this thing's incredible

I Take This (Better Than Compression Socks) Gel on Planes, Trains, and Long Car Journeys

Photo: Retailer

As a music journalist, my job involves a lot of different things — going to gigs (pre-pandemic, obviously), doing interviews, diving 45 pages deep on Google looking for one song lyric from 1992 — but honestly? It’s mainly sitting very still for a long time. On trains, in the car, sometimes on planes, but mainly at my desk in my flat. Sometimes I sit still and stare at my laptop for so long, I look up and realise it’s gone dark outside — and my ankles have swelled up.

It’s been this way forever, and is exactly as sexy as it sounds — no matter how much water I drink or what position I sit in, my lower legs will always swell up. It gets worse if it’s a hot day, on long-haul flights, and especially if I eat even one bite of salty food (the best food) — that’s when the swelling can get so bad it’s actually too painful to sleep. Previously, my solutions involved soaking my feet in cold water (pointless), or sitting with my feet against the wall and my back on the floor (uncomfortable). But then, three years ago, I discovered my saviour — Thalgo’s “gel for featherlight legs” — which I “borrowed” from the beauty desk at a magazine I used to work at.

Since I discovered the gel, I’m seldom without it. I pack it in my hold luggage and take it on weekend trips around the U.K. to use after long drives. I even decant a small amount into a pot for long-haul flights, twisting myself about like a contortionist in the plane toilets to smear it on my ankles so I can fit my feet back into my trainers before landing. Even in a pandemic, where I’m not getting on any planes and my only trip away is to visit my boyfriend’s mum in Devon, it’s still vital after the four-hour car journey to the South West.

I apply a tablespoon-size amount onto my lower legs (below the knee and all the way down to my ankles), in upward strokes just before bed. It dries in around 30 seconds and it’s not at all sticky (so you can pretty much get straight in bed). This gel works within minutes — I’m convinced you can see your legs shrink just seconds after using it. The cooling effect comes from the “alcohol, menthol, and camphor trio” (thanks, Thalgo’s website), and apparently “red-vine extract” is what drains your legs. All I know is that it works.

I’m now on my third tube since the original one from work. The brand is French, and has been around for 50 years, but is normally only stocked in spas and salons — however, it’s also now on Amazon. One 150 ml tube normally lasts me a whole summer, plus post-work, at-desk autumnal applications. However, now that I’m not commuting into the office and am working from home (a desk three steps from my bed), I fear 2020 could be a two-tube year.

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I Use a Leg-Shrinking Gel on Planes, Trains, and Road Trips