It was all so easy in the ‘80s. Spider veins, birthmarks, sun-starved flesh — all of it sat neatly concealed by the nude pantyhose we wore with abandon. No one was the wiser.
Today, we’re the wiser. About not wearing nude nylons, for starters, but also about what our legs truly look like in summer dresses.
We’re hardly left to fend for ourselves, of course. Since Coppertone introduced the first sunless tanner, Quick Tanning Lotion, in 1960, the beauty industry has churned out and perfected enough self-tanners and leg-beautifying products to keep our naked legs skirt-ready until those nude nylons make their inevitable comeback. (Let’s just hope they don’t bring their ’80s brethren, the shoulder pads, with them.)
Here are three products we’re especially fond of right now.
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Why we like it: These little towelettes are great for travel — no worries about flouting the 3-ounce carry-on rule or salvaging your luggage-packed clothing from a leaky lotion bottle. The towels are easy to apply evenly, and they keep your hands dye-free.
How to use it: After exfoliating your legs, wipe a towelette in circular motions on your legs and feet. Wait about two minutes for the product to set and dry before you get dressed. Use additional towelettes if you want a darker shade. (The full color will show up after about two hours.) The towels can leave your skin feeling drier than usual, so keep moisturizer nearby.
Where to find it: $23.90 for a six-pack of towels at hsn.com
The Great Pretender by Origins
Why we like it: It’s tinted as soon as it goes on, so you can see where you’re applying it. But it also contains sugar-derived DHA, which darkens your skin gradually as you’re wearing it. And unlike a lot of sunless tanners, it smells lovely. (Oranges and peppermint. Mmm.)
How to use it: After your usual shaving/exfoliating routine, apply an all-over layer of Great Pretender in place of your usual moisturizer. Wash your hands immediately. The color will deepen after a few hours and will fade naturally after two to three days of wear.
Where to find it: $21.50 for a 5-ounce tube at origins.com
Airbrush Legs by Sally Hansen
Why we like it: This acts as a concealer as much as a tanner, so it masks veins, freckles and birthmarks better than sunless tanners. It contains just a hint of sparkle, too, which lends your legs a little extra glow — a nice touch for evenings or outings where you want to lend your legs a little extra pizazz.
How to use it: Choose from four shades (light glow, medium glow, tan glow, deep glow), depending on how dark you want your legs to look. Spray the lotion into your hand and rub into your legs and feet in circular motions. (The lotion comes in an aerosol can, so make sure you’re not standing too close to light towels or a shower curtain, etc., before spraying.) Wash your hands thoroughly. The color and coverage take effect immediately, but wait three minutes before getting dressed to allow it to dry completely.
Where to find it: $13.39 for a 4-ounce bottle at amazon.com