Thanks to Lindsay Lohan, UV-free tanning may be getting a bad rap. The truth is, UV-free tanning is easy, breezy, streak-free and oh-so-bronze, but never, ever, pumpkin-colored.
In the name of summer, I've sprayed, misted and scrubbed my way to bronze skin, all to report back from the beauty trenches about which faux glows really work.
Many experts agree that sunless tanning is safer than traditional tanning, but there are precautions to be taken, especially when spray-tanning in a booth. Many sunless-tanning products call upon dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a chemical that reacts with dead skin cells to darken the skin's appearance. The "tan" won't wash off, but it will fade gradually, usually in about one week. DHA is not approved for inhalation or ingestion, so be sure to close your eyes and hold your breath when spray-tanning.
The phrase "spray tan" is commonly used to describe a treatment available at spas, salon and health clubs involving a sunless-tanning mist administered in a self-serve booth. I've spray-tanned, so I'm a bit of a pro, meaning I can zip in and out of my favorite spot in less than five minutes.
Here's how it works: I step into the private booth, press a little green button and a tanning mist automatically sprays, covering the front of my body from head to toe. After 30 seconds, the machine pauses; I turn around and the same mist begins again, spraying the back of my body. In just 60 seconds, I step out of the booth, buff off any excess self-tanner with a towel, wash my hands and I'm on my way.
An "airbrush tan" is applied by a professional who uses precise equipment to distribute the tanning solution. The DHA solution is often mixed with a bronzer that is immediately visible once sprayed onto the skin.
There's no need to fear UV-free tanning. A streak-free, natural-looking tan is achievable, if you follow these tips.
1. Exfoliate. Be sure to exfoliate from head to toe with a salt or sugar scrub, loofah or even a washcloth before tanning. I do so with the Pomegranate and Cassis Sugar Scrub from EclipseSpa.com.
2. Go bare. Whether you wax or shave, remove that unwanted hair before you get bronzed. Not only does hair removal help exfoliate pre-tanning, but hair removal post-tanning will significantly shorten the life of your tan.
3. Moisturize. Apply a water-based -- not oil-based -- moisturizer, such as Cetaphil, all over your body the morning before you tan. Pay special attention to the driest areas of your body -- knees, elbows and hands.
4. Fix it. If your UV-free tanning application does end up blotchy, which usually only happens in areas that should have been pre-treated by exfoliating and moisturizing, use an AHA or BHA cleanser to even out the skin tone. You can also mix up a DIY combo of lemon juice and sugar at home and scrub the offending spots to remove dead skin cells and even out the color.