By Aviva Patz, REDBOOK
Spring is just around the corner, and you're eyeing those halter tops and sandals with gleeful anticipation. But is your skin ready to be bared? Use this troubleshooting guide to get clear and glowing from head to toe.
Dry Spots: Rough, flaky, scaly spots are remnants of winter's dry indoor heat, which evaporates the water in skin -- especially if you take long, hot showers and don't moisturize regularly.
After bathing, towel off gently, then moisturize using about a shot glass's worth of a lotion that contains urea, a skin softener, and glycolic acid, which sloughs off dead skin cells and helps water stay absorbed in your skin (try Eucerin Dry Skin Therapy Plus Intensive Repair Lotion, $10, drugstore.com). Light weekly exfoliation using a loofah will also help skin retain moisture.
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Razor Bumps: When your hair starts to grow back after shaving, waxing, or using a depilatory, the tip may catch the wall of the hair follicle, causing little red bumps on your legs, bikini line, or underarms. Having coarse or curly hair makes you more likely to get them.
The Fix: If you're prone to razor bumps, ditch those razors with four or five blades: They pull hairs up to give you a superclose shave, but then the hairs drop down below the surface, so they're more likely to curl and grow into the follicle, causing bumps, says Chicago-based dermatologist Carolyn Jacob, M.D. Instead, try using a single-blade disposable razor and shave with -- not against -- the direction of hair growth. Then, after shaving or waxing, slather on a salicylic acid-based treatment (such as Tend Skin Liquid, $29, drugstore.com) to unclog pores and soften hairs, which treats and helps prevent razor bumps and ingrown hairs. Using a glycolic acid-based shaving cream (such as King of Shaves Woman Shaving Gel, Shave and Smooth, $7, drugstore.com) will also help to soften hairs. For a more permanent solution, try laser hair removal done by a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. It's a pricey fix -- about $1,600 for five treatments on your lower legs -- but gets rid of 80 percent to 90 percent of the hair for good (with periodic touch-ups).
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Back and Chest Breakouts: Hormones or simply being acne-prone can trigger blemishes on your back and chest. And warm temperatures can make you sweat, which may aggravate acne.
Clean the afflicted areas daily using a body wash containing either salicylic acid, which sloughs off dead skin cells to unplug pores, or benzoyl peroxide, which kills the bacteria that cause inflammation (try Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash or Oxy Body Wash, each $6, drugstore.com). Jacob also recommends taking a 2,000 mg to 4,000 mg daily supplement of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, which may keep acne at bay thanks to their anti-inflammatory abilities, according to a recent study. Just make sure you choose quality pills made with pure fish oil - trustworthy brands include AmeriSciences or Pharmanex. Still plagued by breakouts? Your derm may prescribe topical antibiotics, a retinoid cream that unclogs pores, or Spironolactone, a medication used to treat heart conditions that's prescribed off-label to treat acne (by lessening your body's oil production).
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Spider Veins: These broken, dilated capillary veins just below the surface of the skin on your legs or face show up as fine blue, red, or purplish lines, most often in a tree-branch or weblike pattern. They're usually hereditary - and pregnancy, weight gain, and aging can also make you more susceptible.
One option is a procedure called sclerotherapy: Your doctor uses a fine needle to inject a solution into spider veins, causing the walls to collapse, release the blood, and close. A newer, faster, and less painful alternative: laser treatment. This can be more expensive, however, and many experts say it's not as effective as sclerotherapy. Both procedures require multiple sessions to banish spider veins and are not covered by insurance. Expect to pay between $300 and $400 for a sclerotherapy session and $300 or more per laser treatment.
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