Getting sun-kissed skin is big business in Canada. Last year we spent more than $18 million on sunless tanning products, according to ACNielsen. It's no surprise that sales of self-tanners spike in the spring. "In March, many women look at their thighs and think 'I look like a beached whale,'" says Dr. Mary Lupo, New Orleans-based dermatologist with Jergens. With the advent of custom colours, DHA-free products and improved textures, a salon-quality tan is more attainable than ever.
Savvy DIY tanners know the key to a streak-free result is priming the skin. "The legs are especially dry, so it's essential to exfoliate and apply moisturizer," says Marie-Claude Côté, Clarins national training manager. This prevents the self-tanner from sticking to dry patches. So pay special attention to the knees and ankles, and wax or shave your legs at least 48 hours prior to application. Wait until the moisturizer is completely absorbed as self-tanners can cause streaks if applied to damp skin.
Many sunless tanners now offer custom colours to suit every skin tone. And Jergens just released a new moisturizer that also provides a sun-kissed glow. "The Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer is perfect for those with fair skin because the colour builds over a seven-day period," says Lupo. It's a personal preference if you use a cream, spray or gel-but sprays allow for a virtual hands-free application. Apply a sunscreen after your tanner is completely dry. (This is particularly important this summer because scientists warn Canadians could see a five percent jump in UV rays due to ozone depletion.)
Novice users should try a tinted product because it's easy to see where it has already been applied. Always start at the top of the leg and work your way down. If using a spray, hold the can six inches away from the skin so the colour isn't concentrated in one spot. "If using a cream or gel, use two toonie-sized dollops per leg, and never start on the feet," says Côté. "Do one leg at a time and be sure to wash hands and nails to avoid stained palms." Skip between the toes, backs of the ankles and go lightly over the knees. "Remember that less is more," says Côté. "You can always reapply until the desired colour is achieved." Wait 30 minutes to dress and at least three hours before you swim or bathe.
The downside to many self-tanners is that you can smell like a chemistry experiment gone awry. High levels of DHAs, which interact with proteins on the skin's surface to darken skin, are the culprit. Opt for a bronzing product that doesn't contain them, such as Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs. Another downside to DHAs is that they dehydrate the skin. "To combat dryness, choose a sunless tanner that contains moisturizers," says Lupo.
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