Obviously, tights in this heat are ridiculous but no matter how much body moisturiser I put on, my legs are disgustingly dry and flaky. Any solutions other than “wear long skirts”?
Ella, by email
If there is a woman out there who doesn’t have dry skin on their legs, I don’t trust her. (I refuse to employ the common beauty writer phraseology of “suffers from dry skin” – people suffer from leprosy, they suffer from poverty, they suffer from horrific savage attacks from rabid dogs. They do not “suffer from” dry legs.) I generally resist scratching mosquito bites on my legs in public because any said scratching results in what looks like a gale-force blizzard blowing out of my calves with dried bits of flaked skin falling all over the pavement. Yes, it’s disgusting but you know what? Being disgusting is just part of the human condition and the sooner we all accept that, the better. Deal with it, people.
Like you, Ella, I relied on creams for years and, like you, I found them next to useless. Kiehl’s Crème de Corps came the closest to being any kind of cop but, in hot weather, it just sits on top of the skin and looks gloopy and attracts dirt. To be honest, I find that most beauty companies don’t really get dry skin and by “dry skin” I mean skin that makes a salamander look juicy with moisture. Beauty companies seem to think dry skin is skin that just feels a little tight when it spends too long in central heating. But you know and I know, Ella, that dry skin is skin that has actual crevices in it – like gashes in the sand of the desert, where water once flowed but no more – and a surface that has more in common with crepe paper than flesh. Seriously, I only need to stroke my leg some days for what looks like half my knee to come off in my hand. Like I said, deal with it, people.
Seeing as so many women have dry legs, I’ve often wondered about why cosmetics brands are so bad at catering to it, leaving such matters to more medical brands, or simply ignoring it all together. The only reason I can fathom is that a lot of cosmetics brands, like most people, don’t like to think about how disgusting the human race is and the reason we’re disgusting is because we’re humans and not airbrushed models in adverts. Too often I find that some beauty companies cater only to some kind of fantasy vision of femininity, with moisturisers that appear to be made for those with the skin of 12-year-olds and lipstick that feathers garishly on anyone whose lips are anything less than Angelina-esque. No, this is not true of all beauty companies, but it is of many and it is the cosmetics company equivalent of fashion labels that refuse to make clothes in sizes larger than 14.
I don’t know if it’s that such brands simply can’t bear to think about people who look different from supermodels, but they certainly don’t want to be associated with them and therefore refuse to cater for them. Which is clearly ridiculous, not least on a financial level. So fine, let those companies kid themselves by making products for the five women out there who look like supermodels and the rest of us can take our lucrative(ish) custom out there, walking firmly away upon our size-16 flaky-skinned legs.
So as for what can be done about dry legs, in my scaly-limbed experience this requires a very specific three-step process. First, body-brush your legs before getting into the shower to get rid of all top-lying flakes. I’ve recommended the Elemis body brush before, because it’s hand held (body brushes with long handles are just too cumbersome for leg brushing) and has a convenient strap, but cheaper ones are good, too. Then – also before getting wet – rub in a good body scrub. These, too, are harder to find than you’d think, as too many of them focus more on fragrance than oils and moisturisation, especially if they’ve been launched to promote some fashion label’s new perfume. The best one I’ve come across is Ren’s Moroccan Rose Otto Sugar Body Polish which is both scrubby and oily, a too rare combination, and smells of the most delicious roses ever. Then, after you’ve showered and dried, don’t bother with creams and head straight for the oils. Oil is a dry-skinned lady’s friend (which is also why the dry-skinned lady should take fish oil supplements every day, oiling herself inside and out.) This Works Skin Deep Dry Leg Oil is my preferred one (although I don’t know why they specify it as being “leg oil” when obviously it works on scabby elbows and upper arms, too) and your skin will soak it up so ladle it on.
I’ll be honest: most days I don’t bother with doing any of the above because, you know what? I don’t really care. Yes, world, these are my cracked and flaky legs sticking out of a pair of shorts: gaze upon them in awe. But when I do bother, it’s like when I go to yoga class: I just feel better, and I vow to myself I’ll now do it every day (and then not do it again for about two weeks.) This works, yes, but we’re also all disgusting human beings and that’s fine, too. Smelling like roses is fun but so is making your legs snow. So, really, winning all round.
Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email email@example.com