I've actually been wanting to do this post forever, as it's one of my best kept summer beauty secrets. I guess I held back because it walks a fine line between a legit secret weapon us girls could all be relying on, and being a little over the top for a summer beauty routine. But you know what? This is something I've been doing and loving for years, so it's about time I share it. And what better time than now, as the hot sunny days are about to come back with a bang, and those favorite ripped boyfriend shorts are returning to their rightful staple status.
I'm talking about spray tans, people. You know I've always been a girl who can get down with some crazy beauty maintenance (acrylic nails a few years ago, hair extensions nonstop since 2011, etc). So I'm no stranger to trying some of these more "faux" type things (next up on the list of things to try - eyelash extensions). A few years ago, I did some spray tan research around LA, trying to find the best option. I tried them all - $60 organic spray tans, $100 Beverly Hills spray tans, middle-of-the-road spray tans, mom and pop shop spray tans. Each came with their share of issues... only lasted a day, too expensive, etc. But then I decided to try my local chain tan place - Palm Beach Tan, and this was when spray tans became a sustainable summer treat. Whether it was for a poolside party or vacation, a special event, or even just for everyday summer bronzedness, this fair skinned girl was hooked.
Here's what I like. The technology in spray tanning has come so far in recent years, and now using a booth for your tan instead of a human is a legitimate option for regular spray tan purposes. I mean, if it's your own wedding, maybe have a professional do it. But for a beach weekend this really is sufficient if you take the proper steps. The Mystic booth is the one I use. It's a spacious booth in which you rotate four different ways, standing like you're doing the robot dance. It sprays a very fine mist and gives you an even tan. It's cheap. Monthly memberships start at $20 and go up to around $60 for unlimited, depending on where you're located. It's chill - you can just walk in whenever without an appointment. The tan lasts longer than other ones I've tried, especially if you care for it well (see below for all my tips on that). You can customize the color to the level of dark you want to be and even your specific skin tone shade (olive vs red, etc), which the kind associates will help you with. I lean more towards dark and while it makes me look a little crazy that first day before I shower off the bronzer, the actual tan is a nice not-too-dark shade (as you can see in these photos - it's subtle one day after the tan) that lasts for a good week.
Now, how to do this properly. Here are the steps you can take for an even, long lasting tan. While it may sound like a lot, it will become second nature (if you get hooked and do this several times like I have). Feel free to pull this post up on your phone to use as a reference as you go through the steps, because it would be a lot to remember. ;)
AT HOME, PRE-TAN
1 / Exfoliate your skin using an oil free scrub. I have always used this one by St. Ives and not only is it cheap, it works wonders. Doesn't dry out your skin either. Don't use a bar soap as they can leave residue on your skin that will absorb the tan weirdly.
2 / Shave your legs and DON'T moisturize anything.
3 / Pack up your necessities for the tanning salon: a dark, loose fitting outfit for after (I do a dark cotton jersey dress with no bra, or loose shorts and a loose tee), a hair tie, flip flops or loose slip-on sandals. Leave your jewelry at home.
AT THE SALON
1 / Have the associate at check-in help you customize the tan you want and show you how to use the booth. Ask for the Mystic 4-way booth.
2 / Ask for a few wet terrycloth towels (some locations have them, some don't). If they don't have them, any terry cloth towel will do and you can dampen it. You'll need a dry towel as well.
3 / Get naked (AFTER you go into the private room with the booth, I don't recommend you do this in the lobby).
4 / The barrier cream they provide is your best friend. It's going to help you keep certain areas from absorbing too much of the tan (rough patches, feet, hands). Put a light layer of this on any rough patches like elbows if you want (I usually forget those parts), and then put a THICK layer on your feet, especially around the heels, toes, and bottoms of the feet. A light layer on the tops of your feet, making sure to blend well so you don't get any weird lines around the ankles. The mist will fall from the air onto the tops of your feet and the skin there is more absorbent so this part is crucial. Use the little medical looking booties they provide, if you want to really avoid scary toes and heels. After applying the cream to my feet, I put the booties on, trying to leave the tops of my feet somewhat exposed but the important parts covered. Trust me, you don't need tan toes and heels. The glow from your legs will still make your feet look tan.
5 / Use the nose plug sponge and ear plugs they provide to keep from breathing the mist in (and keep your mouth closed during the tan), and the hair net, tucked behind your ears and make sure it's not covering any part of your forehead. They provide lip balm as well, which I recommend you apply.
6 / Last step is to apply the barrier cream to your hands. A decent layer on your whole hand, then a THICK layer on the palms, and THICK layer on your nails and cuticles. Blend out any edges.
7 / Now you'll feel a little creamed up and ridiculous, but you're ready to go in the booth. The robot will tell you what to do. Keep your mouth and eyes shut while it's spraying.
NOTE FOR BREASTFEEDING MOMS: You will want to cover your boobs for this. Either with a cheap strapless bra or a ton of the barrier cream and then wipe them clean right after.
AFTER THE TAN
1 / You will immediately feel like a skinny bronzed goddess but the best is yet to come later in the day. ;) Take the damp towel and completely wipe the palms of your hands and nails/cuticles. The more you can be blendy around the edges, the better because you do want some tan to stay on the tops of your hands and feet, but not have any lines. It really is an art.
2 / Remove the booties and wipe the bottoms of your feet, heels, and nails. You may want to gently wipe off some of the tan on the tops of your feet, and use a little barrier cream to blend out the line from the booties.
3 / Make sure you feel pretty dry before carefully putting on your "spray tan outfit" and leaving.
4 / IMPORTANT: Don't shower or work out for at least 4 hours after the tan - I usually wait til the next day and just wear PJ's that cover me well that night. But I do recommend washing your hands as soon as you start to notice them darkening, maybe 1 or 2 hours in. They absorb a ton of the tan so if you wash them earlier than the rest of your body, it'll actually be even and not overdone.
FOR THE NEXT WEEK
1 / Use a sulfate free body wash to keep from stripping your tan, and you can use a mild exfoliant after a day or two. You don't want to slough off your tan but you also don't want dry skin to build up and end up with a flaky tan.
2 / Use a good body lotion, like my favorite one here, to keep the tan moisturized and looking glowy. I wouldn't recommend using a straight oil though as that could actually make your tan come off sooner.
3 / Get a sample of your foundation in the next shade or two darker (or heck, it can't hurt to own a full sized darker foundation for summer as you'll naturally be a bit more bronzed in the summer anyway). As your tan fades, you can mix it with your usual color in different levels until you're back to your normal color.
Phew, that's it! Now you know you really want to try it, don't you? Who knows, you may just end up loving it. While I'm happy to embrace my natural fair skin, I also can't help but love a good tan with my cutoffs in the summer. Who doesn't? SO, I've teamed up with Palm Beach Tan for a giveaway to help you guys get summer ready! Here's what's up for grabs:
1 winner will get : $150 gift card to Nordstrom for a cute summer outfit to show off your tan (Rag & Bone BF shorts, I'm looking at you!) and a 3-month Diamond Premier membership so you can spray tan til your hearts content! So fun. I want this.
5 winners will get : a free spray tan certificate from your local Palm Beach Tan salon, so you can give it a try and become obsessed.
TO ENTER: Just leave a comment on this post and tell me about the summer plans you have that you would like to be a bronzed goddess for! Excited to hear what you guys have planned. Perfect inspiration to get me through this hump day.
Photography by Heather Kincaid