, of course, you're dealing with unsightly marks or winter pastiness, which can eat away at your confidence and make it more likely that you'll keep those legs under wraps—and out of sight. But with these smart new fixes, that stops. Right now. So kick back and prepare to move that fun floral skirt to the very front of the closet.
They look like acne. But those little spots on your legs are usually caused by folliculitis, which most often occurs when "staph bacteria get into hair follicles from an outside source, like a dirty razor, or even a dip in a hot tub," says dermatologist Jeannette Graf, M.D., of Mount Sinai Medical Center. The good news: The same ingredients used to battle pimples can often help here. Treat existing blemishes with a salicylic acid–based gel like Estée Lauder Clear Difference Targeted Blemish Treatment ($35, esteelauder.com). Prevent future breakouts with a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide wash. Try Murad Acne Body Wash ($40, Sephora).
Though genetics are mostly to blame for cellulite, the appearance of those dimples can be worsened by weight gain and a lack of exercise. "Between layers of fat cells, there's a network of connective tissue resembling a fence that holds it all together," says Graf. When those fat cells bloat, they bulge out, causing the puckered look of cellulite on the surface of your skin. Most creams will do nothing to dissipate dimples, Graf explains, but her DIY treatment might: Mix kelp powder, olive oil, sea salt, and an essential oil of your choice (lemongrass or juniper berry work well here) into a thick scrub, and massage it over your legs and rear. "The algae and the act of scrubbing stimulate microcirculation to flush out excess fluids, minimizing the look of your cellulite," she explains. Leg toning exercises will also help, or try ResolutionMD Resolution Cellulite ($160 for a two-month supply, at doctor's offices). "It uses a high dose of retinol to smooth out the appearance of dimples," says dermatologist Heather Woolery-Lloyd, M.D., of the University of Miami. "The results only last for a few days. If you stop using it, your cellulite will reappear."
There are two big reasons why legs are prone to bruising, says Woolery-Lloyd. First, gravity causes blood to pool in the capillaries and veins down there. Second, as any accident-prone person will tell you, your legs get hit, bumped, and knocked around… a lot. If you have a fresh whopper of a bruise, stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen, and fish oils—they all thin your blood and can cause bruising to worsen, she explains. Then, try a cream like DerMend Moisturizing Bruise Formula ($30, Walgreens), which contains arnica, an herb that may speed healing.
Since circulation can be poorer in the legs, wounds tend not to heal as well, so scars pop up easily. If you get a cut or scrape, as soon as it's closed, top it with a product that contains silicone, like Mederma PM Intensive Overnight Scar Cream ($35, drugstores). You'll need to use any treatment daily for three to six months, says Woolery-Lloyd. Older scars are harder to get rid of, but depending upon the color, texture, and size, doctors can zap them away with lasers. For red, raised scars, they'll use one that neutralizes redness and may reduce scar tissue, Woolery-Lloyd says. For depressed scars, a laser that stimulates collagen production to fill in the indentation may be your best bet. And always protect any scars with SPF 30—UV rays can cause them to darken permanently.
Hari Removal FAQs
Everything you need to know to get smoother—safely.
Are the red bumps I get after shaving always just razor burn?
No. You may be one of the millions of women with a nickel allergy. "This metal is found in most razors, and can cause reactions," says Heather Woolery-Lloyd, M.D. One nearly nickel-free blade to try is the Gillette Venus Embrace Sensitive Razor ($13, drugstores).
My salon says hard waxing is less painful. Should I try it?
Not on your legs, says Michelle Mapes from Stark Waxing Studio in Silver Lake, CA. "Hard, stripless wax coats hair and doesn't stick to skin, making it great on small, pain-prone spots like the bikini line," she says. "Soft wax spreads better for larger areas."
Are the chemicals in depilatory creams bad?
The active ingredients in these hair-removal lotions (typically calcium or potassium hydroxide) are safe to use unless you have sensitive skin or eczema. "Just do a patch test first," says Jeannette Graf, M.D. "This way, you'll know if you're sensitive before you spread it everywhere."
Do at-home hair-removal lasers work?
Many of these devices use the same technology that doctors do, and people often get good results with them. Still, some experts say they can't compare to in-office lasers. "They're maintenance tools best used after office treatments," says dermatologist H. Ray Jalian, M.D., of UCLA.
This story originally appeared in the August/September 2014 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.