Whether you’re planning to show off your hard work in a two-piece swimsuit or you’re simply baring your upper arms for the first time in a long time, there’s no doubt, you’re going to show some skin this summer. Give your confidence a boost and get your skin it as smooth, taut, and glowy as possible. We spoke to top skin pros to help get you there—before you go bare.
Get smooth skin
To get silky, stubble-free skin, you’ve got a few options ranging from the simple, razor-and-shaving cream route to the more permanent (and price-y) laser hair removal. Find your best fuzz-busting method below.
With this method, hair is pulled from the follicle via warm wax and cloth strips. The pain level is cringe inducing, but tolerable. It can be done on any hairy area, but it’s ideal for smaller spots like your bikini area. Results should last three-to-six weeks, but you will need to wait until hair is at least one-quarter inch before your appointment. Expect to pay $25 to $75 at a salon.
Laser hair removal
If you want to be fuzz-free for good, consider this option. The heat of a laser beam damages hair follicles until they no longer produce hair. The ideal candidate is someone who has coarse hair that is darker than her skin tone (the laser targets the melanin in the hair, so if you’re too tan, it can burn your skin). It takes about six sessions — four to six weeks apart — to see smooth results, says Cindy Barshop, owner of Completely Bare Spas in New York City. It doesn’t come cheap — expect to shell out $900 to a couple thousand, depending on the area — but for many people, it’s a permanent solution. (Some will need periodic touchups, says Barshop.)
Quick and cost-effective, a razor blade offers on-the-spot results. To get an even closer shave, do the deed after you shower, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City and author of Skin Rules. Warm water softens hairs, making them easier to nab, she explains. Moisture is also essential. “Shaving leaves little micro-abrasions in the skin that need to be resealed with a hydrating agent,” says Jaliman. To boost your skin’s hydration, use a moisturizing shaving gel. Post-shave, slather on a basic lotion. Avoid those that contain potentially irritating fragrance or alpha hydroxy acids.
These inexpensive hair removal lotions and creams contain ingredients that dissolve strands at the root, so they grow back much slower than shaved hairs do—and there’s less of a chance of ingrown hairs. Depilatories can be irritating, so patch test before applying all over.
Get firmer skin
While there’s no substitute for good diet and exercise, experts say that some topical ingredients can make your body skin look firmer and less lumpy and bumpy. “Caffeine and pentapeptides give skin a more taut appearance,” says Jaliman. Much like your morning coffee, caffeine offers skin a quick fix by eliminating excess fluid in the skin tissue. Peptides offer more of a long-term solution. The long-chain amino acids spur skin’s own production of collagen, which translates to tighter surface skin over time.
Regular exfoliation—at least three times a week—is not only essential for getting rid of that skin-dulling buildup of dead skin cells, it’s the key to an even application of self-tanner. (Color clings to dry spots, creating a patchy look.) Body skin, which is thicker than facial skin, can handle a more vigorous scrub-down, so choose an exfoliant that contains grainy particles such as sea salt, almonds, walnuts, sugar, microbeads and hydrating ingredients such as shea butter.
If you’re going to self-tan afterwards, make sure your scrub is oil-free. “Oil leaves a barrier on your skin that will prevent your tan from absorbing properly,” says Anna Stankiewicz of Suvara Airbrush Tanning. And skip the all-over moisturizer post-shower. Instead, apply just a thin layer to dry-skinned areas such as your hands, feet, elbows and knees.
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For the most foolproof application, stick to self-tanner mousse. “Mousse blends into skin easily,” Stankiewicz says.
If you’re a newbie, consider a moisturizer with a hint of self-tanner. “You’ll build a tan gradually and you can't mess up applying it,” she says. Use a quarter-size amount for each of the following areas: Knees to thighs, knees to feet, stomach, each arm, and back. Apply a nickel-size amount for your face (consider a lightweight formula designed for facial skin). Dab it on in three dots and rub it in circular motions.
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