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3 skin-firming techniques that actually work

The fastest way to lift, firm, tone? Head to the gym. But even when your muscles respond to that effort, your skin doesn’t always reflect the hours you put in, and some areas can look a little less taut than your flexed biceps.

So what actually works to firm your skin—besides doing a thousand more squats?

Unfortunately, you can’t just slap on a body lotion and hope it works while you’re sleeping. Your best bet, according to experts, is to practice a few effective methods—and to keep up with them.

Here, three seriously credentialed skin savants—from holistic spa gurus to a natural-leaning MD—explain how you can get firmer skin.

1. Dry brushing. This holistic practice involves massaging your skin with a brush made with natural (semi-soft) fibers in an upward motion, towards your heart. “The brush increases circulation and promotes healthy cell renewal,” says Tammy Fender, spa expert based in Palm Beach. “As a result, it can help break down fatty deposits.”

While dry brushing is not exactly supported by science-backed studies, it’s believed to have an effect on your sluggish lymphatic system, which removes cellular waste but doesn’t have a pump like the heart to keep it moving. “Gentle brushing helps stimulates your lymphatic system,” confirms Sara Gottfried, MD, author of the forthcoming The Hormone Reset Diet“Within a minute, you’ll feel energized.” Though it could take longer to see bigger results, some swear it’s great before wearing a skirt or heading to the beach.

2. Exfoliating. The beauty of exfoliation is that fresh, new cells are revealed after the dead surface layer has been sloughed off, which causes cells to regenerate faster—it’s like your DVR’s fast forward button, but for your skin. “Exfoliation increases circulation and stimulates collagen (the skin’s supporting protein fibers), which ultimately helps tightens and firms the skin,” says Fender.

The Ayurvedics have been doing this for five-plus centuries with a holistic treatment called Udvartana. “It’s a rigorous body massage that uses a paste made of Ayurvedic herbs and grains to improve circulation, support detoxification of the lymphatic system, and purify the skin,” explains Larissa Hall Carlson, dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. Using a natural exfoliating body scrub with salt, sugar, or other fine gritty particles or a washcloth can help do the trick at home.

3. Slathering on omega-3s. Foods loaded with omega-3s like salmon and walnuts are great for your skin. “They’re fatty acids essential for our health, but our body doesn’t produce them,” says Dr. Gottfried. “Our only source is food.” And slathering on an omega-rich body oil, such as one with argan, flaxseed, hempseed, or cranberry seed oils, can help support the skin-firming potential from the surface. “Both topical application and dietary intake are considered successful ways of delivering omegas to the skin,” says Dr. Gottfried.

So how do they work? “Omegas keep the structure of cells intact so that they can retain more moisture, and look plumper,” says Fender. It’s kind of like hydrating a raisin. “As a result, skin has an improved tightness to it.” —Miram Ava