Nothing is quite as intimidating as bikini season. For many women, the idea of baring all in public is second only to a root canal. Sure, you’re on your third round of a P90X and INSANITY hybrid, you haven’t even been downwind of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in 8 months, and you have a stomach Ludo Lefebvre could chop tomatoes on. Still, the idea of showing off your hard work can be terrifying. Problem is, you can’t avoid summer. Sure, you could opt to spend 3 months inside, watching Orange is the New Black marathons, but that’s not living! Instead, let’s get strategic.
Here are 8 easy steps to get ready for bikini season.
1. A suit that suits.
Considering they’re little more than a $3 swatch of fabric, you’d think that all suits are created equal. A couple of triangles, a rectangle, and some string and you’re good to go, right? Not quite. There’s a world of choices out there, and everything from color to cut can make a difference in what flatters your body type. This doesn’t mean you need to go to a Beverly Hills boutique and spend $400 on a custom suit. But knowing what looks good on you, and accentuates your best assets, can make you feel like you did. There are a hundred style guides out there that claim to know the perfect suit for your body type, but from experience, you’ll never know until you see it on yourself. Your best bet is to try on several styles of tops: halter, bandeau, triangle, tankini, push up, and then pair them with different bottoms: low rise, high rise, boy short, Brazilian cut, or skirt, and see which flatters you. Also, look closely at colors against your skin tone. If yellow isn’t your color in a sweater, it’ll be no better in a swimsuit. If you prefer a pattern, make sure it doesn’t detract from the rest of you. In other words, it’ll require some trial and error, but the end result will be infinitely better than ordering from a catalog.
2. Move the focus.
If your six-pack isn’t quite there, or your hips make you nuts, move the attention elsewhere. If you have long beautiful hair, flaunt it. If your eyes can be seen across a room, sweep on some waterproof mascara. If you’re white as an angel and live in sunblock, use a touch of bronzer or a tinted moisturizer. If you have lovely teeth, break out the Crest® strips and start smiling. Just because it’s a day at the beach or around the pool doesn’t mean you have to pile your hair on top of your head and cover your face in zinc oxide. Take a few minutes to make yourself feel beautiful. Others are more likely to look at your face than they are at the things you’re not as happy with. Remember, no one else is as critical of us as us.
3. Exfoliate. Beautiful skin is essential when you wear an outfit that could fit in a sandwich bag. Human skin has an extraordinary ability to regenerate itself. In the process, dead skin cells can hang out on the outermost layer, making your legs, torso, and arms look dry, dull, and scaly. One of the easiest ways to rectify the situation is to exfoliate. There are a few different ways to go about this. You can buy scrubbies, sponges, and brushes. You can also find more expensive creams and solutions that contain everything from glycolic acid to salt from the Dead Sea. Or you can go into your pantry, and mix up the following: 1/2 cup brown or raw sugar, 1/2 cup almond or coconut oil, 2 teaspoons cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon vitamin E. Once mixed, slather onto your skin, rinse in the shower, and wait for the compliments. Your skin and your significant other will thank you.
4. Hair care down there.
Since bikinis seem to be decreasing in size, a bit of extra trimming may be necessary. Each woman seems to have her own way of dealing with such matters, but if this is a new topic for you, read on. The easiest and perhaps most economical way to deal with this issue is shaving. The results are short-lived, but it’s relatively pain free and doesn’t require assistance from anyone else. There are several creams, sanding devices, and wax strip kits that you can find in a drug store, but you have a 50/50 chance whether they’ll be effective. Professional waxing is extremely effective, yet rather painful and perhaps inconvenient. The results, however, last 3 to 4 weeks, and might just merit the few moments of ouch. Last but not least, there’s laser hair removal, which, if completed a few times, can permanently remove the hair. Usually a facility will administer a numbing cream before you begin, which makes it a pain-free and easy experience. If they don’t offer a numbing cream, run in the opposite direction. Laser hair removal can be pretty costly, so make sure you’re ready for the dent in your bank account. Oh, the price of beauty in a bikini.
5. The tan advantage.
There is a reason that every “after” picture out there shows the transformed with a touch of color: everybody looks better with a tan. Tanned skin helps show muscle definition, while simultaneously covering up the evils of stretch marks and cellulite. This isn’t an excuse to slather yourself in Crisco and go bake in the sun until you look and smell like a taquito. We all know the dangers of exposure to the sun and to tanning beds. Instead, there’s an array of self-tanners, Mystic Tan machines, and air brushers out there to give you a bit of glow, without fear of skin cancer. Check out what you have access to in your area, and follow the directions accordingly. Nothing kills the look faster than palms the color of a Halloween pumpkin.
6. Avoid the bloat.
There are times when we can’t avoid a bit of bloating, especially for women, but at every other time of the month, we do have a choice. Avoiding alcohol can make the difference between a flat tummy and the morning-after belly. Food that’s high in sodium, like chips, pretzels, soy sauce, prepackaged soups, and pizza, can make us retain water and never want to take our sarongs off. Eating large portions of food, as opposed to small meals throughout the day, can also make our waistline look bigger. If you’re going to strut your stuff down the beach, try eating a bunch of meals consisting of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables, no larger than the size of your fist. It’s the perfect size for your body to assimilate without overwhelming your stomach.
7. Tighten up.
We know exercise has a cumulative effect. If you could get a Brazil Butt Lift in a single workout, the program would only last a day. And while it can take weeks to see improvements, there’s something to be said for how much better you feel after a workout. You can see more muscle definition once your circulation is going, you get an endorphin high, and you can sweat out any excess water you’re hanging on to. What’s more, if you just crushed P90X2 Plyocide, you might walk with a bit more confidence around that pool. After all, who cares if you’re not in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition; you just did 60 Jack-in-the-Box knee tucks. So even if you’re on vacation, get up and do your workout before you hit the beach.
8. Nothing is sexier than confidence.
When all is said and done, feeling comfortable in your own skin, even if it contains five extra pounds, is the most attractive attribute you can have. And as tough as it is to feel resplendent in a bikini, it is possible. Start by being kind to yourself. When you look in the mirror, look at all of the beautiful things, not the stuff you dislike. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself. And remember, it really is just an article of clothing. It isn’t the measure of who you are, how beautiful you are, or your self-worth. Don’t give that silly little yard of spandex the power. Throw one on, and remember you’re perfect as you are, right now. Everything else is just icing.