How to Stop Freaking out About Bikini Season
The so-called “bikini season” has arrived, and we have two words for you: Calm down.
It’s easy to get into a panic, we know. Every woman knows. Try on a bathing suit in front of a three-way department store mirror and it’s all you can do to keep yourself from running out shrieking. The new, hugely unflattering compact fluorescent lighting that is everywhere these days certainly doesn’t help. Meanwhile, every fashion magazine, billboard and store catalog features images of women with beyond perfect bodies.
So, if you want to keep yourself from freaking out about bathing suit season, you’ll need a varied toolbox, from the practical to the inspirational. Here are our five don’t-panic tips to dressing for the pool or beach.
1. Find a self tanner you love, and use it regularly. Self tanners aren’t just about the “glow,” but giving you smooth, even color that instantly makes your legs, arms and belly look sleeker. That’s why it’s a universally flattering beauty booster for any skin tone. Erica Kelly, a dermatologist in Galveston, Texas, self tans twice a week, using a lotion on her legs, arms and torso and a spray on her back. Then she sprays a tiny bit of product on a makeup sponge and applies it to her face.
2. Choose a bathing suit that covers and reveals the body parts you want. Think beyond the two-piece suits you see paired on the racks at department stores and customize your bathing suit to work for you. Love your legs, but not so much your middle? Try a tankini, like this polka-dotted halter from Ann Taylor and this shrunken low-rider bottom from J. Crew. Want to flaunt your cleavage but draw attention away from your hips? Pair a bold and brightly colored top with a boy short or skirt. And if you’d rather check out these options in the privacy of your own bedroom, do your swimsuit shopping from a website that has a liberal return policy, like Lands' End.
3. Take some advice from Tyra Banks. Yes, she’s beautiful, but uniquely so, with a big forehead, as she likes to point out, and a tendency to carry weight in her thighs (as a tabloid pointed out when it published photos of her with -- gasp! -- actual cellulite). “Girls of all kinds can be beautiful,” says Banks, “from the thin, plus-sized, short, very tall, ebony to porcelain-skinned; the quirky, clumsy, shy, outgoing and all in between. It’s not easy, though, because many people still put beauty into a confining, narrow box … think outside of the box … pledge that you will look in the mirror and find the unique beauty in you.”
4. Listen to Lupita Nyong’o and refuse to give in to what she called “the seduction of inadequacy.” Before she won her Oscar, became a red-carpet sensation and was named People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful Person,” she felt, like the rest of us have from time to time, “unbeautiful.” Teased about her “night-shaded” skin, she’d wake up every morning praying the mirror would show that she’d gotten paler overnight. It took a while, she says, but she realized that “beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume; it was something that I just had to be … what is fundamentally beautiful is compassion -- for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”5. Accessorize brilliantly. Don a gorgeous coral colored straw hat with an oversized brim (also a great way to shield your skin and hair from damaging UV rays). Forget neutrals and rock nail lacquers in hues that evoke sunflowers or Gerber daisies. Swipe on some peach-colored lip balm. And, finally, make sure you’re wearing a smile as dazzling as the sun. As Serena Williams says, “My smile is my favorite part of my body. I think a smile can make your whole body.”
Shelley Levitt, managing editor of The Style Glossy, is a former West Coast editor of Self and senior writer at People.