How-to (Beauty)

Smooth, Soft Skin
Smooth, Soft Skin

A perfectly primed, velvety complexion—all over—is what truly makes the miniskirt (or the tank top, or the bikini). Top tips for getting your body bare-able.

Moisturizers

The best ones combine two complementary elements: humectants (like glycerine, honey, and urea), which draw water to the skin and stop it from evaporating, and emollients (like botanical oils or silicone), which smooth and soften. "You need both," says Dr. Fredric Brandt, a Miami- and New York City–based dermatologist. Avoid: "Anything that irritates your skin," says New York City cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Lisa Airan. "Lanolin, fragrances, and peppermint oil can all inflame skin; so can high concentrations of a particular ingredient."

Acids

Look beyond your loofah: Moisturizers with built-in exfoliators—like alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids—are an ingenious way to give skin a satiny glow and keep scaliness at bay. "They turn over dead skin cells and spur the regeneration of new ones," says Manhattan dermatologist Dr. Pat Wexler. Sensitive skin? Dr. Brandt likes salicylic acid: "It's anti-inflammatory and less irritating than other acids," he says.

Scrubs

"For best results, you need both mechanical and acid exfoliators," says New York dermatologist Dr. Fran Cook-Bolden. "I have patients use acids daily, then do a gentle scrub once a week. Any more irritates skin."

"If the skin's been softened, a scrub is much more effective," notes Leila Fazel, co-founder of the Aerospace High Performance Center Fitness Club in New York. "Meanwhile, after any mechanical exfoliation, always apply a thick moisturizing cream or oil," Dr. Cook-Bolden says. And if you're going outdoors, double up on sun protection.

Rough Spots: Knees, Elbows, and Heels

The toughest dry patches on your body require more targeted treatments. "Over-the-counter lactic acid treatments are great anywhere you want to bring down thick skin," says Dr. Airan. "In these areas, you want to step up the exfoliation and switch to richer emollients." While you can exfoliate trouble spots more aggressively, be sure to soften skin first. "Soak your feet in warm water mixed with Epsom salts or a teaspoon of chamomile oil before using a scrub," recommends Dr. Cook-Bolden.

Power Peels

Dermatologists are performing chemical- and acid-based body peels in record numbers. "Getting a chemical peel on your arms and back makes them smoother and softer—and evens out skin tone," says Dr. Airan. Peels also clear up hard-to-treat back acne. "Repeated light peels get the best result," says Dr. Brandt. "Be more cautious about peels for the body than ones for the face: You don't want scarring or hyperpigmentation."

Baths and Showers

"If you have dry skin, stick to short, lukewarm baths or showers," says Dr. Airan. "If you're really dry, limit them to five minutes—in and out. Studies have shown that new liquid cleansers are less drying than bar soaps."

Another often-forgotten rule: "Always moisturize right after you dry off," Fazel stresses. "The key is to hydrate your skin while it's still warm and damp." Most important is daily upkeep. "With moisturizer, once or twice is never enough," says Dr. Cook-Bolden. "You only get optimal results when you make it a habit."

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