FASHION & BEAUTY: BEAUTY
"Fake it" 101 - “ how to get the perfect summer glow
Most of the time, I am happy with my fair (a.k.a. pasty-white) complexion. As somebody who has grown up in Japan, I was taught at an early age the "beauty" of fair skin and the dangers of baking in the sun. I am grateful that I have been spared by pre-mature wrinkling and age-spots and attribute that partially to my avoiding the sun.
And yet, there are moments, when I try on a dress in a certain color or put on striking jewelry, that I wish I had that "healthy" summer glow. Not a dramatic deep tan, but just a hint of bronze color. Since baking in the sun is out of the question for me, even though I tan very easily, I had to learn and perfect the art of the fake tan. How can one achieve an even, sexy glow without streaks, orange hands or looking like a carrot all over?
It takes a lot of work, but the good news is: if done right, you will feel like a goddess (amazing glow) with a clean conscience (no damage to skin). The 4 steps to the perfect fake tan are: (1) pre-prep-exfoliate, (2) exfoliate, (3) moisturize, (4) apply self-tanner.
Step 1: Pre-prep-exfoliate
A fake tan will look the most amazing on soft, smooth, perfectly even skin. Exfoliating a little bit before you apply self-tanner is not going to cut it. About a week to 10 days before you plan on showing off your fake tan, apply a high-potency glycolic acid body lotion all over your body after showering or bathing. This will ensure proper and even exfoliation from your shoulders to your ankles. My secret weapon: Glytone Retexturizing Lotion (8.4 oz for $30, available at www.dermatologistrx.com). At 17.5% Glycolic Acid, this unique lotion is no joke and not recommended for daily use or for use after shaving. Rather, apply once every 3 days at night. People, who are not used to Glycolic Acid might experience a tingling sensation in the beginning, but the reward for the trouble are the softest, smoothest skin you have ever felt all over your body. It's truly incredible.
Definitely stay away from spray-on products. As convenient as it sounds, it is actually incredibly difficult to control the direction and reach of the spray and you will spend more time trying to correct blunders than applying the product.
Your skin may start peeling a few days after your first application. I suggest helping the process by gently, very gently rubbing you skin with a wash cloth or loofah. Stay away from harsh brushes or scrubbing excessively - “ that will just unnecessarily irritate your skin.
Step 2-3: Exfoliate & Moisturize
For a perfectly even fake tan, the proper amount of moisture is key. As you probably know, self-tanner will create orange streaks on dry skin. In turn, self-tanner will not properly absorb into the skin if skin is overly moisturized and slick.
The day or night before you actually apply the self-tanner, exfoliate your skin lightly with a body scrub, rather than a glycolic-acid-based lotion. The pH of Glycolic Acid may interfere with the self-tanner. Any body scrub will do, except oil-based scrubs. Oil scrubs, such as most sugar scrubs or salt scrubs, would overwhelm skin with too much moisture. Rather, exfoliate with a foaming scrub and follow with a light-weight lotion that absorbs quickly, such as Neutrogena Body Lotion Light Sesame Formula (8.5 fl. oz for $6 at www.drugstore.com or most drugstores across the US) or Vaseline Aloe Cool & Fresh Light Moisturizing Lotion (10 fl. oz. for $4 at www.drugstore.com or at most drugstores across the US).
For the time-pressed, there are also non-foaming, hydrating body scrubs that will exfoliate and moisturize in one convenient application. Just apply all over the body at the end of your shower and rinse off. Your skin will be left with just the right amount of moisture. Products I have tried and recommend include Ulta Hand and Foot Buffing Paste ($12.00 at www.ulta.com), JUARA Candlenut Body Polish (7 oz for $35 at www.juaraskincare.com) or L'Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Body Scrub (7 oz for $34 at www.usa.loccitane.com).
Lastly, apply some extra moisturizer on ankles, elbows, knees and the top of your toes. Skin on these areas tends to be thick and produce more color than other parts of your body.
Step 4: Apply self-tanner
First of all, is there even a difference between the 100s of self-tanners available? All of them contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which will react with the amino acids in the outer layer of your skin to produce color, which disappear in five to seven days. But overall results will vary depending on the formulation and delivery system of a particular product. I am not a great fan of foam-based self-tanners. They tend to absorb too quickly, are difficult to blend, which in turn makes it harder to correct mistakes. Definitely stay away from spray-on products. As convenient as it sounds, it is actually incredibly difficult to control the direction and reach of the spray and you will spend more time trying to correct blunders than applying the product. Rather, stick to lotions that have a good amount of slip so that you can really spread and blend it into the skin. My favorite products include:
Eau Thermale Avene Moisturizing Self-Tanning Lotion (3.38 oz. for $17 at www.cvs.com). This lotion smells amazing and is truly moisturizing, making it ultra-easy to blend. The tan is on the discrete side, but if there such a thing as a fool-proof self-tanner, this would be the one.
Clarins Self Tanning Milk SPF 6 (4.4 oz for $30 at www.nordstrom.com). This self-tanner is pricey but smells absolutely divine, and the formulation is easy to apply. You can pretty much disregard the sun protection. And SPF 6 is far too low to make a real difference.
Dark Sunsation Self Tanning Lotion (8 fl. Oz. for $48.00 at www.dermstore.com). This one looks very dark and very scary coming out of the tube, but the color actually facilitates an even application and you will have an instant glow. Furthermore, the day after my first application, I was floored with how dark, yet natural my fake tan looked. The price may be steep, but I find it by far the most effective self-tanner.
To avoid any hint of orange on the palms of your hands, you won't get around wearing latex gloves. This may make blending and applying more challenging, but it is almost impossible to avoid the orange hands otherwise, even if you wash your hand frequently during the application process. Rather, wear thin surgical latex gloves and focus on one small section of the body at a time.
After you are done applying, wait at least 30 minutes before getting dressed, and at least 3 hours before getting your skin in contact with water. Try to refrain from touching or rubbing your skin during this time as well.
For maintenance, just lightly exfoliate with a scrub once or twice a week and reapply self-tanner no more than once a week or you will risk looking like a carrot.
Yes, all this is a lot of work, but if done right, you will enjoy your new look and your skin will thank you for sparing it from the sun!
Yoshiko hosts the skincare column here every month. Her skin care line www.juaraskincare.com