1. Soften Your Skin
Scrub up. For smooth stems, wash with a gentle exfoliating body scrub. Look for one that has moisturizing oils to prevent dryness and flaking.
Banish bumps. Get rid of any small red bumps on your thighs with a daily dose of Lac-Hydrin cream, says Jeannette Graf, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center. Its lactic acids dissolve prickly patches fast. Get one with 2.5 to 3 percent formulas over the counter and stronger ones by prescription.
Reduce jiggle. Coat your legs with a firming body lotion (it'll call this out on the package). These formulas contain ingredients like caffeine and seaweed extract that temporarily tighten the skin.
2. Go for Bare
Upgrade your razor. The best way to shave, says Cindy Barshop, founder of Completely Bare Spas in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida, is with a four-blade razor. "It cuts hairs in a single pass so you don't have to drag the blade over your skin repeatedly."
Keep it steamy. Most of us grab the razor in the shower and get right to work. "But it's better to save shaving for last," says Dr. Graf. "The steam softens the hair, so removal is much easier." For the best technique, experts say to hold skin taut and shave in the opposite direction of hair growth. When tackling sensitive areas, like the bikini line, go with the grain to avoid ingrowns, advises Dr. Graf.
Lather with the right stuff. Shaving creams with lubricating ingredients, like silicone, oil, and cellulosic gum, can help ward off annoying redness and irritation since they soften the hair and allow the razor to glide right over your skin, says Ni'Kita Wilson, a cosmetics chemist in Fairfield, New Jersey. Scan product labels to find these smoothers.
Wax with less wincing. If you have the patience and the pain threshold, consider waxing your legs. "You're uprooting the hair from the follicle, as opposed to shaving it off at the surface, so it keeps you bare for a few weeks rather than just a few days," says Ann Marie Cilmi, director of education and development for Bliss. (Note: Ripping off an entire stretch of hair is pure torture. Try working on small sections at a time with precoated strips)
Treat ingrowns. Despite your best efforts, ingrowns might still happen — especially if you have coarse, curly hair. Don't pick at them; just massage the area with a cotton ball soaked in a glycolic and salicylic-acid face cleanser. "This sloughs the skin's top layer, opening the follicle so the hair can pass through," says Dr. Graf.
3. Add Some Shimmer
Enhance your base. If your legs are crypt-keeper pale, warm them up with a gradual self-tanner. "Ingredients in the cream react with the skin's amino acids to produce natural-looking brown pigments," says Dr. Graf. Your tone should peak in five to seven days; afterward, apply the lotion every other day to maintain your gleam.
Get a quick glow. If you want a tanned look this second, your best bet is a bronzing oil that you can swipe on before going out at night. The effects only stick around until your next shower though. For something with more staying power, try a mousse or towelette with sunless tanner: Both stain the legs a beachy, golden tint, and the color lasts about a week. You can choose from multiple hues to match your skin tone, and the products are easier to apply evenly than sprays, which can streak all over the place, says Jim Hammer, a cosmetics chemist in Easton, Massachusetts.
Put on the gloves. Before sweeping yourself with a towelette or mousse, pull on Latex rubber gloves. "That way, your hands won't soak up the color molecules meant for your legs," says Barshop. Just make sure your stems are not damp or greasy from any lotion, which can block the self-tanner from absorbing fully.
Use broad strokes. Spread the product from the tops of your ankles to just below your knees, with uniform swipes in all directions. Next, focus on your thighs, using a mirror to keep your backside in sight. For knees, dilute the tanner with moisturizer to ensure the dry skin there doesn't turn too dark. "You don't want to look like you're wearing knee pads," warns Barshop. Also, skip spots where the sun don't shine. "A tanned heel or sole is a dead giveaway," says Susie Hatton of Chocolate Sun, a sunless salon in Santa Monica, California.
Erase any streaks. If you end up with a few orange smudges, don't panic. "A quick shower should fade them away," says Joanne Gair, a makeup artist and celeb body painter. "If not, add a cup of milk to the bath," says Hatton. "The lactic acids should take down the color." If ankles are your only problem, buff away marks with the fine side of an emery board or lighten them up with a bit of cream bleach left on for two to three minutes, says Dr. Graf.
4. Get a Flawless Finish
Outsmart dimples. There's no magic cure for cellulite, but derms agree that lotions with caffeinated ingredients (like coffee, guarana, and tea) can boost circulation and reduce puckering temporarily. Another idea: Take a natural-bristle dry body brush and, starting at your ankles, rub upward, says Chantal Sanders, director of spa and boutique development for Clarins. This stimulates lymphatic drainage, which may ease puffiness. (You can also lay off the salt.)
5. Make Your Toes Pretty
Trim and file. Cut toenails straight across, and file away sharp corners, being careful not to round the edges, which can "cause the nail to grow into the surrounding skin," warns Dr. Graf.
Prime the skin. Buff away any calluses and rough spots with a pumice stone, then apply a smoothing foot scrub, suggests Julie Serquinia, owner of Paint Shop Beverly Hills nail salon.
Soak it up. Push back your cuticles with a damp washcloth and rub in moisturizer and cuticle oil, letting them sink in for a minute or two. Wipe off any greasy residue that is left behind.
Paint it on. Apply a base coat and two layers of polish. The hottest spring shades bright, punchy colors like hot pink and purple.