It’s that time of year again, purchase the time when everyone’s skin seems to be turning various shades of brown thanks to a healthy dose of sunshine (or in many cases, advice unhealthy doses of it). Now I don’t know about you, asthma but I always feel a little self-conscious about baring skin when I’m still a lovely shade of winter-white, which poses a problem if and when I attempt to get some UV-induced color. I don’t want to be the lone ghostly-pale specter amongst a sea of bronzed skin. Luckily there are enough options these days that will allow you to get some color before stepping out to tan. I’d personally recommend forgoing the tanning beds because let’s face it, they’re not good for you. Of course this knowledge doesn’t stop anybody, and in fact I’ve bathed in the neon-purple light on more than one occasion, but there are healthier options that won’t leave you looking like an old leather handbag in your advanced age.

The best way to achieve color without the risk of burning, wrinkling or streaking is an airbrush tan. Most larger tanning salons offer this customized service nowadays, and the results are usually very, very good. Think of an airbrush tan as the equivalent of hair-color for your body. It helps that someone is there to do it for you because a) they can custom mix the color that will be applied to your skin, thereby giving you a shade that both complements your skin tone and achieves the level of tan you want, and b) because they are literally painting your body and aiming the color where it needs to go. The risk of getting uneven, streaky or splotchy color is minimal at best. The results last for at least a week, and with maintenance can last much longer. Airbrushing may not be cheap, but it’s worth it. For those of you who are looking for something quicker, because an airbrush tan does take time for both prepping and waiting for the color to set afterwards, there are at-home products that can help you achieve nearly identical results. What you use probably depends mostly on your preference and comfort level with self-tanners, but there are enough options on the shelves these days that anyone can find something that works for them.

viral fashion 2011 l'oreal sublime bronze self tanner tanning cosmetics skincare beauty summerTaking a hint from airbrush tanning, many companies have developed at-home airbrush tanners. These work exactly the same way as an airbrush tan by applying color instantly to the skin in a fine, pressurized mist. The benefit of these self-tanners is that the wide spray nozzles are good for getting full coverage and for evenly dispersing the color. The fact that the color doesn’t need time to develop also helps because you can see where you’ve already applied the color. L’Oreal’s Sublime Bronze Express ProPerfect Self Tanning Mist is one of the better products out there. It offers natural-looking color, and it allows you to apply a subtle hint of tan or to build up to a darker shade. On the plus side it’s inexpensive and easy to get. The downside is that it fades pretty quickly unless you maintain it properly. A word of caution: do not spray without covering the floors, unless scrubbing them with Clorox sounds appealing! The same rule applies to wearing any light clothing until the spray has completely set.

viral fashion 2011 tan towels self tanner tanning summer beauty costmetics skincareAn easier, quicker, mess-free option is tanning towelettes. These individually packaged products are the simplest way to get some color without the hassle of airbrushing and spraying. Like Wet-Naps, tanning towelettes come pre-moistened with the color, which you apply by simply sweeping over your body in an even motion. You unfold the towels as you apply to keep the color consistent. Because they’re so easy to use they’re great for a quick bit of color, but because the color isn’t instant it can be hard to tell where you’ve already applied. When using any kind of tanning towelettes rubber gloves are a must, because the color will stain your fingers, and as with any other self-tanners you’ll want to be careful not to over-apply, particularly around your elbows, knees and ankles. TanTowel makes a great product for the body in two variations; Classic, for fair to medium skin tones and Plus for medium to dark. Both varieties come in packs of five, which is perfect for a trial run, and fifty for when you’ve seen the great results and want to keep them up.

viral fashion 2011 tanning self tanner xen-tan summer beauty cosmetics skincareAnd of course you can always go for a traditional self-tanning lotion. They’ve come a long way from their early days and the risk of looking like an Oompa-Loompa is far smaller than it once was. The lotions are still tricky, though, and in fact there is an art to achieving the perfect result. Unfortunately it’s an art that can only be perfected with practice, so you may need to screw it up a few times before your tan looks flawless. Xen-Tan is a line specializing in all kinds of sunless tanning lotions, from their Dark Lotion, which provides instant color as a guide and gives you a rich, bronze glow, to their Transform lotion, which gradually builds color through multiple applications. If you’re looking for something subtle, the Transform lotion might be the right way to go. If you’re feeling confident in your application skills and you want a dark tan right away, go for the Dark Lotion. A good trick to try with the Dark Lotion so that you can avoid dark blotches of color is to dilute the tanning lotion with plain body lotion or cream and applying it as you normally would. Gloves are still recommended though. The last thing anyone wants or needs are brown fingertips.

So now that you have some products to look into there are a few rules to keep in mind. With any sunless tanning application it’s smart to exfoliate your entire body a few hours before applying, as smooth skin will take the color better and is less likely to streak. You’ll also want to give yourself a good amount of time to just sit around and let the product dry. Sweating after application, as well as too much movement, can make the color run which can mean only one thing; streaks. Once you have the color on it should become easier to maintain, so you might want to consider having two products on hand, one for when you need to build color and one for when you need to touch it up a bit. As I said, self-tanning takes a bit of practice, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it there’s really no reason why you can’t keep that color up long after the summer has ended.

by Justin Friedman