In June, the 49-year-old American actress and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow – the brains behind lifestyle empire Goop – shared her latest headline-hitting wellness discovery with her 8.1 million Instagram followers.
Paltrow posted a screenshot of a selection of bizarre-looking wooden implements – including a “contouring board” and grooved “roller sticks” – designed to be massaged up and down the body. This Brazilian ritual, known as maderotherapy, is believed to relieve water retention, improve circulation and banish cellulite, if used religiously.
Whether Paltrow has kept up with the massaging regime is something to ask her Goop community, but the cellulite-free skin she displayed in snaps taken as part of an ad campaign for her clothing brand G.Label last month definitely caught the camera’s attention. Most noticeable among the photos – in which she posed topless and was shot from behind to model jeans – was her incredibly toned back.
Paltrow has thanked personal trainers, most notably Tracy Anderson, along the way for her toned physique and swears by a clean and rainbow-hued diet, but one can’t help but wonder if transforming our backs is the key to overall body definition.
And how do you get yours into shape, without the gimmicks or gym pass? Here, the experts share their know-how, from toning to tanning.
Keep your posture in check
According to London-based osteopath Nadia Alibhai, poor posture can make you appear more rounded at the shoulders than you actually are: “Many people think good posture simply requires popping your shoulders back. Try raising your breastbone outwards, for a more effective lift.”
Not only will this elongate your silhouette, but will ensure all muscles are sat in the correct spots to ensure regular function and instantly smooth out any pockets of unwanted fat, says Alibhai. An improvement in gut heath has also been recorded by a number of her patients, just by keeping their alignment in check.
And although you don’t necessarily need to be signing up to exercise classes every day of the week to keep your back in tip-top shape, old school stretches also shouldn’t be forgotten: “The stronger you are, the better you’ll age. Motion is lotion, after all,” says Alibhai.
Her favourite back hack of all, though, is the “ballerina pose”. Stand in the middle of a doorway, cross your legs over and place each hand on one side of the frame, with considerable space apart, and lean in. Try squeezing in this stretch daily to keep you on the straight and narrow.
Treat your back like your face
It may sound obvious, but because we don’t see the skin on our backs as easily as we see the skin on our faces (if at all!), we don’t treat our behinds with anything like as much scrutiny or care.
Mr Douglas McGeorge, cosmetic surgeon and co-founder of the British brand, Science of Skin, says: “Similar to your daily facial routine – and especially if you suffer from breakouts on your back – you need to ensure that you have a skincare programme in place that not only keeps your back clean, but tackles any build-up of dead skin cells, bacteria and sebum in the pores of your skin.”
If this sounds like you, it’s time to tackle the issue and make your bath or shower regime work harder. Try McGeorge’s micellar Cleanse No. One, £15.99, to get rid of any pore-blocking nasties, including any sun cream, which, after all, is designed deliberately to cling.
If dehydration is another of your concerns – if your skin has a noticeably rough texture, for example – McGeorge recommends getting into the habit of daily dry brushing. Simply work your brush up and down the entirety of your body, before stepping into the shower. You may even notice a difference immediately.
…and don’t forget to add the glow
“It’s incredible how a little bit of colour, with the help of fake tan, can define parts of the back that would otherwise be invisible, such as the shoulder blades,” says Amanda Harrington, the go-to tanning professional to London’s elite.
If you’re new to tanning all over, it’s easier to master than you think, and you don’t need to ask your other half to assist either. For preparation, Harrington swears by swapping your usual heavy-duty salt scrub for a chemical based exfoliator (look out for “glycolic” in the ingredients list) to smooth texture and soften any existing tan lines for a more even finish.
Tan-wise, simply squeeze one part of your favourite gradual tan moisturiser (Harrington recommends Dove’s Visible Glow body lotion for a hydrating option) with two parts tanning mousse to mimic a BB cream consistency, for buildable (and immediate) colour.
To apply, pop on a pair of tanning gloves or a mitt, and instead of loading the product into your palm, try the top of your hand instead. This may feel wrong, but you’ll notice the ease of reaching tricky blindspots immediately with a switch of the hand. Flick between a “windscreen wiper” action to circular motions for seamless application.
L-R: St.Tropez Dual Sided Luxe Velvet Fake Tan Mitt, £5; Amanda Harrington Body Illuminating Mousse, £38; Dove Visible Glow Self-Tan Body Lotion, Fair to Medium, £4.50; The Body Shop Round Body Brush, £10; Science of Skin Cleanse No. One, £15.99