Self tanning for beginners

For years I have embraced my pastiness. Winter and summer, fully dressed and bikini-clad. I think porcelain complexions look classic, mysterious and delicate on others, so I never felt the necessity to hide or change mine (and I still don't). Of course there were remarks, ranging from presumably well-meant advice ("You'd look healthier with a tan") to full-blown stupidity ("You'll never get tan if you wear SPF"). I just shrugged it off and said something along the lines of not wanting to look like a crumpled newspaper in 20 years. The truth is, I never get tanned, I just get burnt. I think it's so important to be sensible about sunbathing, and for my skin, that means no lounging around in the direct sun for more than an hour, even with protection. And the pale skin? I honestly don't dislike it at all.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, there is of course something to say for more bronzy skintones as well. I love a relaxed, beachy look as much as the next person, and for the last few months, I started wondering how a slightly sunkissed version of me would look. I watched dozens of Youtube video's on self tanning, until I felt educated enough to give it a go. So I strayed to the dark(er) side. For research purposes, of course.
After exactly two attempts, I had a routine figured out that works for me, could be done in 5 tot 10 minutes depending on your level of skill, and is pretty foolproof. And what d'ya know, I actually liked the result. I won't be saying goodbye to my natural skintone for good, but it's fun to be able to switch it up sometimes. So pale ladies, if you ever feel like trying on a tan, fret not! This tanning newbie is going to talk you through her entire routine. (Brace yourselves!)

Fair skin and fake tan 101 || Melanophilia.com

Phase one: prep
You've probably read this on a gazillion beauty blogs but I'm going to mention it anyway: take a shower and exfoliate first. I use the Exfoliating Facial Cleanser by Yes to Carrots for my face, and a scrub from The Body Shop for my body. (Currently using the olive scrub, but they're all lovely.) DO NOT forget your face, you won't be able to do this after tanning your body, as I'll explain further on. And while we're at it, now is also a good time to shave your legs, if that's something you do.
After you get out of the shower, apply a bit of moisturizer to your knees, ankles, elbows, knuckles and palms.
Now you're ready for serious business.

Fair skin and fake tan 101 || Melanophilia.com

Phase two: body
Rule number one: use a mitt. Rule number two: if you don't have a mitt, get one. Trust me on this one.
I use the L'Oréal Sublime Bronze mousse on my legs and the gel on my upper body, but you could probably do the job with either one. They both have a guide colour, so you can make sure everything's really evened out before you let the real tan develop. 
I usually stick to the same order: shins and calves, blend out to feet and knees, thighs, stomach, lower back, arms and shoulders, blend out to chest and neck, upper back. And yes, I do the upper back by myself. If I put the mitt on backwards and channel my inner contortionist for a second, I can actually do a pretty decent job applying with the back of my hand. Finish off by very lightly applying whatever is left on the mitt to your hands, and don't forget the spaces in between your fingers.
Important: make sure you cover every little bit of your skin! Going over the same spot twice won't leave you with streaks, but forgetting a patch of skin will. When in doubt, apply a bit more.
Oh, and be careful: both the guide colour and the tanner wash off with the tiniest drop of water. That's why you don't want to scrub your face at this point. (I did it once and water streamed down my arms and washed it all off. It was unfixable.) Let it develop in peace. Also, you'll want to be careful around light fabrics, because the guide colour can stain those.

Fair skin and fake tan 101 || Melanophilia.com


Phase three: face
For my face I use the Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster. These are drops that you mix in with your regular moisturizer for a custom made gradual tan. It's genius. This works great with a liquid or gel-like product, but I think it wouldn't blend as easily with a more solid cream, so I suggest you avoid those. I always use it with either The Body Shop's Vitamin E moisturizer or Caudalie's Polyphenol C15 serum. Blend out towards the neck, ears and hairline and make sure no excess builds up in your eyebrows.

For both the face and the body it takes me a few days to build up the colour intensity I want. Don't be afraid to reapply if it's not dark enough, these products are in fact pretty subtle.

Fair skin and fake tan 101 || Melanophilia.com

Step four: remove and repeat
After four or five days, I'll notice the colour rubbing off when drying off after a shower. This is when your tan is going to start looking... not so nice. Next time you shower, it's time to take it all off. For the face, your regular gentle scrub will do. For the body, I found a regular scrub is not strong enough. Use a scrubbing glove/mitt instead, so you can really target those spots where the tan is sticking. You'll want to start with a clean slate if you're going to reapply.

Phew, that was it. If you've made it this far, I applaud you, reader! I tried to incorporate as many tips as possible, but if you still have a question, by all means, feel free to comment. Or tell me your self tanning successes/fails, I'd love to hear those too!
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