Self-Tanner: 5 Tips for a Flawless Glow
It seems people are getting the message: suntans are not cool. In fact, they are downright dangerous. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. and the majority of melanoma cases are directly linked to UV exposure. Okay, we get it. But pasty white skin has yet to come back into fashion, so people are flocking to self-tanner products to give them a glow sans harmful UV rays. It’s why the self-tanning market has nearly doubled in the past eight years.
Even with the many self-tanner products on the market, it’s incredible to hear how many fails there are. Traditional self-tanners don’t always turn out the way you’d think, or the way they are advertised (surprise!). Whether it’s the product’s formula or user error, self-tanning can go horribly wrong and often does. See if any of these scenarios sound familiar:
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.
A natural suntan isn’t orange. It isn’t grayish-orangish-brownish, either. Yet, most self-tanners result in a strange color you can’t quite explain. Sure, you’re no longer pale, but now your skin sort of looks weird. Oh well, it looks okay if the lighting is just right (or there’s no lighting at all). Maybe if everyone else is self-tanning, you’ll just blend in. Oh well, there’s nothing you can do about it now.
Dry, scaly skin
So, maybe you’ve actually managed to get a fairly decent sunless tan, at least if people don’t look at your hands and feet too closely. But then, after a few days, you notice your tan is starting to crack. Your skin has dried out and now you can actually see the scales form on your lower legs. You moisturize, but it’s not helping. Your lizard legs are there for all to see. Well, at least you looked good for a day or two.
Sunless tanners don’t smell great. It’s a weird smell that people in the know can pick up on like a bloodhound in a morgue. Perfume and body sprays just mask it, but it never truly goes away. Even if you’ve “gone nose blind” and can’t smell it anymore, trust us - those around you still can. And forget about the sheets. One waft of that smell under the covers and you remember it’s still there. It’s the price you pay for a safer tan.
The Struggle Is Real...but It Doesn’t Have to Be
We applaud you for swapping the sun for sunless tanning products and even worse, tanning beds. You’re making a conscious decision to reduce your risk for cancer and that should be applauded. It’s just so frustrating to have to settle for a sunless tan that looks fake when the sun does such a better job. Damn that melanoma! That’s why we are offering up 5 self-tanner tips to achieve a flawless glow you can wear with confidence.
Tip #1: Exfoliate
Okay, we’re going to get gross for a second. You’re shedding skin at an alarming rate. It’s okay, it’s normal. We all shed roughly a gram of dead skin every hour and 77 pounds of skin over a lifetime. Where does all that skin go? Dust. That’s right. Dust is mostly dead skin. Nice, huh?
So, imagine what happens when you put a self-tanner on your molting skin. You’re not going to get an even finish, especially in a day or two. As soon as the newly-tanned skin sluffs off, it’s going to uncover your true skin color...pale.
That’s why our #1 tip is to exfoliate before you apply self-tanner. You have to sluff off as much dying or dead skin you can if you want a flawless glow. Just be sure you don’t exfoliate or shave immediately before you put on self-tanner or the solution will settle into the pores. Give it a couple of hours and then go for it. You’ll be amazed at the results.
Tip #2: Use the Right Products
Most self-tanners contain drying agents that, well, dry. They are meant to quickly dry the tanning solution, but they dry your skin, too. And guess what happens to dry skin? It sluffs off. Use a moisturizing self-tanner that may take a minute or two longer to dry on your skin but won’t dry out your skin.
Then there are the ingredients. Some self-tanners have questionable ingredients that you probably don’t want to slather all over your skin. Nearly all self-tanners contain DHA, the chemical that causes the skin to darken (and causes that telltale smell). From there, anything goes. Brands can put whatever they want into the product with little oversight. If you care about what you put on your skin (and more and more people do), you should know that many of these products are far from “clean.” Go for organic products from brands that are transparent about their ingredients. You deserve to know what’s in your tanning products so you can choose products that are better for your health.
Apply a Thin Layer of Lotion First
Since dry skin is the enemy, put a thin layer of lotion over your entire body before you apply self-tanner. This will eliminate the dirty knee look. Be sure to get your feet, hands, knees and elbows. Let it dry. Then move to the next step.
Tip #3: Nail Down the Technique
Self-tanners are like icing a cake. It’s easy to screw it up. For a professional finish, choose a self-tanner with bronzer in it so you can see what you’re doing to make sure you’re spreading the solution on evenly. Work in sections, starting with your legs, then your arms, then your torso, and finally, your neck and face. Use a large makeup-like brush to fade out the self-tanner onto your toes and fingers and into your hairline.
Let it dry. Remember, if you’re using a moisturizing self-tanner, you may have to wait a few minutes before it’s fully dry.
Tip #4: Moisturize and No More Exfoliating
We’ll say it again: dry skin is a no-no. You want to keep your skin plump with moisture so it won’t dry out and flake as quickly. Slather moisturizer on your body at least twice a day and don’t exfoliate until you’re ready to apply more self-tanner. The more you moisturize, the longer your tan will last.
Tip #5: Prepare Your Skin for More Self-Tanner
Depending on the product you use, your self-tanner could last as long as 10 days. When you’re ready to reapply, it’s time to sluff off the old stuff so you’re working with a clean slate. We recommend getting into a nice, warm bath or a hot shower for at least 10 minutes to soften the skin cells. Then, use a thin, terrycloth washrag and exfoliate from head to toe. You don’t need a fancy glove or brush. We’ve found that a cheap, thin terrycloth rag does the best job.
Congrats! You’re ready for another application. See? It’s really not that hard. Just follow the steps above and you’ll have a sunless-kissed glow that looks natural and lasts a week or more.