On the first warm-weather day of Spring, I went to work in a sundress for the first time since last year. As I sat at my desk, I looked down at my previously pants-covered legs and was horrified. They looked like they were covered in dust, were paler than any other part of my body, and somehow had become uneven and splotchy. Winter had done quite a number on my normally smooth, carefully buffed and bronzed legs.
If you recently had a similar experience, don’t freak out. I turned to dermatologists Dr. Dendy Engleman and Dr. Heidi Waldorf, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. to find out how to treat some common skin issues, like cellulite and varicose veins. You and I won’t have to wear jeans in 85 degree weather to hide the damage cold weather did to our stems.
You know those raised bumps you see on the back of your arms, legs, and sometimes even your butt? That isn’t acne but actually keratosis pilaris (KP), sometimes referred to as chicken skin. The bumps are caused by a buildup of keratin in hair follicles, causing rough plugs.
According to Dr. Engleman, treating these harmless but unsightly bumps isn’t difficult. “The most important concept of controlling KP is moisturizing the skin,” Engleman explains. She also expressed that products containing chemical exfoliants can also help the problem. “My favorite products involve ingredients that can break up that excess keratin buildup such as alpha hydroxy acids, like lactic acid and glycolic acid, and beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid.”
If the problem persists, Dr. Engleman suggests trying retinoids, which are vitamin-A-derived and promote cell turnover. “Retinoids can gently exfoliate to remove dead skin cells if hydroxy acids don’t give a noticeable improvement.”
Dry, Scaly Skin
If you’ve noticed an uneven, scaly texture on your legs, it means the skin cells aren’t falling off like they’re supposed to. This can happen during cold weather or after using products with drying or irritating ingredients. Dr. Waldorf suggests exclusively using gentle products to prevent this. “The best way to prevent and treat scaly skin is to use a gentle cleanser that won’t strip your skin, like Dove Body Wash ($6), followed by a moisturizer like Eucerin Smoothing Repair Lotion ($9).”
Sometimes a dark mark can be left behind on our skin from a cut or bug bite, known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. After your skin is red, itchy, or swollen, the skin can heal and look brown afterward. Unfortunately, dark marks on our legs fade slower than on our face and can last months.
Although you can use laser treatments to get rid of them, Dr. Waldorf suggests waiting until the Fall or Winter for these treatments. Instead, there’s an easier route for even skin tone: “In the meantime, moisturize, [and] use alpha hydroxy acid and acid moisturizers to improve the pigment. [You can also] cover the spots with leg makeup or self tanner.”
Varicose veins are dilated blood vessels caused by increased pressure on the veins. The causes of the pressure can range from standing for too long to pregnancy or even obesity. Dr. Engleman explains that there are two procedures available to get rid of these veins depending on the severity. “Sclerotherapy is the most common treatment and it involves injecting a solution into the vein that forces it to collapse, which stops blood flow. The vein will turn into a scar and fade after a few weeks.”
If you have smaller spider veins, Dr. Engleman suggests laser treatment because these veins are harder to inject.
Image Source: Popsugar Photography / Benjamin Stone
Cellulite happens when pockets of fat beneath the skin become squashed against tissue and create a dimpled appearance. Almost everyone has some amount of it, and according to Dr. Waldorf, it isn’t connected to being overweight. If you’d like to reduce the appearance of cellulite, however, there are a few procedures and methods to remedy the appearance.
Dr. Waldorf suggest a filler such as Sculptra or Radiesse in conjunction with a procedure like ulthera. “[The filler]s stimulate improvement and filling of the dimples [while] ulthera tightens tissue.
Dry Brushing and Exfoliation
If injections sound too extreme, Dr. Engleman suggests trying to exfoliate the area. “Exfoliation helps to smooth the appearance [of cellulite] by increasing blood flow to the area and reducing inflammation.” One method the doctor suggests is dry brushing.
More frequent hair removal during the Summer months leads to a lot of painful, red ingrown hairs. Dr. Engelman has some suggestions for those more prone to razor bumps and irritation. “You may want to exfoliate the area to ensure that the hair can come cleanly out. Also, try shaving the way your hair grows. Shaving against hair growth gives you a closer shave but the blunt-tipped end of hairs can grow back into the skin rather than up and out.”
If those tips don’t help, it may be time to try depilatory creams, laser hair removal, or electrolysis.
If you already have razor burn or ingrown hairs, Dr. Waldorf has a solution. “If you have redness or irritation, rub in an over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone cream,” the doctor explains.
Some of us bruise like a peach. The black-and-blue marks that are a result of our clumsy behavior are a result of pooled blood under the skin due to trauma that causes blood vessels to burst. Dr. Engelman suggests a few oils that can improve the appearance. “If you’re prone to bruising, topical arnica or helichrysum oil can help with the swelling and bruising by aiding the reabsorption of the blood.”