Self Tanning 101: A Guide

It’s almost sun dress and shorts season! For some people this time of year is a dream, but for my fellow pale girls, it can be a nightmare. I am naturally very pale so I always hated this time of year as I was incredibly self conscious. People often made comments about my legs “glowing” (not in the good “check out my highlight” kind of way) and wearing swimsuits at the beach was a no go for me. Once in Miami, a man even came up to me and said “Your stomach is sooo white. Try tanning oil.” I usually always wore some type of maxi dress or coverup.

In high school bed tanning was the “it” thing to do; everyone wanted to be perfectly tan for prom. I started going my senior year of high school and kept going through my freshman year of college. That year, bed tanning was named the #1 cause of cancer in the United States. I would seriously advise against this as tanning beds are incredibly dangerous, and lead to premature aging.

I quit tanning cold turkey when I read all of the health problems they can cause. I had almost given up on my dreams of having beautifully tanned skin when I discovered self tanner. It was a serious game changer for me and I recommend it to everyone who wants a beautiful glow!

But, self tanners can be kind of tricky to work with at first. Luckily I have been able to pick up many tips and tricks throughout my years of self tanning and hope that it will make your experience much smoother!


Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate!

The single most important thing you need to do is exfoliate before applying your tanning mousse. If you don’t, your tan will turn out uneven and patchy (and that’s just not a good look for anyone).

I always exfoliate before shaving my legs. I find that exfoliating beforehand results in a closer shave because my razor isn’t getting clogged with dead skin. Despite what some self tanning companies may tell you, you don’t need to shell out cash to buy their brand’s exfoliant. Any exfoliator will work, and heck, if all else fails, you can even go in with pure sugar to buff away dead skin.


Moisturize Like it’s Your Day Job

Once you hop out of the shower, apply lotion to your legs straight away. Hydration is the key to creating a lasting tan that doesn’t fade patchy.

After applying lotion wait about an hour or two before you start putting on the self tanner. You want to give the lotion a chance to soak in before applying the self tanner. If the skin is too moist, the self tanner won’t be as effective. It’s all about finding the right balance.


Invest in a Back Applicator

Unless you have a roommate or significant other who is willing to help you out with your self tanner, then a Back Applicator is the way to go. This thing has saved my butt more times than I can count.


For Now, Avoid Oils

While a majority of sunless tanners are waterproof, oils can really mess with a good tan. So set aside the coconut oil for now and opt for a lotion instead.

While we are on the subject of lotion: Don’t apply any for 8 hours after you initially rinse off the color guard. Your tan is still developing so adding a lotion could mess with things a bit. But after 8 hours, be sure to hydrate often to keep that tan looking good.


Invest in an Antioxidant Serum

I learned recently that the Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) used in self tanners can actually increase free radicals by 180% upon sun exposure! If you’re going to use self tanners be sure you are always wearing sunscreen, and invest in a great antioxidant serum!


Takeaways: Self Tanning 101

Self tanning is quite a process and extremely high maintenance. So if it’s not something you are willing to keep up with I would look into different tanning options. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s helped boost my confidence quite a bit. I don’t shy away from shorts and dresses and don’t have to hide under maxi dresses at the beach. While I think it’s important to love the skin you’re in, I am also a big believer in doing what makes you happy. As long as you’re happy, healthy and confident, go for it!

Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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