Can you feel them? Those delightful warm breezes that call for flowing sundresses and strappy sandals? Along with the anticipated return of picnics and fireflies comes renewed attention to skin, including those unwelcome imperfections.
To the rescue: our four-page guide to getting prepped for swimsuit season. No matter what your skin woes, we have the solutions. Start with our at-home beauty treatments for better skin and then, if needed, call in the reinforcements. In no time, you'll be set to strip off the layers with confidence.
Rough, bumpy skin on the backs of your upper arms, butt, and thighs is the hallmark of this very common -- and completely harmless -- condition. Although keratosis pilaris (KP) looks like tiny pimples, it's actually a buildup of dead cells around individual hair follicles, says Dr. Mary Lupo, a clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. A chronic problem that can be treated but not cured, KP frequently, and inexplicably, improves during the summer and sometimes even gets better with age.
Regular use of a body scrub, which sloughs dead cells from the skin's surface, can help rub out the problem within a couple of months. To keep follicles from replugging, use a lotion with an exfoliator such as retinol, salicylic acid, or alpha hydroxy acid daily, suggests Dr. Anne Chapas, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine. Look for one that's also formulated with urea, a moisturizer that softens the toughest of skin.
Microdermabrasion, a beauty treatment that uses tiny particles to lightly sandblast the top layer of skin, leaves you noticeably softer and smoother. You'll see a significant improvement in KP after two or three weekly treatments, which run about $150 each. If residual redness persists, intense pulsed light therapy, which uses high-intensity pulses of light to target pigment in the skin, may help destroy the redness that creates the polka-dot effect. Each skin care beauty treatment costs $500 to $1,000 and you'll probably need at least three sessions. The pain is bearable, and any subsequent irritation fades within a few days.
Good news: These bright red spots (cherry hemangiomas, in medical speak) are harmless. Bad news: They tend to grow in number and size with age, though they rarely become larger than a pencil eraser. Exactly what causes cherry spots, a proliferation of capillaries that commonly appear on the chest, stomach, and back, is a mystery, says Dr. David Duffy, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California. They are, however, thought to be hereditary.
There's no effective, over-the-counter treatment for cherry spots, but concealer can help camouflage them. Duffy recommends using a heavy-duty opaque cover-up, such as Classic CoverMark ($22; cover markusa.com). If your skin tone is fair to medium, applying self-tanner or dusting on bronzer can also reduce the color contrast between the spots and your skin.