Photos: @GigiHadid on Instagram, @KendallJenner on Instagram, @KhloeKardashian on Instagram
Ah, spring. The season of flowers in bloom, of layers coming off, of glowing, bronzed skin. But first, there’s winter’s pallor to contend with… and the notions we all surely have by now to stay healthy and doused in SPF, topped up with a wide brim hat. Still, we could all use some color, and there’s no harm in faking it. The faux pas here would be not properly prepping first. So here we go, your guide to safe tanning.
Any excuse to take the extra five minutes to give your skin a nice, exfoliating scrub is a good one. But when it comes to tanning preparation, it’s also a necessary one. Applying self-tanner on anything but the smoothest of skin is what begets those icky streaks–not a good look.
Because self-tanner saturates more intensely in drier areas of skin that are prone to the build up of dead cells (the knees, ankles, feet, elbows, neck), you want to make your body as smooth a surface as possible. “Exfoliate with a washcloth in the shower, or better yet, use a leave-on AHA or BHA exfoliant for consistently soft, smooth skin days in advance,” suggests Bryan Barron, research director for Paula’s Choice Skincare.
Clockwise from left: St. Tropez Body Polish; Aromatherapy Associates Body Brush; Ren Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm; Pacifica Kona Coffee & Sugar Detox Whole Body Scrub; Earth Therapeutics Loofah Scrub; Bliss Hot Salt Scrub; Boscia Konjac Cleansing Cloth; Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish; James Read Tan Perfecting Enzyme Peel Mask; Paula’s Choice Resist Anti-Aging Body Double
But Don’t shave right before or after applying self-tanner. Barron explains, “Shaving right before applying self-tanner risks ending up with tiny dots of self-tanner accumulating in the pores (more accurately, hair follicles) of the shaved hairs.” Not pretty, and if your skin ever looks “dotted with color” after self-tanning, this is probably why. “You should also avoid shaving right after applying self-tanner as it will decrease the longevity of your tan color–shaving naturally exfoliates the surface layer of skin,” he says.
Moisture is key–but only in certain areas. For the best faux tan, begin with clean skin and apply a layer of moisturizer/lotion over just your drier areas, and the common places where dead skin cells tend to accumulate “ankles, knees, heals, and elbows,” Barron says. This layer of moisture helps “to prevent those areas from soaking up more self-tanner than the rest of your body and looking patchy.” “Moisturizing all over can lead to uneven color,” Barron notes, “because you may not apply enough moisture where skin is drier or thicker, causing color to “grab” and develop more intensely there, but look sparse elsewhere.” Some of the products above are especially useful if you have been exposed to the sun and need to give yourself some time to recover before going for the faux-glow. Malie’s mango butter bun is like an in-shower lotion and feels cooling to sunburned skin, and Jurlique’s brand new After Sun lotion is made especially for healing sunburns.
With a body that’s been buffed and scrubbed and covered in lotion, you’re ready to go. A few quick notes about the tricky bits–tanning expert, and the man behind those glam gold-striped tubes, James Read, filled us in on how to look like you soaked up just the right amount of sun. One: “Never apply self-tan directly to feet and hands–always work the excess tan from your legs and arms downwards to avoid build up on the heels, wrists and knuckles,” Read says. Secondly, “the armpits and the bit of skin behind the knees are always tricky areas to tan,” Read says. “ After applying self-tan to your arms and legs, apply a little bit of baby powder to the underarm or behind the knees to soak up excess tan and prevent dark marks.”
Clockwise from left: St. Tropez Self Tan Luxe Facial Oil; St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse; Whish Self-Tanner; St. Tropez Self-Tan Luxe Dry Oil; St. Tropez Tan Applicator Mitt; Vita Liberata Trystal™ Self Tanning Bronzing And Kabuki Brush Duo; James Read Gradual Tan
Tan your face with more tips from Read:
- Before applying any kind of tanning product to your face, Read says to “rub an ice cube over your face to seal the pores.” This will prevent having some areas hold on to too much color and end up looking “dirty”.
- To avoid an obvious ‘I-used-a-tanning-product” circle around the hairline, “apply a dab of moisturizer the edges after tanning and work into the hairline for a more natural glow.”
- Getting it right is in your attention to detail. After applying tanner, “be careful not to drink directly from a cup as this will give you a “white lip”. Make sure to use a straw.
- Finally, “if you have blonde or light brown eyebrows, dab a tiny bit of Vaseline over them so that you don’t dye them with tanning product.”