Getting a Safe, Fake Tan

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Thursday 14th October 2010
In this article
  • Come out of winter hibernation.
  • A healthy tan — there is such a thing.
  • Becoming a tan man.

It’s spring break. Prime SharpMan Operating Season. And here you are hiding eye-numbing, pasty skin under sweaters and pants. Worry not, SharpReader, it’s not necessary for you to risk your health just to look good. Read on for the SharpMan 411 on a variety of safe, fake tanning options...

Why Not the Real Thing?

Skin cancer and leathery old man skin; need we say more? But you needn’t spend skin-damaging time in the sun just to get a healthy glow. In fact, you don’t even need the sun or those George Foreman Grill-like tanning beds to get a bit of color back in your cheeks.

What about those tanning beds that emit only ultraviolet-A (UVA) rays… aren’t they safe? While it is true that beds that emit UVA rays don’t burn skin the way UVB rays do, exposure to UVA rays has nonetheless been linked to skin cancer and cosmetic skin damage (leathery old man skin).

Beyond the Bed

Luckily, there are several sunless options for getting a great tan. Convenience, cost and how long and under what conditions (waterproof? sweat-proof?) the tan will last are likely to choose your process for you.

Bronzer. The most common option for adding a little color is bronzer, a lotion, gel, spray or powder that simply adds a light tint to your skin. It is temporary and usually washes off in your next shower, which means it’s not waterproof. Bronzers are a great option when you’re going someplace that requires you to look a bit more healthy or pumped on your face, arms, legs or even your chest. The advantage of a bronzer versus other self-tanning products is that the application process is pretty forgiving: you needn’t worry about applying it evenly or waiting for it to dry completely. It’s designed to blend well and sink into the skin. And, if necessary, you can always wash it off and start over.

Self-tanner. A longer-wearing option is self-tanner, a treatment that artificially deepens the color of your skin 45 minutes to two hours after application. In the past, self-tanning creams had a reputation of turning your skin an unnatural orange color. Things have changed: new products interact with dead skin cells to create a warm, golden and natural looking color change. Self-tanners are available in a tube, bottle, spray canister or a convenient towelette moistened with the product; and very simply require you to apply to the area of your skin that you would like to darken. Because the "tan" does not wash off in the shower and may last a week, it is important to apply and blend the product evenly. Your color will fade and wear off over a short period of time. But, with a little care and skill, you can control the color and intensity. Check out this online resource: How Sunless Tanning Products Work for more information.

Self-Tanning Tips

Go for a spray that won’t break you out or dry your out. While self-tanners come in the forms of creams, gels and sprays, many guys find sprays easier to apply without streaking. Consider picking a product that is hypoallergenic and has moisturizing ingredients.

Choose a different shade for your face and body. The skin on most people’s faces is a shade darker than the rest of the body because it is exposed to the sun more often. Visit your local drugstore or department store to try out products designed specifically for the face.

Test your self tanner in a discreet spot before applying. Because different skin responds differently to chemical agents, ind an out-of sight spot and apply a small amount, then wait a day before going whole-hog on your body or face. This will also allow you to insure that the self-tanner you chose looks natural and pleasing.

Take your time. Nothing looks worse than a rush application. Allow plenty for proper application and ample drying time before you begin.

Buff the product on sparingly. Apply a small amount to your body, rubbing it in a circular motion. Use less product on those bumpy areas, like your knees and elbows where your skin is thicker; as these areas will absorb the color more easily.

Focus tanner on your nose, cheeks and forehead. This will mimic natural tanning. Avoid getting it in your beard area or the color may turn splochy.

Wash up when done. Make a point of washing your hands with soap and water immediately after application to avoid the tell-tale tan palms.

Want It Done For You?

Not so sure about this whole "do-it-yourself" idea? Then salon airbrush, spray, mist or paint tanning may be right for you. Think of this as a self-tanner car wash. Some car washes are automated, others are hand-wash and then there’s auto detailing. In all cases, the amount of hand-labor determines the detail work and the cost (between $15 — $250). Same thing with salon application. The product applied is mostly the same, with the more expensive treatments lasting a bit longer (five to ten days) and looking a bit more natural due to blending and the ability to customize hue. Options include:

Machine Spray or Mist Tanning. Available at most tanning salon, mist tanning machines require you to stand as the machine evenly sprays your front and then your back, leaving it up to you as to how much product you’d like applied. Key to this system is slathering on moisturizer on elbows, knees, the palms of your hands and the bottoms of your feet to avoid discoloration. Exfoliation between visits is a must. For more information, see Mystic Tanning.

Airbrush Tanning. A more detailed option requires you to stand as a salon technician sprays you with an air gun full of tanner. This treatment can yield a more natural-looking tan due to more precise application that also allows for customization. Some technicians can even contour-spray to give you a six-pack or more defined pecs! For more information, see Australian Gold LaserTans.

Paint Tanning. The "detailing" of tanning allows you to chill back as a technician paints the tanning product on your body, buffing and blending as he or she goes. This process guarantees no streaking or discoloration, and often begins with a stem-to-stern salt rub exfoliation. It’s the ultimate. For more information, see Bliss Spa Scrub and Color.

Salon Spray Tanning Tips

First, exfoliate. Now don’t be intimidated by the word. It is a lot easier than it sounds and it will really help in getting an even, lasting tan. Simply get into the shower and use a loofah brush or a washcloth to rub the loose dry skin off your body. Be sure to pay extra attention to rougher areas such as your elbows and knees. Check out SharpGrooming’s Exfoliation: Huh? What’s That?

Run around naked. You don’t literally have to run — just to make sure your skin is dry before you apply a self-tanner. Dry skin absorbs the color more evenly and keeps it from creasing in the sweaty crevices of your body. After application, allow the product to absorb and dry completely before you put on clothing.

Start small. To keep your tan looking as natural as possible, start with a small amount of tanner and add more if you want to go darker. Once the color has set, it can last days so it’s better to have to reapply than to have to hide.

Watch the bumps and cracks. Make sure you don’t apply too much tanner in the bends behind your legs or the bumps on your knees and elbows. You may also want to apply a regular moisturizing lotion on bony areas such as your knees, elbows, ankles and knuckles after the self-tanner has dried. This will help keep the color even.

Stay dirty. For 24 hours following your spray, do not shower or engage in physical activities that cause you to sweat — this will help prevent the formation of dark or unevenly colored areas. Full chemical reaction can take up to four hours.

Wear sunscreen. Most self tanners do nothing to protect against the harmful rays of the sun, so be sure you wear a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 whenever you will be out in the sun.

This article last updated on Thursday 14th October 2010
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