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Summer Skin All Year Round: Self-Tanning Tips You Need to Know

Summer and sunkissed skin always go hand in hand. However, excessive sun exposure can be very damaging to your skin and may lead to premature aging or even skin cancer. Thankfully, there are alternatives. Countless self-tanning products claim to help you achieve that bronzed body without UV damage. Of course, applying a self-tanner is easier said than done, especially if you're new to it. Therefore, we're here to share some tips on how to apply self-tanner effectively.

How does self-tanning work?

Self-tanners are actually not dyes or stains. These products have an active ingredient called dihydroxy acetone (DHA), which reacts with the amino acids in the outer layer of the skin. This reaction usually produces a temporary tan-like pigment called melanoidin, giving a bronzed look. The darkening effect usually takes place in a few hours and wears off when the outer layer of skin has naturally shed.

Are self-tanning products safe to use?

Self-tanning products are generally considered safe for most skin types. In fact, the FDA allows products with DHA to be externally applied, although with certain restrictions like inhalation, ingestion, and exposure to areas such as the mouth, nose, and eyes. Nonetheless, it's always a good idea to do a patch test first before applying the product all over your body.

Additionally, some people with skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, or those prone to contact dermatitis should avoid using self-tanning products. This is because some self-tanning products contain ingredients that can exacerbate these conditions.

How to choose self-tanning products

Self-tanning products can either be gradual or instant. They come in several formulas, including self-tan drops, lotions, mousses, sprays, gels, wipes, powders, creams, and self-tan sprays. When it comes to choosing the 'right' option, it all boils down to your skin type, skin tone, and desired results.

Self-tan lotions and creams can be more convenient for beginners. They are rather easy to apply and usually offer longer development time, which allows for corrections in case of any unevenness. Self-tan mousse dries quickly, making it great for those already comfortable with self-tanning.

The self-tan spray is excellent for hard-to-reach areas and quick touch-ups. Additionally, self-tan drops can be mixed with your moisturizer, allowing for a customized and gradual tan.

How do you apply self-tanning products to your skin?

Fake tanning is definitely a skill that can take time to perfect. Here are the main tips to help you get the self-tan you desire:

  1. Exfoliate the skin. It's essential to prep your skin properly before self-tanning. Exfoliating 24 hours prior will help get rid of dead skin and any dirt and impurities. This will leave the skin smoother, allowing you to apply your chosen self-tanner seamlessly.
  2. Wax. It's a good idea to wax before you apply a self-tanning product. Plus, you won't want to shave or wax in the days after self-tanning because you may actually end up stripping off the tan you spent a lot of time developing.
  3. Moisturize. Moisturizing a few hours before tanning is very important. You shouldn't apply self-tanner without moisturizing first. Skipping out on this step could potentially leave you with a patchy color. This goes for both your face and the rest of the body.
  4. Use different face and body formulas. Your facial skin is thinner and a lot more delicate than the skin on your body. Therefore, choose a formula that is gentler and less likely to cause irritation.
  5. Work in sections. If you want to get an even application, apply your self-tanner in sections. Make sure you massage the product onto your skin in a uniform circular motion. Also, consider getting a self-tan mitt to help keep your hands from getting stained.
  6. Let the formula dry. When you're done applying the tanner, let your product dry completely before you shower or do anything active. A self-tanner can last 3–7 days after applying.

What to avoid when applying a self-tanner

Here are some common mistakes people often make when applying a self-tanner:

  • Over-applying the first time. Since it usually takes a few hours to see noticeable results, one might make the mistake of reapplying the product a few times. It's way easier to apply less product now and add to your fake tan later than it is to deal with over-application.
  • Using your bare hands to apply is another self-tanner mistake people make. Instead, use a self-tan mitt to avoid hand stains. If you do decide to use your hands, wash them well with soap and water right after you apply self-tanner to every section. Otherwise, your hands may end up darker than the rest of your body.
  • Not giving your tanner enough time to dry. After applying your fake tanner, wait until it completely dries before putting clothes on or even showering. Certain products can dry faster than others, so always follow the product instructions.

How to remove self-tan

You can remove a self-tan with a self-tan remover. Just apply a generous amount of self-tan remover to dry skin and leave it on for about 5 minutes. Then, rinse under warm water with a washcloth. You can also use an oil such as baby oil or coconut oil. Oil breaks down DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and can fade your fake tan faster. Apply the oil, leave it on for a few minutes, then rinse off in the shower with a loofah.

How to make self-tan last longer

Considering the application steps mentioned earlier, there are also ways to make your tan last longer.

  • Continue to moisturize your skin every day. Also, you should make sure you apply SPF 30 or higher anytime you plan to be outdoors.
  • Avoid shaving or waxing. As mentioned previously, make sure you shave or wax before applying self-tanner to ensure a smooth application and also prevent premature fading.
  • Avoid exfoliating your skin. Self-tanners usually add color to the top layer of the skin. So, exfoliating removes the outer layer of your tan and makes it fade faster.
  • Avoid long soaks in water. Chlorine from the pool, salt from the ocean, and hot water can cause your self-tanner to fade.

Side effects of self-tanners

Using self-tanner can offer a sunkissed look without the harmful effects of tanning beds and UV radiation from the sun. However, there are some potential risks associated with using a self-tanner, such as uneven or streaky tan on your skin, if used incorrectly. However, this effect is temporary and typically fades as the product wears off.

Additionally, some people may experience skin irritation or even allergic reactions to the ingredients in the self-tanners, like parabens. If you notice any of these symptoms, stop using the product immediately.

Is self-tan safer than natural tan?

Sun tanning and tanning beds usually expose your skin to harmful UV rays that can lead to premature aging and sunburns and even increase your risk of skin cancer. Self-tanning can help avoid these risks altogether, meaning it is generally safer than a natural tan. Nonetheless, applying a self-tanner doesn't mean you can forget about sun protection products.

Ultimately, self-tanning offers a safer and more convenient way to achieve a beautiful tan. With so many self-tanning products available, you can always find the perfect option for your skin type and tone. Remember, achieving the perfect self-tan takes time, but with the tips above, you're on your way to achieving that radiant glow. Here's to beautiful, sunkissed skin this summer season, and all year round.

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