Sarah Brooks-Wilson shares the golden rules of safe tanning to get a radiant, just-got-back-from-holiday bronzed look, no jet lag required.
Experts say we should shun the sun to protect our skin, but we just can’t ignore the temptation to tan. Who doesn’t lust after golden limbs and that post-beach glow? So while we know scorching yourself isn’t a good idea, here’s how to master a flawless fake tan and protect yourself when you hit the beach or poolside.
Tanning with the sun
Protect like a pro
Here’s how to make sure you’re as protected from premature ageing and skin cancer as you can without wearing a kaftan or hiding under a parasol.
1. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen 20 minutes before you leave the house.
2. Reapply it 20 minutes after you get out in the sun and every two hours after that. Apply more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating. Don’t miss the skin right next to your swimsuit, your ears or your feet.
3. Reapply sunscreen to your nose every hour using a waxy product that’s less likely to slide off, like a high SPF lip balm or a specially formulated zinc stick like Le Tan Zinc Stick Nude, $3.99.
4. Use a specialised broad-spectrum eye product with SPF protection around your eyes, which will be gentler on the delicate skin in that area. Wear close-fitting, large-lensed sunglasses to protect against eye damage. Try Dermalogica Total Eye
Care SPF15, $77.
We’ve all fallen asleep in the sun and woken up red raw all over. Here’s what you can do to ease the burn.
1. Take ibuprofen to stop pain and swelling.
2. Tie some rolled oats in a muslin bag or old stocking and pop it in the water while you
have a tepid bath to soothe your skin.
3. Keep the burnt area moist by spritzing it
with a mist of lukewarm water.
4. Slather the area in after-sun lotion, aloe vera gel or Vaseline if the burn is blistering.
5. Keep out of the sun while it heals.
6. When you peel, moisturise with jojoba oil or a rich cream.
Keep your cool
There’s no need to get hot under the collar – these clever products will keep you refreshed and help hydrate sun-kissed skin.
The best sunscreen for you
Best for your handbag:
Clinique Super City Block SPF 30+, $40
Best for sensitive skin:
Avène Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+, $28.95
Best for sport and humid days:
Invisible Zinc 4HR Water Resistant Sunscreen SPF 50+, $29.99 (100ml)
Best for hard-to-reach spots:
Le Tan SPF 30 Coconut Sunscreen Spray, $16.99
Best for self-tan and protection:
Bondi Sands Protect & Tan SPF 15 Tanning Oil, $19.99
Tanning without the sun
Find your perfect self-tanner
Self-tanners come in all shapes and sizes. Here’s how to tell them apart to choose the right one for you.
MOUSSES absorb quickly and tend to be tinted, so they’re an ideal option if you’re short on time. They’ll dry faster than gels, so it’s harder to correct mistakes. The plus side: you can get dressed just a few minutes after applying a tanning mousse. Try Le Tan Fast Tan Instant Foaming Mousse, $14.49.
CREAMS are rich in emollients, so they tend to spread evenly and can tan lightly, which makes them a good option for novices. They also contain moisturising ingredients that are good for dry skin and help dilute the product’s active elements, resulting in a subtle tan that’s suitable for fair complexions. Try ModelCo Self-Tan Lotion Ultra Dark, $20.
GELS are more concentrated than other formulas, so they’re good for olive skin looking for deeper colour. They have fewer oils, which means they dry faster and produce a darker, more rapid and less forgiving tan. Because many are oil-free, they’re a good choice for acne-prone skin. Try Sukin Sunless Bronzing Gel, $18.95.
SPRAYS go on sheer and light, and take just seconds to rub in and dry. They’re good for those looking for a quick fix, but it’s important to watch out for streaking. Try Jbronze Dark Tanning Spray, $29.95.
WIPES are moistened with self-tanner that dries fast, making them convenient for touch-ups. Unfortunately, the colour sometimes comes out too dark because it’s harder to control the amount you’re applying.
Step-by-step self-tanning for face and body
- The best time to self-tan is an hour before going to bed. This allows the colour to develop overnight and also gives the product time to be absorbed by your skin rather than your sheets. Start by gently exfoliating your face and body in the shower, concentrating on dry areas such as elbows, knees and heels.
- Pat yourself dry, then evenly apply moisturiser all over your body and a light layer of face cream.
- If you’re fair-haired, apply some Vaseline over your brows and around your hairline to keep your hair from staining.
- Wear tanning mitts like Ella Baché Great Tanning Mitt, $9.90 to stop your palms from staining. Starting with your feet, work your way up using small circular movements to ensure that you get every patch of skin and don’t leave streaks. Work with small amounts, applying the tan layer upon layer.
- Mix the self-tanner with an equal amount of body lotion before applying it to areas of rough skin like elbows, knees and ankles.
- If you make any mistakes, use a cotton pad soaked in astringent to wipe them away. For larger areas, exfoliate the problem area in the shower straight away and then use an AHA-enriched moisturiser daily until the colour has faded. Try ModelCo Tan Remover Exfoliating Soap, $10.
- Use a cotton pad to apply the tanner to the backs of your hands, making sure you get in between your fingers. And don’t forget your ears!
- For a deeper, longer-lasting tan, keep your skin well moisturised, avoid exfoliation and reapply every two to three days. For easy reapplication, use a body lotion with self-tanning ingredients like Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturiser, $10.99. These contain tiny amounts of DHA (the active ingredient in self-tanners) so they can be applied in the same way as regular moisturiser.
- Prep your skin in advance. Dry skin catches self-tanner, causing uneven colour. Avoid this by exfoliating and moisturising your skin several days in advance. Do all your normal shaving or waxing 24 hours before you tan.
- Remove deodorant and perfume beforehand. These act as a barrier on your skin and will make the tan look patchy.
- Wipe a damp cloth over potential problem areas after applying. Wipe once over feet, ankles, knees and elbows, and around armpits, where self-tanner can gather and create darker patches.
- Leave any soapy residue behind. Cleansers can change the skin’s pH balance, which can make self-tanners turn orange.
- Self-tan in a steamy bathroom or in excessive heat. Moisture and sweat interfere with the absorption of self-tanners, so the colour may come out streaky.
- Apply too much to bony areas like hands and feet. Just a few drops of self-tanner on a cosmetic sponge allows for precise application, without the risk of staining your palms.
Face application dos and don’ts
- Wait two days after waxing to tan. The newly hairless skin may be smoother than the rest
of your face, leading to a blotchy tan.
- Wipe off excess self-tanner from the brows, hairline and problem spots. Light blondes should be especially diligent because self-tanners can tint hair. Swipe a cotton pad underneath your cheekbones where colour can accumulate and look dirty. Lightening this area also mimics the natural effect of the sun.
- Use makeup to camouflage an overzealous tanning job. Lighter shades of sheer foundation can help lift a muddy colour. Applying a gold eye pencil and a sparkly lip gloss adds dimension.
- Forget to exfoliate your neck. Self-tanner will settle in the creases and adhere to dry patches, so it’s important to exfoliate your neck as well as your face. Neck skin is equally sensitive, so use a very fine-grain gentle scrub like Nivea Daily Essentials Gentle Exfoliating Scrub, $9.98.
- Apply too much product. The colour will come out too dark and monochromatic. Instead, dot a small amount of self-tanner on your forehead, cheeks, chin and neck, and rub it in quickly with circular strokes. Wait for the colour to develop before adding more.