Guide to Sunless Tanning

Written by Sally Murphy

How to Get the Bronze without the Burn

We all know that tanning has it’s risks, especially tanning booths, which increase your risk of skin cancer exponentially. But as summer approaches, you may get tired of looking pasty, especially the first time you put on a pair of shorts (yikes!). So why not try sunless tanning?

Here are some tips for avoiding the Oompa Loompa look:

  • Test First – Apply a little sunless tanning lotion to a discrete place on your body and see what happens. You don’t want to coat yourself and then find out you’re bright orange. The Tropicana look is so last season.
  • Choose Wisely – Many companies are choosing to use olive pigments instead of orange to create a more natural-looking glow. St. Tropez and the new line from Victoria’s Secret are both great, and as a bonus, they don’t have that chemical smell.
  • Exfoliate - Use a good scrub to remove dead surface skin for smooth, streak-free application. Sunless tanning lotions and creams can flake off too quickly otherwise.
  • Dress appropriately – Wear dark underwear or an old bathing suit to avoid staining when you apply, or go nude to avoid “tan lines”.
  • Application – Start with your legs and work your way up, using broad circular motions with your hands to keep the product from streaking. Wash your hands a few times during the process to avoid staining your palms.
  • Use Accordingly – Go easy on your ankles, knees and elbows, as sunless tanning products can darken these areas. On other fleshy areas, use generous amounts to develop even color.
  • Face It – The skin on your face is different from the skin on your body, so use a face-only product to avoid irritation & breakouts.

Remember to let the product dry for the allotted time specified in the directions, and when in doubt, adding an extra fifteen minutes just to be safe doesn’t hurt. Bear in mind that most products develop gradually, so you may have to go through several applications to get the color you desire. Follow the product directions – some can be reapplied within hours, some recommend waiting until the next day.

If you’re not keen on going it alone, try making an appointment with a salon that will apply sunless tanning lotion for you (usually by a spray, though some salons will apply by hand). They’ve come a long way from the Ross “One-Mississippi” episode of Friends; you’ll be surprised how natural a quality spray-on can look.

Skip the melanoma and premature aging: in this day and age, it’s not a crime to fake it ‘til you make it. 

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About the author

Sally Murphy


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