photo credit Max Washington
I can't remember the name of the first sunless tanner I purchased but I do remember the smell...wet dog and biscuit dough, combined. It was a brown, like chocolate brown, color that stained pretty much anything it came into contact with. I had brown stains on my carpet, clothes, sheets, it was gross. And surely, with the smell and mess, I would be a glistening, sun kissed, goddess, right?! Um no. I looked like a dirty, streaky, platform foam sandal wearing,(nineties, mind you) terra cotta mess. Well, thank God, sunless tanners have come a long, long way!
I am going to let you in on how I achieve the perfect bronzed, fake tan. I have been using this routine for applying my fake tan, for years. I have used many, many (I think I have tried every single sunless tanner on the market) different brands and formulas, and this is what works best for me. I prefer the gradual sunless tanning lotions. I feel like the gradual lotions don't leave me orange and the smell isn't as offensive. FYI, the smell from sunless tanners is a chemical reaction from the DHA from the tanner, interacting with the proteins in your skin. DHA is in all sunless tanners, so unfortunately, it's unavoidable. DHA is derived from sugar beets or sugarcane, it’s a form of glucose. I always do my fake tan routine at night before bed.
- Exfoliate. I exfoliate in the shower using a DIY sugar scrub. Or I exfoliate before the shower using a natural bristle body brush and dry brush before I shower. I pay extra attention to the areas of my body that tend to have dry patches of skin, the elbows, knees and ankles. The better you exfoliate and slough off any dry and dead skin, the longer your fake tan will last.
- Shave. The next step is pretty self explanatory, shave. Shave everywhere where you would normally shave. I use a soap or body wash instead of something oily (sometimes I shave with body oils or even conditioner). You don't want a barrier between the sunless tanner and your skin. The oil or conditioner will prevent some of tanner from staining the skin.
- Dry off your skin really well.
- Apply lotion to the areas that have dryer skin, ankles, elbows, knees and the feet. This prevents too much sunless tanner from adhering to these areas. Nobody wants brown knees and whites legs, at least I don't!
- Apply sunless tanner. Some people use a tanning mitt or disposable gloves. I don't, I just use my plain old hands and wash them really well after. First, I apply the tanner to my calves and blend it down to my feet. I don't apply sunless tanner directly to my feet, it screams fake tan when I see streaky feet. I apply from the bottom up. Next, I apply it to my thighs and and I just keep moving up until I reach my shoulders. I don't apply any to my face, some people do, it's just not my preference. Make sure you don't apply too much to your knees, ankles, elbows and feet. I just blend the left over sunless tanner into those areas before I wash my hands. Make sure you really rub and blend everywhere that you applied sunless tanner. That is people's number one mistake when applying. This takes time (for me, 7-10 minutes). If you are in a hurry, do it another night, you don't want to look like a tiger.
- Wash your hands. Wash your hands really, really well. Get in between your fingers and use a washcloth to scrub your palms. If you're still not confident they won't be orange, you can rub your palms with a lemon wedge.
- No clothes for five minutes! Done!!
I usually take a quick shower in the morning, just in case there is that undeniable fake tan smell we know and love. This last me about a week. I did this whole routine last night, so I'll repeat it next Monday night. Also, if you are not sure what shade of sunless tanner to buy, always buy Light. You can buy a deeper shade next time if you want to. Or, if you think you bought a shade that is too deep, when applying, mix in some lotion to dilute the tanner. Now go and wear that sundress proudly, and show off those bronzed and silky stems.
My favorite sunless tanners and products I use to achieve my bronzy glow are listed below: