I admit it. I love being tan. I am naturally very fair complected, but something about a bronzed glow draws me in like a moth to a flame. So I understand completely when my clients tell me that they want a beach glow as well. But since I am adamantly against unsafe tanning, how do I balance my desire for that just-off-the-beach look and still take the best care of my skin?
My answer is the faux glow. I use self-tanners religiously. I know that everyone has been scared by a story of a horribly streaky, Oompa-Loompa-like self-tan. This is a time when proper application and good product make all the difference. So here are my favorite tips for getting the perfect self-tan at home.
- Start with good product. My favorite products are aerosol sprays. Next on the list are mousse tans. I prefer to have a bronzer in the product; it makes it easier to see where you are applying it. Look for products with a brown tint to them. The tint is cosmetic and will wash off, but you’ll ensure an even application.
- Get a total body exfoliation. Use a natural fiber loofah or an oil-free body scrub. Focus on thicker, drier areas like elbows and knees and scrub away. You want to reveal the freshest, healthiest skin to get the longest results.
- Apply the product evenly. This step is not hard but it does take practice. If I’m using an aerosol spray, I start near my ankle (not the foot!) and work quickly in circular motions around the leg, moving progressively up. I do not spray my feet! For the arms, I begin at the wrist and, using the same circular motion, working around the arm and in towards my torso. For the back, I spray right over my shoulder. Pay special attention to the triceps, tops of the shoulders, sides, and the inner thighs, as they are easy to miss. I use the same application pattern if I’m using a lotion or a mousse. Make sure to wear gloves in this case. To apply to my feet, I just wipe what’s left on my hand down my foot towards my toes. Your feet will grab more color, so the application needs to be very light.
- Dry thoroughly before getting dressed. Make sure that you wear loose-fitting clothing. Try not to sweat. Don’t wash dishes. Any droplet of water can cause streaking.
- Using a loofah, gently wash off the cosmetic tint. I like to do my self-tanning before bed and let it develop while I sleep. The next morning, I gently buff off the bronzer, paying special attention to the knees and elbows, where sometimes the tan is darker than I’d like. You can’t make many corrections now, but exfoliation will lighten the tan if you need to.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. The tan develops in the very upper layer of the skin, so keeping this area well moisturized will extend the life of your tan.
- Use a gradual tanning lotion to maintain your results. These lotions have a lower concentration of DHA, the tanning ingredient, so they are great at building or maintaining your color. I like to start this process about day 3 after my tan, depending on how dark it is.
- Practice makes perfect. Post-tan, I take note of spots I miss, and I remind myself to hit them next time. A gradual tanner can help to camouflage areas that you may not have gotten just right on this application.
After years of trying to overcome my natural fair color, I have self-tanning down to a science. I have found that self-tanning gets me safe, golden results faster than I can ever accomplish with real sun, minus the risk of skin cancer.