I am Irish. Well, mostly Irish really, but it's the Irish in me that I really look like if you were to see me in person. I'm only a few shades darker than a sheet of paper, I'm so pale! Friends at work joke with me that they're going to transplant some of their melanin into me!
Given my obsession with my upcoming Maui vacation (leaving on the 17th! Yes!), I've been obsessively preparing to make myself not pale, rather I would like to be a like tan that doesn't scare others at the hotel pool! For me, I've always tried to avoid sun damage (well, except for that 1 summer I was tan in college, but truthfully that was mostly sunless tanner), I'm the person at the pool with >45 SPF on. So, I've delved into researching the ultimate sunless tan.
The most important part of any sunless tan is the preparation. Having said that, the most important part of the preparation is exfoliation. I love this L'Oreal Sunless Tanning Scrub. I use this stuff year round, whether I'm tanning or not. It has small, even granules that exfoliate great, and it is not oil based, so there's no film left behind in the shower. My Target no longer carries it, so I've started ordering it 4-5 bottles at a time from Drugstore.com. I will rub my whole body with a washcloth, really concentrating on the driest parts of my body (feet, ankles, lower legs, knees, elbows), but not forgetting any spots. Then I'll use this scrub on my entire body, again concentrating on the driest spots.
Next is of course moisturizing. I apply rich moisturizer over my entire body. Since I have eczema, on days I am sunless tanning I use 2 layers of my favorite Curel lotion, skipping the Neutrogena Bath Oil. I've found that applying the oil on sunless tanning days (even though I tan at night) results in some streaking. This is the same lotion that I apply to my dry areas right before sunless tan application.
Finally, you get to apply the sunless tanning lotion. I've tried a lot of these lotions in the past. Neutrogena was easy to use in the foam and lotion forms, difficult in the spray form. The color I got was just slightly orange. I've just tried St. Tropez Sunless Tanning Lotion. I chose this lotion after reading tons of great reviews on beauty blogs and Makeup Alley. This is not the easiest to apply, but after following the directions from St. Tropez and the incredibly helpful tips at Sunless.com, I think I did a decent job of applying this evenly to my entire body. I never felt "dry," I was still pretty sticky a few hours later. There are a lot of warnings about the tanner coming off on clothing, sheets etc, but I didn't have any problems. The next morning I took a shower to reveal... a very light tan. And, a slightly orange one. I think if I continued for 3 nights in a row for a "base" tan as recommended, I would be more even and darker. For all of the effort that went in to application, the color I ended up was not worthwhile.
I have now decided to return to using my trusted Clarins self tanner. Clarins has always been my go-to in sunless tanning, for good reason. The product is easy to apply, dries quickly and for me has always delivered great color without streaking. Once DHA has been exposed to air, the chemical starts to degrade, so sunless tanning products expire after about 12 months. Which means, I need all new sunless tanning products! Hence, I hightailed it over to Sephora for this great Clarins Self Tanning Starter Kit. The kit includes a 4.4 oz Self Tanning Instant Gel, 1.7 oz Radiance-Plus Self Tanning Cream-Gel, and a 0.69 oz One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser. The cleanser is meant to be used only on the face, primarily in the T-Zone area. The Gel is for the body, and the Radiance-Plus Cream is for the face. I haven't tried the scrub yet, but the other 2 are fantastic! Realistic color, streak free and quick drying.
After all of my sunless tanning experience lately, I'm ready to face the crowd at the pool in my new bikini, but I'll still be under a layer of high SPF!
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Clarins Self Tanning Starter Kit at Sephora