I couldn’t for the life of me pinpoint the exact moment my dependency on self-tanner began. Perhaps it was when my best friend of the time introduced me to Bondi Sands, sometime late in 2013. Or perhaps it was when my social life began revolving around going out every single weekend, and I couldn’t possibly fathom the idea of attending a birthday or even a social drink without at least one layer of ultra dark mousse. Actually, when I think about it, it was probably when my NARS Sheer Glow foundation in Mont Blanc ran out at the beginning of this year.
I’ve heard it time and time again from boyfriends, friends, my mum who is sick and tired of washing the red stains out of my white bed sheets, even my manager, that I look ‘fine’ without fake tan, so why should I dedicate an entire day out of my week to this sticky, smelly, time-consuming ritual?
An oft-uttered phrase in my (and most 20-something girls’ I’m sure) vernacular is ‘this’ll look better with a tan’. And I’ve learned from experience that most outfits, lipsticks, and even eyeshadow shades indeed do.
I don’t know what it is, there’s just something about being tan that makes me feel so much better about myself. It may be that it makes me feel like I’ve just shed 10 kilos with one swipe of my mitt, or that I finally resemble my aussie friends (being a second-generation Australian born to children of Irish and English immigrants has ensured I will always be the most transparent of my group), OR that I finally have a foundation that matches my skin tone!!!! (It’s definitely the ease that comes with having a perfectly-matched face and neck).
Anyway, enough about the WHY. I may as well move on to the HOW. Here’s my top tanning tips:
PREP STEP: EXFOLIATE
If you’re tanning for the first time in a while, and you think you don’t need to exfoliate because there’s no old tan to get off, you’re wrong. You still need to slough off all your dead skin to ensure you make the most of your newfound bronziness, and that it will last for as long as possible. I exfoliate at least an hour before I’m about to tan, using a set of exfoliating gloves (you can buy them literally anywhere – Priceline, Kmart, even Woolworths) and a bar of soap. If you’ve got sensitive skin you’ll probably need to opt for a body wash that suits you (I sometimes use QV Wash; the perfect soap/body wash/even makeup brush cleaner, as it contains no chemicals). Once you’ve exfoliated, do the obvious: shave your legs/underarms/feet/anywhere else you usually do. Make sure to allow yourself a good amount of time for your pores to close before you go ahead and tan to avoid the tan seeping into them and getting little dots in your skin.
Just after you’ve made your whole body as smooth as a dolphin’s, and just before you smother yourself in coconut-scented goodness, you need to make sure you don’t have any dry spots the tan could cling to. Take some body butter, vaseline light moisturiser, or even some hand cream (this one by Mecca Cosmetica has worked really well for me in the past) and apply it to your hands, elbows, knees and ankles. Make sure you’ve got enough on there to stop the tan from gathering and leaving a really dark pigmentation in that area, but not so much that it hasn’t melted into the skin, that will probably result in the tan mixing with the cream and it’ll become a right mess.
TIME TO TAN!
Grab a mitt, never your hands for this step. Please please please never use your hands. You may think you’ve washed the tan off immediately after application but you haven’t. It will develop, and you will have orange fingernails that won’t go away. My favourite mitt I’ve ever used is the one in this set by Tarte Cosmetics, but I don’t believe it’s available in Australia. A great dupe for it is the new and improved mitt by Le Tan, they are both so great because they are fluffy and seam free, as well as double-sided! No more hard edges cutting into your freshly buffed legs!!!
Ok, onto the actual tanning. For the best results, I always, always, always use a mousse tan. Cream is too time-consuming and sticky. Mousse will melt right into your skin and blend seamlessly. My favourites are:
ModelCo One Hour Instant Tan Mousse (this one gets progressively darker the longer you leave it on – i.e. wash off after one hour for a light tan, two hours for medium, three for dark. I always leave it at LEAST 12 to ensure a deep bronze without streaks). The best thing about this formula is it is red-based, so you can put it on just before heading out, and you won’t have to worry about looking too green or brown straight away. Also, it isn’t as sticky as other tans, making it more comfortable to wear.
Bondi Sands Ultra Dark Mousse I went off Bondi Sands for a while after I discovered ModelCo, but after using Ultra Dark I’m back on it. This one is quite green-based so you will have to allow yourself a day to put it on and marinate before you can go out. It also will leave red and green marks on your clothes so wear black. For all it’s faults, however, this tan is well worth it. Wash off after 6 hours and you have a beautifully-developed bronze glow that will last at least a week. What I love about this tan is that while it won’t budge, when it comes time to scrub and start again, it does come off quite easily.
Leave your tan on for the minimum amount specified on the bottle before you hop in the shower. I always like to tan in the morning and have a shower just before bed so I don’t rub off on my sheets (sorry Mum!), or if I’m feeling like I am going to need the night to marinate further, I’ll just pop on a pair of dark-colourd trackies and a black hoodie.
When you do shower, make sure it’s only for a minute or two, and that you don’t have the water on too hot. Actually maybe make it a cold shower. The heat will open your pores right up and you will get those aforementioned dots all over your legs. Let the water run over your whole body, and don’t forget your neck and underarms (I have made that mistake a few too many times).
Final step, moisturise. This time I suggest using a light moisturiser like Vaseline or QV Lotion, just to lock in the tan and make sure your skin doesn’t get dry and flakey. Moisturise once a day to ensure your tan lasts you to the next tanning day (Thursday baby) and please, for the love of all that is good, do not use a gradual tanning moisturiser over the top of your tan. Trust me.
Voila! That is my tanning ritual. I must stress that this is something I do for pleasure and a self-confidence boost only. I don’t think less of people who are not tanned, nor do I respect people more for having one (I do, however have to give props to people like myself who have the effort to go through all this once a week. It is tiring!!!!). If you have never tanned and feel like you want to, pls follow these steps, as I am a tried and true expert at it (I’d say I’ve expended well over 10,000 hours doing it by now) and I know what I’m talking about. Also I must add, this is a way cheaper option than spray tans. That’s all.