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It’s summer and that means it’s an arms race. Summer dresses and short-sleeved tops can reveal arms that are toned and smooth or beset by bumps and bat wings. To get arms that are Michelle Obama worthy, help is it hand.
I got an email recently asking about keratosis pilaris. They are those lumpy, rough spots on the arms (sometimes chest, legs and shoulders) that can become red and irritated. They are one of those things that are often dismissed as hereditary, a term that implies that there is nothing to be done. Well there is plenty to be done for keratosis pilaris, although it requires – as with most beauty regimens – a consistent approach. And one that may seem counter intuitive.
These bumpy rough spots are clogged pores where skin cells have become hardened inside the pore and inflammation occurs. Dry skin can make triangular, pyramid-shaped bumps, or “accuminate papules.” The keratin on top is shaped like a sharp spike, which is why the skin feels rough. People assume that keratosis pilaris is some form of acne and don’t moisturize enough, keeping the skin dry and making things worse.
The regimen is to keep the pores unblocked, smooth the skin and hydrate. Dry brush every day with an electronic brush such as Clarisonic (the Clarisonic Plus ($225) has a large brush head that is great for body brushing) or Sirius Sonic ($49). Several times a week use a gentle but effective glycolic peel. Lather’s 10-Minute Brightening Mask ($28 in the shop) has 10% glycolic. Although intended as a face mask, the tub is generous and a little goes a long way so it can be used on the arms as well. A stronger option would be Lumixyl’s Glycopeel ($60), which has 20% glycolic. Use a rich body moisturizer – Juice Beauty Green Apple Firming Body Moisturizer ($18 in the shop) is a good one to consider as it is also described as firming. Also check out our latest Five Best Moisturizers list.
What about those bat wings. Genetically, women have a higher body fat percentage than men, and often have thinner skin, predisposing them to having heavier arms. A couple of years ago, we interviewed Dr Anthony Youn, a plastic surgeon, and asked him about various treatments such as liposuction, Dermasonic and even brachioplasty. You read what he had to say here, but note that even he said that the best thing for flabby arms is exercise.
Even if you do nothing else, it takes only 5 minutes a day to focus on exercises for the upper arms and start to sculpt them. The mistake that people often make is to exercise only their biceps (with curls, for example). To trim and refine the underarm, the best exercises are reverse push ups and tricep kickbacks. Check out The Bar Method exercise programs for inspiration. And remember that you are strengthening not only the arms, but also the wrists – so you can look forward to still being able to uncork a bottle of wine in your dotage.