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Ways to buff your body before you squeeze into a bathing suit

It takes a little prep to look your best for swimsuit season. Waxing, toning and an instant tan can help.

May 23, 2010|By Alene Dawson, Special to the Los Angeles Times

It's something almost every woman over the age of 14 knows: Putting on a bathing suit isn't as simple as just putting on a bathing suit.


FOR THE RECORD:
Swimsuit season: In Sunday's Image section, an article about preparing one's skin to wear swimsuits misspelled the name of the tanning product company St. Tropez as San Tropez. —

Even the perfectly sculpted among us know there is a lot of prep that must be done when you're going to expose that much skin. Otherwise, you'll be huddling under a beach towel or staying up to your neck in the pool, afraid to come out of the water. So here's our guide to what you can and can't expect to fix and how you can stop the bathing suit terrors from winning this summer.

Lumpa-lumpa

No matter how thin and fit, almost all women have cellulite, and there are myriad treatments that claim to fight it, including cellulite creams and lotions, machines that use infrared light, massages and techniques that use radio frequencies and/or ultrasound. Prices can range from about $13 for a 6.7-ounce bottle of Nivea Body Good-Bye Cellulite gel to $1,500 for a series of eight to 10 Dermosonic treatments using ultrasound. But are any of them a cellulite cure?

"I would love to find some objective independent clinical studies to document the success of these various treatment regimens," says Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Garth Fisher. But when he listens to his patients' experiences very carefully, he says, "they and others have in the vast majority of cases told me that the treatments are generally very temporary, very expensive and don't work."

"A Louis Vuitton bag and Jimmy Choo shoes might give a more long-lasting satisfaction for the same price," Fisher says.

Cellulite is a structural issue caused by fat pushing through our ever-changing connective tissue. Skin thickness can determine how cellulite looks externally. And although cellulite is so ubiquitous one might say it is "normal," hormones, pregnancy, diet, lifestyle, genetics and stress can all affect how much an individual has. But making at least a little temporary improvement is not completely hopeless.

"Many of these treatments base their effectiveness on increasing blood flow, massaging or heating up the skin," Fisher says. "If you want to increase your blood flow or heat up the skin, stop smoking, go running, go to the beach, enjoy lovemaking more, go to the sauna, wrap plastic wrap around your body or get a massage from someone you like a lot."

Dull skin

British skin-care expert Liz Earle, founder of Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare and author of the book "Skin Secrets," is a huge fan of dry brushing.

"It's such a fast way to make a difference in your skin for summer," she says. "Dry brushing exfoliates away dead skin cells, aids lymphatic drainage and, along with a very clean diet, improves skin tone."

Use a long-handled natural bristle brush. Start on the soles of the feet to stimulate nerve endings, and work up your legs, your front and back. Then do your hands and up your arms.

"Really concentrate on any areas that feel lumpy: the hips, the backs of thighs, upper arms. Use fairly long sweeping motions," Earle says. "Do this a few minutes every day, every morning, and you'll see smoother, more luminous skin."

"You'll feel a little bit uncomfortable, but you'll get used to it and really start to enjoy it," Earle says. "Start at least two to three weeks before you head out to the beach."

Some cautions: Don't brush over breasts (that skin is too sensitive), don't brush too aggressively and don't brush over rashes, eczema or sores.

Follow with a moisturizing body cleanser and a gentle body scrub (Earle's homemade recipe: 50 milliliters [1.7 ounces] of grapeseed oil, 50 grams [1.7 ounces] of fine sea salt and two or three drops of pure essential oil, such as lavender or orange blossom). Use a good moisturizer. It doesn't have to be expensive: Lubriderm Advanced Therapy with Active AHA, Eucerine Intensive Repair with Alpha Hydroxyl and CeraVe Moisturizing lotion are just a few good options that can be found for less than $15. Finish with a high SPF sunscreen. If you're going to be getting wet at the pool or beach, reapply thick layers often. Sunscreen is usually only good for a year, so check expiration dates. If skin is burned or overheated, an aloe sun gel is a good antidote, "as is a cool bath with a few drops of lavender oil in it," Earle says.

Getting smooth

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