Ah, spring days. How blissful to feel the air on your legs. How carefree. Carefree, that is, unless you have ‘leg issues’. From late September through till mid-spring, of course, anyone who feels theirs are less-than-show-offable can retreat into opaque tights, and nobody’s any the wiser. But come shorter hemlines and days when even 10 deniers are unbearable (and with luck they’re just around the corner), there is literally no hiding place.
Having recently got my own legs out of hibernation, I realised it wasn’t a pretty sight. Pastry-whiteness. Flakiness. General look-like-they’ve-been-under-a-stone-for-six-months-ness… But happily, whatever shape or size yours come in, there are ways to make every pair of legs that bit lovelier. And however pale they are, there are not only self-tanners but leg tints which get rid of that ‘pastry’ look faster than you can say ‘fake it’. To get the most out of any of them, however, you first want to give legs some TLC – cocooning the skin so it’s velvety and smooth. Legs don’t naturally have too many sebaceous glands, so they get more papery (the skin can even ‘craze’ and crack), as we age.
It’s actually vital to keep the skin of the lower legs supple and resilient, because in old age, the skin here can take forever to heal, if damaged. An ounce of prevention, now, pays huge dividends in our dotage. First, scrub-a-dub-dub: a salt – or sugar-based scrub, massaged into skin from foot to derrière, working on that chicken-y skin.
Follow with a body cream that’s as rich, fragrant and sensual as you like (I’m a new convert to Soapsmith’s shea butter-rich butters, as you’ll know if you’re a regular visitor to www.beautybible.com). And if flaky shins are a problem, This Works has devised the ultimate solution: Skin Deep Dry Skin Leg Oil, packed with seven pure, cold-pressed plant oils including evening primrose, macadamia and coconut oil. It’s rich, it’s unctuous – and it’s miraculous, frankly.
Of course, one woman we all remember as having gorgeous legs was the late Princess of Wales. Forget genetics, here (giraffe-long legs were in her DNA), but remember that shiny-shin trick Diana was so fond of? She was definitely onto something: as make-up artist Pat McGrath notes, ‘Applying sheen to legs creates an illusion that they are longer and leaner.’ So, for that optical illusion, slick on a stripe of highlighter, leaving little shimmery particles of real gold on your skin. Shin. Whatever…
What you don’t want, of course, is shimmering gold clinging to Geldoffian stubble. Oh, no way. Home waxing, hair removal and razors have all improved exponentially. (Quite simply, I cannot imagine life before my Gillette Venus, which is just brilliant for a quick whizz.) Hair removal creams used to rank among the vilest-smelling gunks ever to be slathered on the human body, but no longer: while you wouldn’t want to dab any of these behind your ears, hair removal creams work faster – and smell rather prettier – than their early incarnations.
But the real advances are in salon treatments, which offer a far longer-term – and even permanent – method of hair removal. Sure, they seem more expensive. As one friend observes – having recently had her legs lasered, ‘At over £2,000, six laser treatments – the recommended programme – worked out equivalent to about eight years of regular waxing. If only those lasers had been around when I was 20 and had my first leg wax, it would have saved me a fortune – about £6,000 I reckon – and that’s not even factoring in the time-is-money aspect.’
So: they’re touch-me soft and smooth. Now as for giving legs some colour, you have two options: temporary tints and self-tanners. Again – and I’m not just saying this; you can raid my bathroom and check out the tall white bottles arrayed there – I turn to This Works for help, here. They truly are the ‘Legmeisters’, in my book, and the two leg tanning products are as good as anything I’ve tried: Perfect Legs Skin Miracle for those moments when you put on a shorter skirt with bare legs and a miracle truly is needed (it washes off again with soap and water), and Perfect Legs Gradual Tan, which slowly builds up to the most delicious honey-golden tone, and no streaking. I’ll be using this now till the leaves start falling off the trees again (though hang on, don’t want to start thinking about that yet!)
But legs need to feel as good as they look, of course. For every woman whose legs seem able to adjust easily to demanding situations – pregnancy, long periods standing, long-haul travel – there is another whose legs struggle to recover. For instant leg relief, then, try this trick from the woman behind This Works: ex-British Vogue Beauty Director and yoga guru Kathy Phillips. ‘One of the first exercises I do after a long day is to lie on my back and just put my legs in the air – so simple and so therapeutic.’ If you prefer, jiggle your backside near to the wall and rest them against that, at a 90-degree ankle to your body. Stay put for at least 5 minutes, preferably longer.
And of course, take time to admire your smooth, tanned, touch-me soft legs, while you’re at it…