Priority number one before slipping on a swimsuit: smoothing things out. "Sloughing off the outermost layer of skin uncovers the fresh layer underneath for a smoother, brighter appearance," says Whitney Bowe, MD, a dermatologist in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. Skip grainy scrubs, which can be harsh, and try one of the new chemical peels that are a low-dose combination of glycolic, salicylic or lactic acid and fruit enzymes. We like Kerstin Florian Correcting Brightening Body Peel ($40; nordstrom.com). Exfoliate the day before you hit the beach or pool to avoid irritation from the sun. Sweep pads over your arms, legs, chest and back; after a few minutes, rinse off in the shower and pat yourself dry. Apply lotion within a couple of minutes for extra sheen.
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Detox your face
Summer isn't always your skin's friend, as you may well know. "Warm temps bring on buildup from sweat and excess oil, which leads to clogged pores," says Jessica Wu, MD, a dermatologist in Los Angeles. Keep your skin supercleandon't forget to wash up before bed. And, sorry, a once-over with a cleansing wipe won't cut it. Dr. Wu's advice: Use a salicylic acid-based cleanser to remove dead skin cells and kill bacteria in pores. Choose lotion or serum moisturizers and skip creams, which are too heavyweight; apply only where you feel dry. Go easy on makeup, tooa few swipes of tinted moisturizer can provide just enough coverage and a whole lot of radiance.
You should shave at the end of your shower, when skin is softest and hair follicles are loose. Dermatologists agree that it's worth it to use shaving cream for a layer of protection against nicks. To get the closest cut, run the razor in the direction of hair growth, then against it. Another benefit of the back-and-forth technique: Fuzz will grow in much thinner, Dr. Bowe says. If you're prone to irritation and bumps, try this trick from Ellen Marmur, MD, a dermatologist in New York City: Before bed, apply a light layer of body oil to your legs, underarms, bikini line or wherever you plan on shaving in the morning. This will hydrate hair so it readily slides off.
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Sure, there are endless filters for your beach photos, but you can actually reduce the appearance of dimples right now. Caffeine-infused creams are your best bet for temporarily deflating fat cells and tightening skin, Dr. Marmur says. A good one to try: Dr. Brandt Cellusculpt Smoothing Cream ($59; http://www.sephora.com), which has an applicator with rounded nubs you can massage over skin to further help break up dimpling. Also consider applying a retinol cream on your thighs and tush at night, Dr. Bowe says: "Retinoids stimulate collagen production, plumping skin and lessening that cottage cheese look over time."
The new think on self-tanner: Pick a medium or dark shade even if your skin is fair. "The purple undertones in darker shades give the most natural-looking tan, whereas lighter formulas can cast an unsightly yellow glow," says Dera Enochson, founder of Xen-Tan. Try Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse in Deep Bronze ($13; ulta.com). Right before applying, run a wet washcloth over skin to scrub off dead cells and wipe away residue from lotion, sweat and oil. Also nice: "Damp skin will absorb more of the formula than dry skin, providing more color payoff," says Stacie Norvell, vice president of branding at Norvell Tanning. Blend a generous amount into skin using broad, circular motions. Let it dry and relax, ideally with a frozen beverage. The longer you let self-tanner settle in before showering or sweating, the better; at least six to eight hours is ideal.