During the unseasonably warm spell earlier this year I took to wearing ankle-baring trousers. A glimpse of my pale and puffy ankles left me under no illusions: there was work to be done and many, many creams to massage in before baring what’s north of my ankles.
This little hint at the terror to come (how would my legs looks uniformly smooth/brown/slim by summer? I am to be a bridesmaid! The HORROR!) was enough for me to trot my pasty pair along to Telegraph Beauty Columnist Kate Shapland’s two-hour ‘Legathon’ that was part of Liberty’s What’s Your Issue beauty event.
Kate Shapland is an authority on all things leg. A beauty journalist for over 25 years, Kate has homed in on legs and spent many an hour researching the various ways to make them look and feel better.
Her first words of wisdom during the session were joyfully practical: “uncross your legs, slip off your shoes and point and flex your toes to get your circulation going. You can also do this at your desk or on a flight.”
From there, Kate explained some of the challenges in the pursuit of happy and healthy legs: cellulite, puffiness (my bete noire), achiness, soreness, stretch marks, spider veins and varicose veins amongst.
Snippets from the Session //
CELLULITE / The result of a combination of sex (females suffer, while men are mostly cellulite-free – the blighters), genetics and a sluggish lymph, cellulite is a collation of fat and fluid that is often made worse by a sedentary lifestyle, warm weather, fluid retention and being overweight. A protein-rich diet may also exacerbate the appearance of cellulite (as eating carbohydrates encourages fluid retention and, when this fluid is released when eating more protein, cellulite will look more pronounced).
THE LYMPH / The fluid that flows around the body carrying and disposing of bacteria and waste is key to treating cellulite: when it is sluggish it makes the body and legs feel sluggish in turn. As the lymph has no pulse of its own, it is vital to keep it active.
When at a desk, get up regularly, walk around and stretch. Exercise, massage and stimulation of any kind (i.e. body brushing, which must start at the feet and move towards the heart) will all help to keep the lymph working effectively. Kate massages her legs firmly with her thumb starting at the inner sole of her feet and working up, as if pushing fluid, until they are warm – click here to see her guide.
PUFFINESS / Puffiness is often due to pregnancy, a flight, hot weather, standing for prolonged periods on your feet or walking/exercise. Put legs in the air for ten minutes against a wall to help ameliorate. During a flight wear flight socks and try to raise legs (see me, above, taking Kate’s advice seriously!). If due to heat, soak a towel in cool water and (if possible) epsom salts and wrap around legs while they are raised.
VARICOSE/SPIDER VEINS / These usually emerge after pregnancy. Kate recommended vascular surgeon Mark Whiteley at the Whiteley Clinic in Surrey for removal.
THE CAPRI PALACE LEG SCHOOL / This 7-day school that is devoted to treating legs provided some of the inspiration for the lemony scent of Kate’s product, Legology Air-Lite Daily Lift for Legs.
GENERAL LEG-LOVING PRACTICES / Drink lots of water. Bathe in epsom salts/magnesium flakes. Body brush and massage the legs daily. Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Keep an eye on heel height – there is a height that is best for every woman. Plunge feet/legs in cold then warm water to aid circulation. Practice yoga and swimming – they will help to lengthen the appearance of legs without bulk.
PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS //
– Legology Air-Lite Daily Lift for Legs, £60 here / Kate’s circulation-enhancing leg moisturiser works best when used daily so it’s a jolly good thing that it is a lemony joy to use. For best results, apply with Kate’s massage technique.
– Kneipp Calendula and Rosemary Foot Bath Salts /These foot bath salts rival all others and are the only ones that soothe my mother’s arthritic feet. They’re slightly deodorising, too, which will be extremely handy come summer.
– Clarins Contouring Body Treatment Oil / While not technically a leg product, this oil is a dab hand at dispelling puffiness and always makes me feel a little tighter and lighter.
– The Body Shop Spa Fit Toning and Firming Gel-Cream Massager / This one’s painful to use, but really very effective. Once the gel has squeezed through the nozzle, the idea is to rub it in with the rubber nubs. They hurt. Take solace in that fact that the pummelling of cellulite really does help to reduce it.
– BetterYou Magnesium Flakes / A firm favourite here when my legs are achy and sore. I like to pour them into a warm bath along with my bath oil and luxuriate at the end of the day.