It's not very ''fashion'' but the off-season can be the best time for many things beauty. It's best to do some maintenance before you really need it - a bit like servicing the air conditioner in winter and checking the ski gear in summer. I realised as I tried to assemble a spring racing wardrobe at the weekend that a bit of chest baring mid-winter wouldn't have gone astray. Suddenly it's October, the weather's warming up as quickly as 2012 has flown and the precious décolletage will be revealed - but, like my Cup outfit, it's not quite ready.
The décolletage is a problem area. Usually neglected, often exposed to the elements, it can be the most sun-damaged parts of the female form. It's thin-skinned and vulnerable, prey to wrinkling and broken blood vessels. And brown bits - that is, hyperpigmentation - which is what has led to my vow to be better prepared next year (and to wear a high-necked frock to the races). In Tasmania they jest about ''farmer's arms'' - T-shirt tan lines - but everywhere else in Australia it's the weathered ''V'' neck that's noticeable. My V-neck is the brownest part of me. In fact, it's the only vaguely brown part. I could self-tan the rest of me to match but that's just silly. Instead I'll address the chest.
It's a longterm project - hence the need for off-season planning. Fraxel laser, which apparently brings down the colour and improves skin texture, takes three to five sessions at three-week intervals. Although spring and summer are not the best time to do it - you need to be careful about sun protection afterwards as the skin heals - I am. I cover up anyway and have an anti-social ''anti-sun lifestyle'' in summer which is what is required. I'll let you know how it goes in the new year.
Skin brighteners are a more accessible option for tackling hyperpigmentation and the skin usually responds well to them but these too need to be given time to work. In fact they are some of the most misunderstood skin care products of all. They need to be used hand-in-hand with sunscreen otherwise there is no point - they won't work and the brown spots will soon reappear with a vengeance. Brighteners don't bleach the skin. They are not spot treatments. They improve its radiance. Luminosity, according to Shu Uemura skincare development manager Nahoko Nakashima, is regarded as a timeless symbol of women's natural beauty in Asia. ''Luminosity gives a youthful impression which every woman desires to have,'' Mrs Nakashima says. ''Japan has the word tsuya, equalling 'radiant, luminous’, describing ideal skin.''
There's a lot of brighteners to choose from, including Stri Vectin Get Even Brightening Serum ($89), Laura Mercier Tone Perfecting Creme ($99) and the Clarins White Plus HP Whitening Repair Cream ($95) released last year. Beaute Pacifique has Tyrostase Brown Pigment Equaliser which can be applied directly onto the brown spots as can the new (to Australia) Spotner pen, ($29.95) a mix of AHAs, BHAs and lactic acid.
They may not be in season but do you use skin brighteners? What has been the effect on your skin? How do you incorporate them into your skin care routine? Or do you think it's better to go the laser route instead?