How can we achieve this glow, minus the skin (and hair) damage? Well, luckily I've developed a library of self-tanners over the seasons and have developed a pretty goof-proof technique for tanner application - albeit a tedious technique.
I hope the tips and product suggestions help you, and convince you to use an SPF instead of babyoil. Fried skin is not glamorous - but looking like you're healthy and active, is, even if it's fake!
My tips to help you become bronzed in time for the summer heat:
PREP: a flawless tan is all about preparation. Also, make sure you have enough time to apply the tanner - rush, and you'll stain your clothes and/or look like you got into a fight with a pack of Marlboros...in the rain.
What you'll need to acheive a flawless tan:
- Exfoliator (St. Ives or other exfoliator)
- Moisturizer (Lubriderm or other waterbased lotion)
- Latex gloves (obv. do not use Latex if you are allergic)
- Self-tanner for body&face or two separate products
Exfoliate and moisturize skin. I recommend using a drugstore brand such as St. Ive's exfoliator, because you'll be using a lot of it - not necessary to spend a lot of money. Moisturize skin with a water based moisturizer (such as Lubriderm), focus on dry areas. Using water based moisturizer is an important detail, because using oil-based products before (and after) self-tanner application breaks down the tanner.
- Once you're exfoliated and moisturized (make sure your skin is totally dry) apply extra moisturizer to tops of toes, ankles, knees - front and back, elbows - front and back, finger joints and wrists.
The moisturizer will prevent these areas from becoming super pigmented which looks really unnatural and is a tell-tale sign of a fake tan. Think of what your skin looks like at the end of the summer, or after a week at the beach; certain places don't get as much sun as others (such as wrists, underneath forearm, etc) so slather these parts with moisturizer.
- Apply Vaseline ( or a barrier cream) to cuticles, webs of fingers and eyebrows - make sure to just cover the hair, and not the surrounding skin.
The barrier cream/Petroleum jelly keeps these parts from absorbing any colour - which is the most natural effect for these spots - it also prevents colour from collecting here as it always does without protection.
- Put on gloves - make sure they fit tightly and aren't bunchy, this will lead to streaks - and either apply the tanner straight or mix with a bit of moisturizer if you're worried about streaks/dark colour. (If you can't be bothered to use gloves then make sure your hands are SUPER moisturized - dry and cracked, your palms will soak up colour faster - after a few minutes of buffing in colour, wash your hands using the St. Ives' exfoliator, this will break down the pigment in the tanner and prevent orange palms).
- Start from the feet and work up. Move a flat hand in circular, "buffing" motions. Start with a small amount of tanner and work in small sections. Concentrate colour on the areas that would get the most sun.
You can also achieve this by doing one all over base coat, and then 'highlighting' areas with extra tanner to deepened them further (Tops of feet, shoulders, arms and legs).
- Once you're satisfied and have buffed out most streaks and unevenness, let everything dry. This is the most awkward stage because you can't really function. Personally, I perch on the edge of the tub with a magazine and read for around 10 minutes - this limits stains and cleanup and ensures you're letting everything dry for the required time.
- Do not shower within 6 hours of application. Usually the full colour develops in 3-6 hours, and most have some sort of bronzer to help you see where you're applying product - this will wash off when you take a shower. Try not to use exfoliating body washes and sponges/pouffs right after application because this just wears the colour away faster.
- Start the application process 1-2 hours before you go to bed, this way everything has a chance to dry, also you'll be able to bypass the "faux-tan smell" or DHA around the 6 hour mark as you'll be fast asleep. Shower in the morning to remove the orangey bronze colouring and smell. And you're golden! literally! Maintain the golden colour by applying a gradual tanner (Try Dove's version) every couple days or so - this just bumps up the base colour and does not require the same accuracy as the base self tanner.
- After about a week the colour might look like its breaking up or fading - so start exfoliating again to help remove the old colour. your skin is moisturized and buffed (again) apply more base self tanner.
I realize this process may not seem like its worth it to some. But, I urge you to try it out before you nix it. After a bit of practice and patience the results are comparable to a real tan, and obviously have many more benefits than negatives.
A great way to bypass this whole bathroom laboratory scenerio is to go to a Mystic Tan location. For about $15/app you'll get a tan that will last around 10 days. This is great if you have a special event to go to - just TRUST me on this one, get sprayed 2 days before the event. It's intense.
Self-Tanners I've tried and recommend:
Best for Face and Chest: Clarins Intense Bronze Tint - requires moisturizer application beforehand, then apply the tanner with a cotton ball. Takes some practice, but the results are Miami worthy.
Best Self-Tanner Overall: Bare Essentuals Faux Tan - great almond oil scent masks the DHA (mostly) and the dark tint really helps you see where you're applying the stuff. Dries fast. It's a green based tint so it will not turn you orange - great for someone like me with pink undertones, but works on everyone. Make sure to apply on moisturized skin as it has a tendency to 'ball up'. Wish it came in a pump bottle!
Best SPF/Beach Self-Tanner - If you're in the sun and want to accelerate your tan AND protect your skin (slightly) AND look like a greased up God - then get this. Not recommended for regular faux-tanning as the colour is too subtle to justify the grease and the SPF. But excellent for those who plan on spending the day at the beach - make sure to apply an SPF of 30 underneath though. 6 is like wearing a mesh t-shirt and thinking you're protected...or something.
BEST non-permament tanner - Rimmel Sun Shimmer (they have a new line for Summer 2009, but I forget what it's called, it basically looks like this bottle). It smells and feels like baby powder on the skin and doesn't permanently change your colouring. Its just like a liquid bronzer for your body. Really excellent product considering the price point. AND your choice of shimmer or matte. Perfect.
Close 2nd to Rimmel's Bronzer - DuWop's Revolotion is a tinted lotion with a subtle sheen - it really gives you the appearance of having a tan but washes off in the shower. Won't rub off on clothing (if you let dry properly). However, not the best bang for buck... you'll go through this like water.
Best Spray-Tan in a Bottle - L'Oreal Sublime Bronze is a great one because of the colour range and the ease of the spray technique. Highly recommend this to people who are new to self-tanning because you can hold the bottle from any angle and achieve a nice bronze colour. A tad orangey on really pale skin, but layer it up and you can work it.
Best Gradual Self-Tanner - Dove's Summer Glow is a great one. Use this in conjunction with a base tan and you're good to go for the summer. It is water based and will not break down a pre-existing self-tan. It absorbs quickly and smells like mangoes. It's a pleasure to use before bedtime. However, I've been using the "light to medium" and wish I'd gotten "medium to dark", the colour is just too subtle for my liking.
Products I want to try:
Rimmel's Sun Shimmer Mousse Makeup - this is the mousse version of the lotion mentioned above. I think it would be an even easier and lighter application.
A self-tanner mousse made by Neo Strata. It is a brilliant product that has a green tinge and has built in exfoliators (Fruit Acids) to help you achieve a super natural looking tan. However, apparently its been discontinued and can only be found on Ebay if you're lucky. I love this stuff and I think I lost the one bottle I bought.
I have a suspicion that the St. Tropez Mousse self-tanner is a similar product to Neo-Strata's. However, there are currently no stores that carry the St. Tropez line (in Canada or the U.S) and it is only available online - with a heft pricetag + shipping. I can't decide if my Bare Essentuals is good enough for the whole summer, or if I should buckle and drop $50 for this stuff. I'll keep you posted...