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.

Protect it!

As I write this, the sun is shining gloriously through my window, lighting up the new spring leaves and making everything warm and beautiful. And while I do love the sun, its warmth, and the cheerful shine it brings to life, I do not love the wrinkles, sun spots, and cancer that lounging in the sun unprotected can cause.

I’ve been watching a good deal of trash television lately, and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Over-tanning! Jerseylicious features a lot of big hair, bad eyeliner, and over-the-top tans. Over the weekend I watched a health show about people who are addicted to strange things, and one girl tanned so often that her skin was orange and she no longer resembled her family members. Why? In a time when the health risks associated with tanning are widely known and much too real to be ignored, why are people still (literally) baking themselves in the sun?

Now, I’m not saying we should all march around looking pasty and pale. There are plenty of sunless tanners out there that look natural and are actually good for you skin. (Check back later this month for a post on self-tanning!)

A lot of people just love being outside in the warm weather, and I don’t blame them at all. It’s wonderful, and getting out to enjoy nature and the fresh air is a perfectly healthy thing. Just please, think of your skin. It holds you together and can make you look radiant and youthful or saggy and old. So protect it!

In the warmer months, I don’t leave home without some SPF. Many beauty products, from powders to glosses, contain sunscreen that you can apply without thinking about it. But as soon as I get out of the shower, I slather on a body lotion with SPF from head to toe. My current favorite? Vaseline Aloe Fresh Protecting Lotion. It smells fresh, smooths skin, and keeps me safe from daily sun damage, all at once. As for my face, I vary the moisturizer, as long as it has SPF 15 or higher. I’m liking Eucerin Redness Relief Daily Protecting Lotion. It soothes redness while also providing protection from the sun.

A tip to keep in mind when applying sunscreen: don’t forget your neck, chest, hands and feet. These parts are often neglected and can give away your age. Nobody wants a youthful face to be accompanied by a turkey neck.