To Tan or Not to Tan?

As summer approaches, and wedding/tank top/swimsuit season draws closer, many smart ladies start to consider taking some rather drastic measures in order to look better. An otherwise bright and rational girl might find herself crash dieting, excessively exercising, and, craziest of all, tanning.

I’ve been planning on writing a post about self tanners for quite some time, but decided that I’d better get on it after talking to my sister yesterday. In preparation for her best friend’s wedding, she’s thinking of hitting the tanning booth so she’ll look better in her dress.

“Wait!” I told her. “Let me write my post about self tanners first.”

I obviously don’t need to preach about how dangerous tanning is. We all know the risks. Besides the obvious risk of cancer, nobody really wants sun spots, wrinkles, or leathery skin, do they? Yet the urge to tan can be a hard one to suppress.

I’ll admit, I’m guilty of lying in the sun from time, and have even stepped into a tanning booth more than once. (In my defense, I wore sunscreen every time.) The biggest draw for me is that the heat feels good. And yes, I feel a little sexier with a little summery glow. Just a baby one. Is a baby tan that bad?

In a word, yes. Which is why I love the idea of sunless tanners.  I especially love the body lotions that gradually build up over the course of a few days to give you a slight, natural-looking tan. Many of them are also firming lotions, so bathing suit fear can be doubly silenced. So, easy choice, right? Just go to the drugstore, grab a bottle of lotion, and get busy moisturizing.

Not exactly.

My biggest issue with self tanning lotions is that they tend to smell terrible. Even under the somewhat tropical scents that many lotions add, I just smell the weird chemicals that will turn my skin brown. Another big issue, of course, is streaking (as in streaks of color, not running around town naked). One must be very diligent when one is applying one’s self tanner. Just as bad as streaking is the unfortunate build up of pigment that flocks to dry patches – knees, elbows, and ankles are all prime spots.

What’s a pretty lady to do?

Every year companies get better and better at hiding that chemical smell, and this year I’ve found one that actually smells fresh. Victoria’s Secret Sunkissed Bronze Instant Self Tan Lotion with Tint is my sunless tanner pick this year. Not only does it smell good, it’s fast-acting. The lotion itself acts like a bronzer for your body, giving your skin a nice beachy glow instantly. After that, the self tanner gets to work. My skin turned a shade or two darker overnight, so that I looked a little tan, but not scary. With only one application, the color lasted about 5 days.

I did end up with some dark spots on my ankles, and a silly looking white circle around my belly button. For the most even application, here’s your best plan of attack:

Shower and exfoliate. Getting rid of dry skin will aid in a more uniform application. After the shower, dry off completely. Carefully and evenly distribute the lotion all over your body. I recommend doing this in front of a mirror so you can see any glaring missed areas. After application is complete, wash hands thoroughly. Using a dry towel or wash cloth, gently rub ankles and wrists to prevent any dark streaks. You can also rub elbows and knees if you think there might be too much pigment. Let lotion dry for at least 5 minutes before dressing.

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