When the term "cankles" hit the media -- and gyms -- by storm two years ago, it left many women wondering: Do I have chubby ankles? It wasn't enough that we had to worry about muffin tops, flabby arms and larger-than-we'd-like derrieres. In an ever-increasingly body-conscious society, it's not surprising -- and even somewhat expected -- that we continue to pick apart those areas of our bodies we deem sub-stellar.
And that includes knees.
Knees, like ankles, may not be at the top of everyone's Sexy Body Parts list, but if a woman considers them unattractive, it's enough to alter the way she dresses -- and even the way she feels about herself.
And while there is not an official term (like cankles) for less-than-svelte knees, do we really have to resort to a life void of flirty miniskirts and sexy shorts?
Of course not!
First of all, it's important to realize that our bodies are perfect and beautiful just the way they are. Our knees, in particular, allow us to run, jump, climb, squat and move throughout our days. Without them, we would be in serious trouble. So, before condemning your knees for the way they look, send them some gratitude. Some good loving.
For those looking for a little help with their appearance, Houston dermatologist Dr. Paul Friedman said with shorter hemlines and bare legs being fashionable, more and more women are approaching a cosmetic dermatologist or plastic surgeon. In fact, knees account for approximately 10 percent of his body-contouring patients today.
While the reasons vary, Friedman said many women are concerned about excess fatty tissue in their knees, especially over the inner knee, over the kneecap and above the knee. Other patients want to rid the sagging skin that overlies the front of their knees and thighs. And still others come in with distinct scars or an increased amount of pigmentation across their knees (both of which typically follow some sort of trauma).
"Causes are multifactorial," said Friedman. "Genetics, diet and lifestyle all can play a role. However, we do see many thin, athletic patients that still have small deposits of fat on their knees."
Celebrity trainer and USANA spokeswoman Kathy Kaehler said she's had clients who want to tighten up their knees because they just don't like how they look. "They hate how it determines what they wear or how they think people's eyes go to their knees. I know it gives them a reason to wear only pants," she said.
Kaehler said knee haters specifically gripe about the skin, the bumps and the lines that loose skin can make. "It also pulls more skin on the inside of the knee that makes a bulge."
And while Kaehler agrees that saggy knees can be attributed to genetics, much of the time she believes it's due to underconditioned quadriceps and weight gain, which is good news -- meaning, there is something we can do about it.
Gyms and dermatology offices are not the only places that hear complaints about saggy, chubby or ugly knees.
Celebrity makeup artist Scott Barnes said this is a common beef among his clients, too. "Women always complain to me that there is some body part they don't like. They always ask me how to fix it."
When a woman is unhappy or self-conscious about the way her knees look, not surprisingly, she covers them up. Longer skirts, pants and tights are often used to camouflage these seemingly imperfections.
"I think all women are concerned with their legs in general, and of course, no one wants ugly knees," said Barnes. "I see women all the time looking for additional ways to slim or slenderize their legs. And that includes knees that are soft and delicate."
So if you find yourself knee high in reasons why you don't like the way your knees look, take a look at the top tips from these experts on how to beautify and show them off:
There may not be any knee-specific classes at the gym (remember the cankle-busting workouts Gold's Gym offered?), yet cardiovascular and strength-training exercises can still be your best bet.
A regular regimen of exercises like power walking, running, jumping rope, stair climbing and other heart-pumping activities can burn calories and, thus, eliminate fat. Be forewarned though, it is not possible to spot-reduce, so any exercises you engage in will burn fat throughout the body, not just the knee area.
Strength-building exercises, like squats, lunges and leg lifts are ideal for toning the legs. The more toned they are, the less likely your knees will droop. Kaehler advises clients to complete one set of 12 reps of lunges, squats and side lunges with squats. She then has them build up to two sets and eventually adds a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand for additional strengthening.
Above all, consuming a healthy diet and getting back to your ideal body weight is the most important thing, according to Kaehler, who noted that added weight is likely to manifest around the knees.
If women could only use one beauty product, Barnes said it should be Body Bling.
"Its my number one beauty favorite among celebrities and women around the world," he explained. "It moisturizes and slenderizes your legs and gives them a healthy glow while making you look tan without the harmful effects of the sun."
Another helpful tip is to use a good body moisturizer on your legs daily like La Mer or La Prairie.
And don't forgo an occasional scrub to shed dead skin. Using a lemon-and-sea-salt mixture is a great and inexpensive way to soften your knees.
"To me, all women have a beauty about them -- it's just about bringing it out," added Barnes.
No matter what your knees look like, all women look fantastic in a flirty miniskirt. Just make sure it's not too tight, so it can move with your legs when you walk. Also, high heels are always flattering to your gams, making them appear sexy and gorgeous -- but avoid shoes with an ankle strap as they can make your legs appear shorter. And finally, if you're still too self-conscious for a mini, try a long dress with a slit in the front to hint at your sexy legs!
When chubby or sagging knees don't respond to proper diet and exercise, some women take further steps.
Body wraps, while only temporary, can provide a short-term fix to reducing excess water or swelling around the knees.
Friedman believes that patients can see better results from sagging skin with radiofrequency treatments such as Thermage or Excelis, which work by stimulating collagen production to help tighten the skin.
"We also have patients with scars over the knees," said Friedman. "The appearance of these scars can be improved with lasers such as a pulsed dye laser or fractionated lasers such as Fraxel or Affirm. We have also seen improvement in the appearance of sunken scars following injections with fillers such as injectable hyaluronic acid or poly-L-lactic acid."
If patients experience increased pigmentation across the knees, it can be the result of repetitive micro-trauma to the skin of the knees. In this case, reducing any trauma along plus a prescription topical skin-lightening cream, such as one with hydroquinone, can be beneficial.
For women who want a more extreme treatment to improve the appearance of their knees, Friedman said liposuction will remove excess fatty tissue. With expanding technology in the medical field, small liposuction instruments can now be used to treat the knees. However, he warns that if patients are concerned about the appearance on the top of the knee, where it joins the thigh, extra care must be taken. The fatty tissue in this part of the knee supports the muscles on the front of the thigh, so taking too much fat out of this area removes the support of the thigh muscles, causing the front of the thigh to sag downward.
Of course, not everyone agrees that any of these procedures -- especially the surgical ones -- are necessary.
"We are all too body conscious," stated Kaehler. "If we paid more attention to what our bodies can do physically and not just how they look, we might find more happiness and less stress from focusing on something that is really quite insignificant."
Want more ways to love your body? Check out these tips.