The Secret to Perfect Summer Legs

A woman applying oil to her legs.

If you don't know a pentapeptide from an antioxidant and, frankly, you don't care -- you just want your gator-dry legs to be soft and silky-smooth -- look no farther than your kitchen. The answer lies in that bottle of safflower oil sitting on the shelf. This polyunsaturated oil, beloved by cardiologists for being good for your heart, is just as good for your skin, but from the outside in.

The oil, which is pressed from the seeds of spiky yellow safflowers, is a super moisturizer. "That's because it's very high in linoleic acid, a fatty acid that skin normally makes to keep its moisture level up and barrier function intact," says New York City dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD, RealAge's skin expert. Because the body's linoleic acid production gets sluggish with age, it helps to replace it from the outside.

"In theory, you could use olive oil, too, which is also high in linoleic acid. But you'd smell like a salad!" Wechsler says. Along with being odorless, safflower oil has the advantages of being colorless and cheap. And that's not all. Safe enough for sensitive skin, it's so gentle that it's massaged into the skin of newborn babies at some hospitals.

Although this natural oil is one of Wechsler's favorite treatments for dry lower legs (where flakiness can be especially persistent), you can use it body-wide -- though not when you're in a mad rush, as it takes time to soak in. "Smooth it on immediately after a bath or shower to seal in the moisture your skin has just absorbed. You can even apply it on your face, as long you don't get it into your eyes; stop a bit below the lower lid."

If you're not sure about moisturizing with pure cooking oil, you can find safflower oil in moisturizers, lip balms, and scrubs. "Look for a product that lists it among the first three ingredients, which means it contains a high concentration of the oil," says Dr. Wechsler.

Otherwise, just pour some safflower oil into a pretty little squeeze bottle and add it to your toiletries. No one will ever guess you cook with it, too. And your legs will look amazing!

Be good to your skin, from top to toe, with your own personalized skin care routine.

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