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Self Tanning Lotions - When Fake is Good
Get a Sun-Kissed Glow without Damaging Rays Using Self Tanning Lotions
The transition from winter to spring is a glorious one.... bulbs sprouting from the ground, buds appearing on barren tree branches, grasses greening up and the sun warms our faces with longer days and the promise of summer ahead. So.... you start shedding your heavy winter garb to reveal pasty legs, arms and chests below. Maybe not so nice. Before you don skirts or shorts, let's consider a few ways you can brighten up those gams, and perhaps your spirits, as well!
We've come a long way since that awful concoction "QT" that was marketed by Coppertone in the 1960s and 70's. "QT" was supposed to stand for "quick tan," but probably should have meant "quite terrible," instead. A give-away orange glow was indicative of the consumer's use of the lotion product, instead of actual time spent in the sun.
Well, not only have we advanced with respect to formulations for lotions, gels and sprays to give us great looking faux sun tans, but our knowledge of the damaging effects of the sun's rays has also given us some serious reasons to stay out of the sun - even to re-think whether a tan should be considered "healthy."
Real Tans are not Safe
Malignant melanoma is a type of deadly skin cancer that is usually preventable by proper use of sunscreen when you go out in the sun, particularly between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Exposure to UV (ultra-violet) A and B rays can cause melanoma, which is a fast growing cancer, that may lead to death. Other cancers can result, as well, including squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. Tanning beds are not any safer than the sun! In fact, some experts believe they may be more damaging. Particularly since users do not apply sunscreen beforehand. Do not, under any circumstances use a tanning bed!
Be on the lookout for skin cancer. If you have a mole that has changed shape, size or color, or another lesion on your skin about which you are concerned - do not delay - contact your doctor as soon as possible!
Obviously, it would be difficult, if not impossible to avoid all contact with natural sunlight. For this reason, you should always use a sunscreen of at least SPF (sun protection factor) 30, particularly in high exposure situations (during summer, or while engaging in recreation during any time of the year, i.e., skiing, boating, hiking, etc.) Reapply sunscreen often, at least every 3-4 hours, to maintain its effectiveness. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and clothing to protect your skin to the maximum extent possible.
By the way, the sun protection factor (SPF) is a number that roughly corresponds to the amount of time that you can be in the sun before you start to burn - with the appropriate sunscreen applied. If you normally start to burn in 10 minutes, then an SPF of 30 would allow you 150 minutes in the sun (a little over 2 hours). Remember: you must apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure for it to be effective. If you start to burn, you must get out of the sun and reapply sunscreen. Wait at least 30 minutes before deciding whether to go back outside. Your best bet may be to stay indoors for the rest of the day.
Types of Self-Tanners
If you're looking to deepen the hue of your skin, without the damaging effects of the sun, there are several products that you can chose from. You will find a broad range in cost, but most experts will say that the base ingredients are not very different, if at all. You can generally get the same results (if applied carefully) with a drugstore brand as with a high-end department store counterpart. Formulations may be different for body lotions and gels and those for the face, however.
Most of these products contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which reacts with surface skin cells, causing them to turn brown. As dead skin sloughs off, the "tan" will fades. Some formulations contain bronzers, which give a light sheen to the skin and may cause the effects of the tan to show up sooner.
- Self-tanning lotion
- Self-tanning gel
- Self-tanning spray
- Self-tanning lotion for the face
- Moisturizing lotion with a hint of self-tanner
- Self-tanning towelettes
The easiest of the above to apply are the moisturizers that include a little bit of self-tanner. It is hard to make a mistake, and you don't need to worry about washing your hands very carefully to avoid streaks between your fingers. A number of major drugstore brands, including Dove, Jergens, Vaseline and Neutrogena have these products on the market. They come in two or three main shades (light, medium, dark). Just don't expect a major difference right away. Over about a week of use, you should notice a glow!
With self-tanning lotions and gels, you need to be more careful in their application. Start with clean, dry, exfoliated skin. Use a gentle scrub in the shower and shave, if desired. Take some time for the application, making sure that all areas are covered and blended well, particularly ankles, knees, elbows and wrists. You'll want to avoid streaks. Wait at least 10 minutes before dressing. Wash your hands very well, focusing on areas between your fingers and at the base of your palms.
Self-tanning sprays and towelettes are slightly less messy to apply, but you'll need to prepare the same way as above. Similar concerns with complete coverage should be addressed, to avoid a streaks - the dead giveaway of a fake tan! Again, wash hands thoroughly after application and wait before putting clothes on.
Two notes of caution - First, be aware that many self-tanning formulations do not include sunscreen. Check the label carefully, and unless it specifically states that it provides a certain SPF protection, you will need to apply sunscreen before going outdoors. Second, don't be in a big rush to get a deep, dark tan. Your self-tan will look more realistic if it is built up slowly, over time and matches your natural skin tone. If you are fair-skinned, then buy the fair formulations and don't go for the lotions marketed for darker skinned people.
Tips for Applying Self-Tanners
Sunless Tanning Salons
As some consumers have moved away from the dangers of tanning beds, tanning salons have introduced new, safer services, for professional application of self-tanning products. In general, you can pay for either a session in a "spray booth," where product will be evenly applied over your entire body, or you can have a technician apply tanner with an airbrush system, or hand-applied self-tanning lotion. The cost can range from $25-$150 per session, depending on the salon, the service, and geography (Los Angeles salons are probably among the most expensive in the nation).
Professional spray tans dry in just a few minutes and, because they can get to the hard-to-reach areas, consumers are happier with the more authentic looking results. Some people say that you'll have to repeat the process every 4-6 days to deepen the tan and maintain results. That could add up! On the other hand, you may have the comfort of knowing that this is a single investment for a season and you won't be experimenting with a number of different gels, lotions or sprays at home.
How to Apply Self Tanning Lotions
Bronzing Powders and Brushes
Make-up Products for a Self Tan
Sometimes, you simply don't have the time to apply self-tanner and wait for the color to deepen. Or maybe you don't want to fuss with the mess. Any time of year, you can use bronzing make-up products on your face, neck, chest and decolletage to add a bit of color. As with any type of make-up, however, just be careful not to overdo it!
Bronzing powder comes in pressed and loose versions and can be applied either directly on clean skin, or over foundation. Lightly dust the powder where the sun would hit your face - forehead, bridge of nose and chin. If you're wearing a low-cut shirt, be sure to dust your chest and decolletage, as well. The kaleidoscope pressed powders blend to create a myriad of colors to avoid a matte-like pancake face that can result from other products.
Be sure to care for your bronzer make-up brush as you do other brushes and implements. Wash it in warm, soapy water every month and stand it to air dry. Replace every 6 months.
Again, realize that most bronzing powders do not include sunscreen. Be sure to apply appropriate sunscreen to protect your skin, before heading outdoors.
Use Makeup to Create a Self-Tan
Before You Get Ready to Self-Tan
- Decide how much you're willing to invest on a tan, both to develop one initially, and maintain it through the sunny months. Be sure to factor in additional costs such as sunscreen! Be realistic and don't over-extend yourself. Its only a skin tone, after all!
- Take a good look at your natural skin tone and choose a self-tanning product that will be a good match. Don't go for dark, if you are fair-skinned!
- Be patient and be moderate. The best "fake" tans are those that look like the person spent a few afternoons outdoors, not a month in Bermuda! Don't be overzealous in applying self-tanning lotions, or too much bronzing powder.
- Remember - you are beautiful in every season! Have some fun with the beauty products that are on the market, but don't depend on them for happiness or well-being.