If you want a summery bronze sans skin damage, you have a lot of choices.
But many folks are wary of sunless tanners, and for good reason. We've all seen self-tanner gone wrong: skin tone only an Oompa-Loompa could love, orange-stained hands, streaks and that funny 'tanner' smell.
It doesn't have to be this way. If you're smart about how you use sunless tanning products, chances are better than ever that you can achieve a sun-kissed look without the nasty side effects.
Do It Yourself
The most affordable way to get a sunless tan is to apply it yourself.
But first you have to decide what kind of tanner you want: Tanning wipes, lotions, foams or sprays?
Melanie Towne, owner of Pacific Sun Tanning in Redmond, considers herself a tanning expert because she's naturally light-skinned and loves to try new products as they come onto the market.
Towne says that while some customers prefer spray-on self-tanners, she thinks they can be difficult to apply to yourself. She says if you do go for the sprays, it's a good idea to have someone to help you with the application.
And it should be someone you trust.
'Not like my husband,' Towne said. 'He drew a smiley face on my back.'
Towne says wipes and foams work fine, but what she recommends ' especially for the beginner ' is a moisturizer with small amounts of tanning agent, so-called 'build-a-tan' products. Each application will darken your skin only a quarter to a half shade. Towne said that if you put on the lotion for several days after you shower, color builds up until you get the effect you want.
One benefit to the gradual approach is 'if you mess up, it's not wildly obvious,' she said. Towne also recommends hydrogen peroxide applied with a cotton ball directly to the skin to clean streaks and to blend hard lines. These gradual sunless tanners are available at most grocery and drug stores. One that has garnered positive reviews is Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer. A tube costs less than $10. There are also professional-grade lotions available, which can be purchased at beauty supply stores, tanning salons and some spas and hair salons. The professional grade products can cost as much as $40, but claim higher-quality ingredients than store brands as well as superior color. Some experimentation will likely be necessary; just because one product looks good on your friend's olive skin doesn't mean it'll look just as nice on your peachy-pink skin. Whatever product you choose, remember to exfoliate thoroughly in the shower with a scrub or loofah sponge, and, if you like, an exfoliating cleanser, before you apply self-tanner. And apply tanner sparingly to any part of your body that creases, like your knees, heels and elbows. Spray Tans Many local tanning salons now offer spray-on tanning booths, such as the Mystic Tan brand. Depending on the package you buy and whether you catch a special sale, a trip to the spray-tan booth can cost anywhere from $15 to $40. As with home tanners, exfoliating needs to be done before you go to the salon, not after, and you'll want to avoid showers or pools for several hours, even until the next morning, if you can. Don't wear any cosmetics, including make-up, deodorant and perfume.
Ricky Croft, co-founder and vice president of Mystic Tan, also suggested that you don't shave the day of your spray tan, because shaving closes up pores. 'Shave the night before,' Croft said. 'You'll get a more even tan.' The procedure at the spray-tan booth can vary, but generally, it's a good idea to show up in loose, dark clothing to minimize the chances of staining the clothes when you get dressed after your tan. There will be a private room to undress and prepare before getting into the booth. If you like, you can wear an old bathing suit during the process. Most salons provide a barrier cream, which is applied to the palms of the hands, fingernails and the skin around them and the bottoms of the feet, any area that wouldn't naturally tan. Salons also provide a cap to cover the hair, but it's important to leave a little hairline exposed to avoid a line across the forehead. The sprayers in the machine will usually pass over the body several times, and the person getting the tan will be prompted to change positions to spray the back and ensure the best coverage. You don't want to get the solution in your eyes or inhale it. Some people choose to just close their eyes and hold their breath while the mist is sprayed on, but most salons have eye and nose barriers available if you want them.
According to fda.gov, the active ingredient in tanners, dihydroxyacetone, or DHA, has been approved only for topical use by the Food and Drug Administration. It's not approved for mucous membranes like the mouth. But because DHA isn't a drug, its use in mist booths isn't prohibited. Susan Tofte, a family nurse practitioner and assistant professor of dermatology at Oregon Health & Science University, said she's heard about people being concerned about the safety of the spray-tan booths, but she likes the machines. In fact, she's used them herself. 'I don't know of anything harmful that's ever been reported,' she said, other than some allergic reactions, a risk with any cosmetic agents applied to the skin. 'I think it's quite safe.' Airbrushing The top of the line in sunless tanning is airbrushing. With this technique, a technician applies the tanner with an airbrush. In Bend, airbrush tanning is available at Moxi and at Jinsei spas. Despite the high cost ' one session can cost more than $50 ' Towne, who also offers airbrushing at her Redmond tanning salon, says the personalized tanning sessions seem to be getting more popular. Towne said she suspects some of the increased demand for airbrush tanning is the result of the popular television show 'Dancing with the Stars,' in which the celebrities' beauty regimens are a part of the show and include airbrush tans.
Spray tans are especially popular for special events like proms, weddings or even vacations. Towne said that for one-day events, it's a good idea to do a test run several weeks before the event to see how the color will look on you and to check how the tan wears as it fades. For instance, a woman who gets an airbrush tan might notice that the color rubs off under her bra straps, and she can then ask for more coverage on her shoulders next time. Towne recommends getting the final spray tan two days before the event. She thinks that's when the tan looks best, and if there's a problem with the way the tan turns out, you have time to fix it. The various spray tans last anywhere from two days to a week or more, depending on your skin. To help extend the tan, keep your skin moisturized, because dry skin flakes off, and if you lose a layer of skin, you're losing the stain. And here's a bonus for those who are older: Croft says spray tans last longer on older skin, because skin cells turn over more slowly as you age. One important warning: Don't forget that even though your skin will be darker, spray tans don't provide any protection from the sun. If you really want to avoid skin damage, you'll still need to remember your sunscreen.