Along with a newfound ability to “tan” comes great responsibility: to keep said tan for as long as possible…
Here’s a fun fact: My skin is virtually incapable of “being tan.” Up until about five years ago, any time I spent more than an hour in the sun, I’d come home crisp and red. Part of it was probably that I was total shit at applying sunscreen properly (stories for another day), but I also just assumed my fair, sensitive skin wasn’t cut out for friendly interactions with the sun and I resigned myself to a life of looking a lot like Snow White if she wore glasses and had ombre hair.
But then a miraculous thing happened: I started taking suncare seriously. I realized that, if I just took my time and did it with care, sunscreen was wonderful…and it worked. If I chose to stand naked in the bathroom while meticulously applying SPF to every inch of my body to make sure I didn’t miss a spot and therefore didn’t fry, who cares if it added 20 minutes to my routine? For the first time in my life, I was TAN. (“Tan” being relative here. I was as bronzed as I was ever going to healthily be and that was A-OK!)
Getting wiser about proper sunscreen and really learning about how my skin interacted with the sun has been nothing short of miraculous. Yeah, I constantly reapply SPF 50 and I have a sixth sense when it comes to finding the part of the beach that also offers shade and I will fight you for the last umbrella, but I have not looked or felt like a cooked lobster in years.
But along with this newfound ability to “tan” comes great responsibility: to keep said tan for as long as possible. There’s nothing worse than going to bed beautifully bronzed only to wake up paler than you remember, as if the color seeped out while you slept. Here’s how I help my color last longer than one glorious day.
I know, counterintuitive, right? Why would you scrub away the skin you’re trying to keep color in? But exfoliating is an important pre- and post-glow step. Before you head out, you’ll want to gently scrub away dead or thirsty surface cells to make sure your skin is smooth and ready to receive sunscreen and all that vitamin D. It will also stimulate blood flow to help remove toxins that may interfere with skin cell generation down the line.
Post-tan, you’ll still want to gently scrub your whole body about once a week. Again, you need to remove those dead cells so your skin can breathe and regenerate properly, but this step is also crucial in making sure all the moisturizer I’m about to lay down in the next step is able to sink in and get to work. Don’t go crazy here. A soft sweep of a body brush or an oil-based scrub with very small grains (like sugar) will do the trick.
Take cold showers.
This one might sound odd, but just trust me. Hot baths and showers can dehydrate your skin, which will lead to faster peeling and flaking. You don’t have to stand under a stream of icy water, but try not to turn the temperature past warm. And while you’re at it, opt for a body wash that’s infused with moisturizing oils. Not only will the oils help keep your skin hydrated, they’ll also work to trap the water from the shower in your skin for an extra dose of moisture. If you’re more of a bath person, infuse that water with oil!
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
Get it? Good.
When you spend time in the sun, even if you don’t burn, your skin dries out. The heat and sunlight do a miraculous job of leaching natural moisture from your skin, so you need to make sure to replace it tenfold in the days after.
Immediately after being in the sun, drench every inch of your body in something hydrating that’s designed for after sun care. Even though you’re not red, when skin tans it technically burns, so you need to make sure you’re depositing healing nutrients into your skin right away. Since after-sun products are specifically designed with this in mind, look for products that will speed up skin recovery and have calming, soothing, hydrating ingredients.
In the following days, make sure to coat yourself in uber-hydrating products at least once a day (twice if you’re really good). A body oil will deposit essential moisture to your thirsty skin and then go a step further by locking it in with a moisturizer or cream. The latter will create a protective barrier that will keep the hydrating ingredients in your skin so they can’t escape.
If you’re a) not into the sun but wish you were, b) too scared of the potential to burn (I hear ya) or c) afraid of a life without a tan, my advice to you is to just fake it. That’s right, you heard me: FAKE IT.
Gone are the days of terrible self-tanner that left you streaky and orange, that smelled like a chemical factory exploded and rubbed off on all your towels and sheets, that you had to frantically wash your hands after applying or else it would get into the cracks in between your fingers and never leave. These days, DIY tans are pretty excellent and, if you take the time to use them properly, no one will be able to tell the difference between something you applied yourself or a glow you spent days working on.
The easiest way to fake a tan is with good old bronzer. Find a shade that’s one to two shades darker than your natural skin so it doesn’t look fake, and be sure to blend the crap out of it with a brush or makeup sponge. (There’s nothing worse than that very obvious line of makeup where your skin changes color in the blink of an eye.) Whether it’s a creamy formula you can apply to the high points of your face where the sun would naturally hit it for just a hint of glow, a stick you can use to contour and give some depth to your “tan,” a powder you can lightly dust in a “3” shape on both sides of your face for buildable color, or a loose, shimmer powder you can mix with face oil for an all-over wash, there’s a foolproof bronzing product out there for you.
And if you really want to commit, self-tan your whole bod. Always make sure to test new products out on a small patch of unseen skin so make sure the color jives with your skin tone and that you have control over the product, and then go to town. If you’re using a straight up self-tanning lotion, think about wearing an application mitt so it goes on smooth and even (and doesn’t leave your hands looking like they belong to an Oompa Loompa). Or go the slow and steady route with a 2-for-1, buildable tanning moisturizer.
The best part is that all of the steps I mentioned above (exfoliating, cool showers, moisturizing) are major parts of successful application and care of DIY tans, so do ‘em!
Photo by Jana Kirn.