You spy a beautiful woman at a party. Her bare shoulders gleam in the low light with a sun-kissed glow. As you move closer to compliment her on her tan, you notice that it is smeared in several places and is more of a festive orange than a sexy bronze. You walk right past her and hope she didn’t see you wince.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, tanned skin has been perceived as a sign of health and beauty. Even after the widely publicized risks of skin cancer associated with tanning, sun worshippers continued to crisp their bodies on beaches around the world. At first, sunless tanning products were a poor substitution. Most left hideous, strange colored streaks and disagreeable smells. Since the 1980s though, sunless tanning products and bronzers have come a long way.
First, what’s the difference between sunless tanners and bronzers? Bronzing powder is a cosmetic powder that can be applied lightly and layered to achieve the desired color, then washed off at the end of the day. Sunless tanner, however, will stay with you for days. The chemical reaction dyes your topmost layer of skin. So theoretically, if a sunless tanning session goes wrong, you can scrub like mad until the tan comes off. However, it’s definitely more of a commitment than bronzer is. Both have their uses and drawbacks. Why not use a little of both?
For bronzer, try Bare Escentuals A Little Sun. The kit with brush is $28 or alone is $18. Dip the brush in the powder, then tap away any excess. Sweep the brush over the areas of your face that would normally receive sun – your cheekbones, forehead, and across the bridge of your nose. You can apply the powder to your body as well, but remember that powder may transfer or bleed with any kind of moisture. This is why bronzer is a better choice for the face – it can be controlled easily, even applied as facial contouring. And at the end of the day, you can wash it all away.
For sunless tanner, try Bare Escentuals Faux Tan Sunless Tanner. It’s got a pleasant scent and the liquid is bronze colored so that you don’t have to guess while you apply. The resulting color is one of the most natural-looking sunless tans that I’ve seen – no orange! If you prefer ease of use, try Neutrogena MicroMist Tanning Sunless Spray. It’s a spray mist tan that will work even upside down as you contort to reach the tricky spots. They offer several choices in color from light to deep, so you can start off with subtle color and work your way darker.
Applying sunless tanner can be tricky. First, start off with clean, exfoliated skin. As previously mentioned, sunless tanner dyes the top layer of skin, so dry skin that is flaking and crusty is not the best surface for dye. A loofah or shower scrub works well for exfoliating. Keep a few supplies on hand – an old washcloth or towel, a bar of soap, some cotton balls, and some astringent. You’ll be using all of those to control color and spills. Next, apply a little moisturizer to kneecaps, ankles, elbows, and knuckles. These are the areas that tend to soak up more color, so a little moisturizer will “dilute” the tanner a bit. A good strategy is to work upwards – start with the legs, then the midriff, then arms and back and chest. Leave the tops of your hands for last, and wash your hands often to keep the color from building up on your palms. Finally, squirt a little bit of tanning lotion on a cotton ball, and apply to the backs of your hands. If you notice any uneven color, you can wipe it away with astringent on a cotton ball.
After you’ve finished applying the tanner, be prepared to walk around wearing as few articles of clothing as possible. If you’re comfortable going entirely without clothes, so much the better. You’ll want to give the lotion time to dry and set without streaking. Most likely, you won’t see the full color result until the next day, so don’t apply multiple layers thinking that the first isn’t dark enough.
If all goes well and you’ve applied everything carefully, you’ll have a golden tan that would make the most devoted sun worshipper jealous. Just remember that you’re still going to need to apply sunblock any time you are outside. With such a beautiful faux tan, you’re likely to forget how tender and untanned your skin really is!