Suddenly it’s summer, and one long look at our bods tells us that there’s a wee bit of work to do before the big beach unveiling. Here’s the latest on tanning, toning and hair removal.

Golden girl
“Everybody is doing it and everybody is talking about it,” says Kim Tanner of Aztek Health & Beauty for Canada. “Spray-on tanning is a confidence builder because everyone feels better with a tan.” Spray-on tans last from three to seven days and are water-based, hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. The product takes up to three hours to fully activate, but the tan is immediately noticeable upon application. Some staining does occur on clothes during the initial three-hour period, so save your white pantsuit for the following day. For best results, Tanner says, “Swimming and showering are not recommended for three hours after applying the tan.”

TanMist ( shoots out mist in the colour of your choice. It’s designed to work upside down so that legs and hard-to-reach areas can be totally covered. The application process is adjustable, resulting in the tan colour of choice. Home units include five full-body sprays plus multiple facial sprays and cost $139. Refills are extra. If you want to skip the work, a salon misting costs $25 to $40 for one session.

Self-tanning lotions are another way to stay evenly bronzed. Self-tanners mimic the sun by using ingredients like dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which react with amino acids naturally found on your skin’s surface to produce a golden glow. Because the colour stays on the skin’s surface, it slowly washes away in the shower or swimming pool. (It can also remain on white towels, so beware!)

Works best on smooth skin, so make sure to remove any unwanted body hair and then moisturize. Using a hydrating lotion before using the self-tanner will eliminate those telltale streaks. Double-check that you’ve covered the area completely (many tanners are tinted to help you spot-check) and then wash hands immediately to avoid staining. For best results, try to avoid dressing for a half-hour, letting the product sink in.

Dermalogica Protective Self Tan SPF 15 ($58.50) contains natural earth pigments (iron oxides) that instantly give skin a sunny glow while serving as a visual guide to ensure precise product application, preventing streaking. Bibo Life’s A Beach Pomegranate Sunless Tanner for Face and Body ($25) is oil-free and has a shimmering bronze tint and a light fruit-like fragrance. Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel ($32) is ideal for fair-skinned people as it provides a natural, light colour ($32). Lancôme Sôleil Flash Bronzer ($35) is an excellent choice for darker complexions. Biotherm Sunfitness Express Self-Tanning Gel for Body ($26) and Sunfitness Self-Tanner for Face ($26) have formulas for both fair and dark complexions. Clinique Self-Sun Quick Bronze Tinted Self-Tanner Mousse ($22) can be used on virtually every skin colour.

ELLE Canada’s sunscreen advice and picks on the next page…

Summer lovin’: Avoid these top beauty blunders
Get glowing! 5 ways to get your skin glowing

Screen queen
According to Dr. Sheetal Sapra of the Institute of Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Oakville, Ont., there are short-term and long-term effects of sun exposure. When UVB rays penetrate the skin, you can get a physical reaction, such as a burn. On the other hand, when UVA rays hit your skin, a chemical change occurs that causes premature aging, which becomes noticeable in your mid-30s.

Despite wearing sun protection, you can still tan or burn. “Sun damage is the number one contributor to aging,” says Sapra, who recommends wearing a minimum SPF of 15 every day. Reapply every three hours and after sports and swimming. Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before going outdoors. Of course, the best protection from the sun is to cover up. Long sleeves, hats and sunglasses create an excellent barrier.

Sun protection
“Most sunblocks are really sunscreens,” warns Sapra. “If you truly want to block out the sun, choose products that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. They are thicker and the light reflects off of them.” If you want to avoid all sun, says Sapra, try La Roche-Posay Anthélios S SPF 30 ($20) and Anthélios L SPF 60 ($24).

Dermalogica Waterproof Solar Spray SPF 25 ($47), Dermalogica Solar Defense Booster SPF 30 ($55.50) and Ombrelle Lotion SPF 15 and 30($13 each).

Read more:
Pale is in! Sunscreen tips
Romancing the sun: A healthy relationship
A touch of sun: Good or bad?