In the dead of winter I sit watching re-runs of Sex and the City and feel tormented by all the long legs and perfect pedicures. Samantha crossing and uncrossing her long glossy gams, Carrie prancing her pink clean heels and glittering toenails around in strappy stilletos. Charlotte wrapping one firm, hairless thigh around yet another lawyer. And me: scaly, calloused, furry, pale and plump—terrified of the return of the miniskirt for summer.
How on earth does one transform the bottom half of a body that is dehydrated, bloated and swaddled like an urban Hobbit in nylon panty hose and leg warmers into resort legs? Well, as usual, the best beauty transformation begins in the bath. Loll in a hot oil bath (Weleda Lavender Massage Oil is best!) and raise one leg and foot out of the water. Inspect your heels, toes, toenails, cuticles, calves and thighs. If what you find is chipped, chapped and quivering with cellulite, despair not. I have a plan!
1. Relax: There are 7,000 nerve endings in each of your feet. That gives you 7,000 reasons why you should learn how to massage them. Pampering your feet, legs and thighs every time you shower or bathe with lush caring strokes (Tip: tepid baths are best for winter skin) pumps up your blood circulation, promotes lymphatic drainage, de-bloats tired gams and, most importantly, relaxes the whole body. Feet get pounded in heels and tortured by the cold so they need extra care right now.
Begin your massage literally at the tip of the toes, drawing little circles on the ball of each toe and then stretching each one out one by one. Rotate your fingers into the balls of each foot and drag the knuckles over the arch. Heels need cradling and coddling and ankles respond to gentle upward strokes. Calves hold a lot of body tension as do thighs. Standing up in the bath (with no mirrors in sight), give your legs and thighs an oil massage with a cotton face towel or large sea sponge. Droplets of bath oil need to go in the bath after you get in, as once the body has absorbed water moisture, the oil is more easily locked in. Cellulite is best battled with massage. Vigorous upward strokes on the bottom and thighs aids circulation, which is your friend in the fat wars.
2. Start sloughing: Exfoliating can be gentle or radical depending on how sensitive your skin feels. The feet respond well to a good session with a pumice stone or an extra -gritty foot scrub. Like massage, exfoliation revs up the skin and blood—energizing a part of the body grown sluggish from sitting in an office. To get feet sandal-ready you need to work on hard heels and calluses every day and be careful to protect them from unwanted corns with comfortable shoes (you can wear the heels in summer!). Shaving your legs is an excellent way to slough off dead skin cells and a good preparation for both moisturizing and sunless tanning.
3. Replenish: You cannot slop enough gooey moisture onto your nether regions in winter. Burt’s Bees Coconut Foot Balm should be applied in a thick layer and then worn to bed with socks. Body lotion goes on the shins, thighs and even your derriere before you squish into your pajamas. Find one you can stand the smell of. Burt’s Bees Carrot Body Lotion smells like fresh-baked muffins and is non-greasy. Also scrumptious is The Body Shop’s Body Butter in Mango. For the knees you need a slightly heavier balm, Decleor Baume Aromatique Harmonie for Sensitive Skin is lovely.
4. Stay buff: Buffing toenails in winter is a nice way to take a break from nail polish. Spring for the extra cost of a paraffin pedicure as the wax locks moisture in and leaves the feet baby soft. Persistent home grooming of your footsies makes the occasional spa pedicure more affordable. BLISS make a classic big buffer for smoothing over corns and stubborn heels, keep it at the edge of the tub and whittle away. You’ll get there.
5. Fake the Florida tan: Brown legs look slimmer but for heaven’s sake don’t get the sun involved. Fake it! For impatient people Guerlain Terracotta Sun Gold Body Illuminating Gel provides really insta-whammo bronzing, but tinted legs can strike a strange note in the dead of winter if the rest of you remains pale. Try a bronzing dust on face and shoulders to match. For something more gradual, I love Lancome’s self-tanning cream. It takes about three hours to activate but looks totally natural. If you have less time, try the Lancome Soleil Flash Bronzer, a self-tanning magic mousse that imparts a Brazilian goddess glow.
6. Be firm with yourself: Firm legs are impossible to fake so give yourself six weeks of concentrated lunging, walking and stretching to shift those spongy bits. Skipping rope for 15 minutes three times a week, taking the stairs once a day, walking for half an hour and doing mini leg-lifts (front, back and to the side) for two sessions of 20 reps each four times a week is great start. If you are lazier than that, invest in a pair of fantastic heels. A peep toed pair of Marc Jacobs pumps, a cherry red pedicure and a flirty polka dot skirt will have cabs and limousines screeching to a halt without so much as twitching your hips. Go forth and strut!
The six best leg and feet indulgence products:
1. Molton Brown Sea Moss Stress-Relieving Soak Therapy: This is the right stuff for the busy mermaid when readying for a mini-home pedicure or quickie foot bath.
2. A sea sponge as big as your head for all over body massage and invigorating leg work. Increased circulation makes legs glow!
3. Origins Ginger Body Scrub for spa-style exfoliation twice weekly. This is a divine remedy for rough heels and knees.
4. Aveda Hand Relief Lotion, applied everywhere below the hip bone until the first day of spring.
5. Weleda massage oils in Rose and Lavender for foot massage, de-stress soaking and pre-pedicure relaxation.
6. Estee Lauder Private Spa Collection Crystal Glow Sugar Rub for tub exfoliation sessions.