Angela’s Lab | Self-Tanning Made Simple
It was the ’90s. I was in my 20s, living in California and having a golden tan was a must-have “accessory.” My skin is naturally pale and when I tan my skin turns a reddish-brown that doesn’t last very long. Oh, but the damage to our skin from tanning and sun exposure has lasting effects as we all know. As irritating as it was at the time, I developed brown patches on my face from baking in the sun with low SPF sunscreen or baby oil (!) — who else did that?! Ugh. At first, I thought – wow, my mom is right and I have skin cancer… Of course, when you’re 20-ish and not yet a parent you have yet to realize that your mom usually is right about most things in life…. noted. Anyway, back to the brown patchwork situation on my face — it scared me straight out of the sun. From then forward, my face has not seen the sun without heavy-duty sunscreen on and/or a hat. Well, the good news is that now at the age of 50 (!) my skin surely isn’t as wrinkled as it might have been. But, what to do for a healthy tan? Self-tanning is part of my regular skincare routine.
I’ve been using self-tanning products for the last 25 years and have seen their evolution from the stinky sprays and lotions that left streaks and were tricky to use… to today’s products. Self-tanning products now have nice scents and work overnight or you can apply as a lotion each morning for a gradual build-up of color. The streak factor is minimal with proper prep and application, and result looks pretty darn good. A professionally-done spray tan is of course a wonderful option and I like to do it when I have an event or need a great tan over my entire body. But, on a daily basis, self-tanning at home is easy to incorporate into my routine without adding another appointment to my already long list of “maintenance” appointments that I can’t (or don’t dare try to) do at home. Here are the self-tanning products I use, along with some tips & tricks I’ve learned along the way.
Exfoliation is Key. It’s critical to exfoliate your skin before you apply self-tanner. It helps to create a smoother surface so the product goes on and soaks in more evenly, which means less chance of streaks. I have different exfoliating products I use depending on the situation. If I’m taking a shower, I use Malin + Goetz Peppermint Body Scrub on my body, then on my face I use Malin + Goetz Jojoba Face Scrub. If I’m not taking a shower, I use Model Co. Exfoliating Wipes — easy, breezy and no water needed.
Face. I use Clarins self-tanner products on my face. I have sensitive skin and easily get bumps, clogged pores or a zit if I put the wrong thing on it. No issue here with Clarins. I use the Clarins Liquid Bronze Self-Tanner if I want a subtle glow or I use Clarins Intense Bronze Self-Tanning Tint for a little darker tan. The first is a lotion and I simply apply with my finger, but the second is a liquid and will temporarily stain your fingers, so I use wipes with a blocker so the stain doesn’t go through onto my hands. Make SURE you rub in the lotion/stain below your chin line and onto your neck so you don’t have a distinct line. Of course, bronzer is a huge help in evening out your color so you don’t have a defined line between your face and neck. I like this one by Estee Lauder (it comes in four shades – I use Medium) and lightly brush bronzer on my neck whether I’ve tanned or not.
Body + Avoiding Streaks. My favorite self-tanner for my body is Tan Towel. The application is so easy! The self-tanner is infused into a wipe, making it super easy to simply wipe on and get an even distribution of product. I prefer the “full body” version vs. “half body” as you have more product to work with. With the “half body” version you’ll only have enough to focus on one area and on areas where I want more color, like my legs, I go over them twice. Very important — after I’ve applied the product, I go back over each area and gently rub with my hands, especially around my elbows, knees and ankles. Then, wash your hands. This will help prevent streaks. Color tends to pool around areas that aren’t flat or where the skin is dry. If you do end up with streaks or areas that are too dark, simply use a little of your exfoliating scrub in that area or the exfoliating wipe.
Retaining the Glow. To extend the life of a self-tan, it’s important to moisturize. When your skin gets dry, it flakes off faster as does your tan. I love Clarins After Sun Moisturizer, but any hydrating lotion will do. Alba Botanica makes a terrific one too — it’s all natural, less expensive and smells great.
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