Self-Tanner: 5 Tips for a Flawless Glow
A Natural-Looking Glow Doesn’t Have to Be Natural
For many of us “blessed” with fair skin, we are on an endless pursuit of the perfect tan. We’re not asking for much - just a little color so we don’t look so fair. Unfortunately, getting a natural-looking glow hasn’t been easy. The sun may provide the most natural tan, after all, it is the sun. But it’s also not so great for our skin. It causes premature aging and a little thing caused cancer.
Streaky, splotchy tan
The number one complaint with self-tanners is the uneven, unnatural finish. You read the directions, tried your best to rub or spray your self-tanner on evenly and think you did a decent job. You’re feeling pretty good about yourself for a couple of hours and then...wow. You look ridiculous. Your knees, knuckles, ankles, and elbows look like you’ve been rooting around in the dirt and now you’re scrubbing them with a washcloth to try to undo the damage. So much for the shorts and tank. You’re in a full body suit or just stay home. Damn. Surely, you’ll do better next time.
So, what are our options? How can we achieve a natural-looking glow without all of the risks? Let’s walk through a couple of the most popular alternatives to the sun.
If there’s anything worse for the skin than the giant ball of fire in the center of our solar system, it’s the wicked little tanning bed in the center of the strip mall. Back in the 80s, before we really understood the dangers, some of us would place borg-like goggles over our eyes, climb inside the seemingly innocent contraption, lay there for 20-30 minutes, and get a normal-ish-looking tan. We didn’t know that being trapped inside a coffin with UV light was increasing our risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent. Yikes.
Fortunately, we now know better (well, at least most of us do) and tanning beds have lost their appeal. A natural-looking glow doesn’t need to come with such a cost. It’s why just about every reputable source, like the American Cancer Society, The Skin Cancer Foundation, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all warn against any use of tanning beds or sun lamps for tanning.
Still unconvinced? Here are a few more eye-opening stats from some of these organizations that should get your attention:
- Just one instance of indoor tanning increases a person’s risk for developing melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) by up to 79%
- More than 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year are linked to indoor tanning
- Restricting indoor tanning among minors under age 18 could prevent 61,839 cases of melanoma and prevent 6,735 deaths each year
- People who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma
And this is just the cancer risk. Indoor tanning also makes you look old before your time. UV rays are responsible for 90% of the visible changes to the skin - you know, the skin changes we all dread, despise and desperately try to prevent. Look at that again: 90%. So, basically, staying away from UV rays is the key to the fountain of youth (at least for our skin).
Now, we can’t eliminate all sun exposure and small amounts are actually good for us, but we sure as heck can stop using tanning beds. You may come out with a tan, but you’re dramatically speeding up the aging process and increasing your risk for a deadly cancer. Want to learn more about how UV rays break down the skin? Skincancer.org explains it beautifully.
Self Tanning Products
Okay, let’s move away from the doom and gloom and discuss the most popular way people try for a natural-looking glow. Self-tanning products. The self-tanning market has exploded to over $1 billion in 2017 each year and is expected to continue growing to nearly $6 billion by 2027. It’s considered the safest alternative to sun tanning or tanning beds and sun lamps because it doesn’t damage the skin or have any known cancer risks.
You have a lot to choose from, too. There are tanning lotions, sprays, foams, gels, drops and mists. You can buy them at grocery stores, drug stores, retail stores and online to do it yourself at home, or you can pay someone to spray you. You have lots of options here, but not all options are good ones.
First of all, some self-tanning products suck. We’re just going to go ahead and say it because you know we’re right. Whether your a self-tanning pro or a beginner, you’ve probably used at least one product that made you look like a streaky, splotchy, orange mess. It’s okay, we’ve all been there. It’s kind of a right of passage.
Self-tanning fails can be due to the formula, your skin preparation, the application, or the maintenance - or all of the above. It takes practice and the right products to even hope to get a natural-looking glow. But you can do it.
Clean & Exfoliate
One of the biggest mistakes people make no matter what kind of self-tanning product they use is to not clean and exfoliate your skin before application. Whether you’re paying someone to spray tan you or you go at it alone, you must get your skin ready to absorb the tanner. Think of your skin as a canvas. You wouldn’t dream of painting it was covered with dust and dirt. You’d clean it off first, right?
Well, your skin is the same way. It has oils, dirt and makeup that can be washed away, but it needs a little extra oomph to sluff off the dead skin that will fall off on its own in a few days. Help it along by bathing and scrubbing your skin before you apply tanner so the tanner won’t sluff off with your dead skin and leave you splotchy. Exfoliating also helps the tanner not to settle into the driest parts of your skin, like your knees and elbows. You’re aiming for a smooth, clean surface (canvas) so your tanner (paint) goes on flawlessly.
Use a Product with Bronzer
If you can’t see how much you’re applying and where, how do you know if you’ve applied the self-tanner evenly? Choose a product that has a temporary bronzer in it so you know if you’ve missed a spot. Plus, it will give you an instant natural-looking glow while you wait for the tan to develop. Don’t be alarmed when you take your first shower. The water may run “tan,” but it’s just the bronzer rinsing off and not all of your tanning solution.
Use a Tanning Mist for Your Face and Foam for Your Body
Tanning mists are different from tanning sprays. A mist is finer than a spray and results in a smoother finish. It’s why makeup artists use an airbrush with foundation instead of a cream. Just close your eyes, tilt your head back and spray the mist evenly over your face and neck. For an even more natural-looking glow, use a large makeup brush to fade the mist into your hairline and down your neck.
A tanning foam does the trick on the body. It’s light and airy, allowing you to spread it more evenly without the risk of too much landing in one spot. We like to use nitrile gloves so the tanning solution doesn’t get onto our hands. Nothing screams “I use self-tanner!” than orange hands. Fabric gloves and sponges only absorb the tanning solution, but nitrile gloves keep it off the palms of your hands and from absorbing into your glove. That’s just a waste and a shame.
Keep Your Skin Moisturized
There’s no magic number of times you need to apply moisturizer to your skin after you apply self-tanning products. It’s really just as often as you think about it. But think about it. Dry skin sluffs off faster than moisturized skin, so you want to keep your skin nice and lubed to delay the process. Your tan will look more natural and smoother for longer.
One more pointer: use a moisturizing self-tanner that doesn’t dry out your skin. Remember, dry skin prevents a natural-looking glow. You can’t be dry and glow at the same time. If the tanning solution says “quick-drying” or contains high amounts of alcohol, it’s going to dry out your skin almost as fast as it dries the solution. Your tan will become splotchy faster and look not-so-natural.
So, that’s it! You’re reducing your risk of skin cancer, slowing the skin aging process, and you still look amazing with your natural glow. Multitasking at its finest.