Twice a week
Even the sleekest of legs can get puffy, pouchy pockets of fluid – or patches of dull, flaky and dry skin (the shins have the driest skin on the body) – especially during the winter months, when we’re less active and more covered up. The best advice I’ve heard is from Kate Shapland, a long-term sufferer of water retention, who used her own experience to create Legology, a genuinely excellent range of reshaping products. “If you want to see a real difference, think about prepping your legs in the way that you regularly prime your face,” she tells me. Her routine (try it twice weekly) starts with a good skin scrub: “Crunchy salt and oil scrubs are great, especially those with diuretic Himalayan salts, as they help shift trapped fluid.” Adding salts to your bath, particularly Epsom, will also aid the depuffing process. “Next, give heavy legs the Scandi spa treatment by using the shower head to alternate warm (not hot) and cold water over feet, ankles, legs and buttocks.” Try 20 seconds on each section, repeating three times – the skin-firming and flesh-tightening effects you get are amazing.
“Even simple things, like making sure you towel-dry briskly, working from the ankles upwards, stimulates the lymphatic system and makes a difference to water retention,” says Shapland. “Every time you use a body-treatment cream or oil, massage it into the trouble spots around the ankles, behind the knees and especially on the inner thigh.” Ideally, you should alternate between a skin-polishing AHA or glycolic body cream one day, and a depuffing cream or oil the next. Lancer Body Nourish is my favorite, as it gives bare skin an incredible dewy glow, while the glycolic acid smooths skin over time.
Massaging your thighs and calves, either at the beginning or end of your day, will also help to get water retention on the move, reduce swelling and unknot tight and uncomfortable muscles. Try the Hayo’u Body Restorer to reduce tension, muscle soreness and inflammation. Use the longer side to massage the larger muscles, then switch to the v-shaped curve at one end to target the smaller, tighter muscles.
For evening glamour
As the woman famous for prepping A-list bodies for shoots, film sets and red carpets, Nichola Joss advises layering up your products for the most glowing skin: “A self-tan makes a great base, but it can look ‘flat’, so you need to finish by adding shine and dewiness to the skin, especially down the front of the shin and over the arch of the foot. It’s also good to use a hyaluronic acid serum on shins, where the skin gets dry and crepey, as it instantly gives a real plumpness and glow.” Taking her layering advice, I mix a light body lotion with a bit of skin tint – even a foundation or liquid bronzer – plus a few drops of luminizer, then blend it over my bare legs. This way, you can tailor it – more bronze-toned one evening, more silver another – depending on your personal preference or the look you’re going for.
The at-home treatment
To make end-of-the-day heavy legs look and feel lighter and more streamlined, body therapist Kirstie Garratt advises first using the shower head to run cold water just from the feet up to the knees. “I’m a huge fan of water jets and thalassotherapy in spas. At home, alternating warm and cold water on the lower legs is amazing for circulation and the lymphatics – you feel like a racehorse afterwards.” Next, apply your treatment oil or gel – ideally, chill these in the refrigerator beforehand. “Circle your hands quite firmly around the ankle and either slide them up slowly to above the knees, or press and release as you work upwards. You’re working on the fluid above the muscle and just below the skin, so you don’t need to go very deep or hard,” says Garrett. “Do this five times on each leg and you’ll see a difference. Finally, lie on the floor with your legs at right angles up against the wall for 10 minutes. “This takes the pressure off the valves and gives real lightness in the legs.”
WFH at your desk
As tempting as it can be to chain yourself to your desk and plough through your to-do list, sitting all day is detrimental to posture and also plays havoc with your circulation. Leg muscles can begin to feel tired and heavy if they are left for prolonged periods without movement, so it’s vital that you seize the opportunity to stand and walk around at least once every hour. Set a reminder on your cell phone or computer (if you have an Apple Watch, you will automatically be prompted to stand), so you’re motivated to move. Or get a tennis ball and, every so often, place it on the floor and roll each foot over the ball in turn. This is a great way to engage your muscles and keep your lymphatic system running smoothly.
Three exercises for better legs
Super-squats Adjusting the way you squat can make a big difference to your legs, according to Victoria’s Secret trainer Justin Gelband. He recommends dropping your butt to an angle of 45 degrees, rather than the usual 90 degrees.
The donkey kick This highly effective exercise is excellent for toning legs. Start in a tabletop position on all fours and bend and raise one leg, keeping the sole of the foot flexed towards the ceiling as you pulse it up and down a few inches.
Plank twists These engage more of the leg muscles and create a more sculpted look. Start in the classic plank pose and, with your core muscles engaged, drop twist so one hip drops a few inches towards the floor, then come back up and repeat on the other side. This is a great exercise to work the thigh and glute muscles in equal measure.
The model featured in this story is not associated with NET-A-PORTER and does not endorse it or the products shown