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After spending several years in social services, Nicole has finally followed her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer. In addition to her work for The Hudsucker, Nicole is also a staff writer for Womanista. An avid comic book fan, BBQ aficionado, professional makeup artist and first-time mom, Nicole can be found exploring Kansas City rich history when she's not blogging about suburban life at Suburban Flamingo.

The Pretty Files: Tan Time

Tanning, either in the sunshine or in tanning beds, will kill you. I’m not usually hyperbolic, but cancer really is no joke. Tanning also really damages your skin. It can cause discoloration beyond just the red of a sunburn and it causes you to age prematurely. These things are unfortunate because the golden brown of a tan is, in Western culture, still very appreciated. Most of us can manage through winter months with some strategically placed bronzer, but when the weather turns warm and we lessen our layers to show more skin…well. There is only so much you can do with bronzer. This is where self-tanners come in.

Image Credit: Jergens

Image Credit: Jergens

I am a super pale person. My complexion has been described as porcelain, peaches and cream, alabaster, and even “the color of school glue.” I don’t tan. The sun burns me and then I go right back to white. It’s exceptionally noticeable in the summer where I appear bright enough to compete with all the Cullens in Twilight. With this in mind, I decided to explore self-tanners for all of you.  First of all, they are daunting. Depending on the type you use, you are either spraying or spreading across your skin, and can get an uneven application. If you do manage to get it on evenly, you might get it in the wrong places (like the palms of your hand or your armpits) and it will look weird. There is also the serious hazard of looking orange. How do you manage to get this right without giving up and catching some dangerous rays? Fortunately, I have road tested things and have a guide to getting your self-tan on fleek.

Choose your formula carefully. It’s really important to choose the kind of tanner you want even before you get into the color. You have to think about application. Spray tanner seems like it would be really easy to apply, but you have to consider where you are applying it (both on your body and in your home) and if you’re not adept with the spray, it can quickly turn into a two-person job. Mousse can be easier to use, but gets thin very quickly and cream or gel spread beautifully, but require a bit more detail.

Keep your lifestyle in mind when choosing your tan color. Putting on extra dark self-tanner a couple of days before you spend a weekend at the amusement park is probably going to result in you looking really odd on Monday. Choosing a deep color when you wear a lot of white is probably not a great idea because the tan could rub off a bit. You also want to keep your skin tone in mind, selecting colors that are less likely to turn orange on you.

Read the directions, then read the directions again. Before you start applying your chosen color and formula make sure you understand how the manufacturer suggests you work with the product. This is one I learned the hard way. A gel tanner I tried specifically said not to blend with moisturizer. I did it anyway and ended up with streaks at my ankles. Other places where mistakes are made are in the various drying times formulas might have or how quickly after you can shower or put on clothes.

EXFOLIATE. Every self-tanner I’ve played with suggests that you exfoliate. Do not skip this step. Exfoliating gives you nice smooth skin that is free of dead skin cells that can make things apply unevenly. You want your skin smooth as you apply a deeper color. If you skip this step you will end up with skin that looks spotty like a sad little leopard. I spent a week being a sad little leopard. Don’t be me.

Consider a separate product for your face. Your face is naturally a little bit different in tone than the rest of your body. You don’t want that to become a huge gap. The flip side of that is that you also don’t want to be entirely monochromatic. Look for a product that is made for the face and adjust accordingly.

Know your limitations. I tried a handful of different products with mixed results. I never could get it quite right—to the point that I wore a long skirt to Las Vegas because I didn’t want people seeing my sad little leopard legs. When I realized that I was failing at self-tanning, I decided to switch gears: Instead of trying to tan outside or paying for professional spray tans, I decided to try a gradually tanning moisturizer. I ultimately ended up with Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer. It still required me to exfoliate, but it was very easy to use and the color darkened slowly and naturally. I ended up getting about a shade darker, which was awesome. Jergens also makes a facial version of the moisturizer that I am thinking about adding to my summer routine.

There you have my best tips for using self-tanner. I haven’t decided if I’m going to keep using my moisturizer all summer or if I’ll attempt to go for the next shade darker. What I do know is that with all I’ve learned exploring tanners, I won’t be pale this summer!

Until next time!

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3 Comments on “The Pretty Files: Tan Time”

  1. blondieandthebeat May 22, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    I am also very pale and want to look naturally tan without frying my skin in a tanning bed. Is a spray tan worth it do you think? I’ve been using Jergens Natural Glow on and off for a couple months now. It does the job but sometimes it looks extremely patchy and uneven (especially if you don’t shave your legs everyday). But I have heard this product is fantastic: http://www.lovingtan.com/

    • Nicole Drum May 22, 2015 at 11:11 am #

      I think I may have avoided the patchy issue because I’m fortunate enough to not have to shave my legs everyday!

      I haven’t tried that product yet, but someone else recently suggested it so I may give it a go. As for spray tans…I’d say they are worth trying at the very least. I have seen some spray tans on pale people that look incredible. On me, they tend to turn yellow so I’ve been trying to find alternatives. I just picked up Clarins’ gel tanner (after my bad attempt with a different one and moisturizer) so I’m hopeful that will work the wonders they say it does. I also need to try the tan towel method.

  2. missopalvega May 23, 2015 at 11:35 pm #

    Reblogged this on missopalvega and commented:
    Excellent post

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