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Tan Time

Gwyneth's go-to girl on how to get your tan on—no orange hands necessary.

It's safe to say that our (self diagnosed) SAD is in full swing. That is, we are seriously starting to question whether the warmth (and subsequent bronze) of the sun will in fact ever return. Honestly though, with all this Polar Vortex nonsense, can you really blame us? Sure, there's the lack of vitamin D business as a result of scanty sunlight, but what’s really got us down is our once post-vacation-radiant complexions steadily getting paler and paler by the day. Even those blessed with the deepest and darkest of skin tones have to admit that they’re slowly, sadly starting to see the fade. And because not all of us can jet set to tropical islands on a whim, we’re weighing the D.I.Y-faux options for a little winter-blues-pick-me-up. 

Granted there was a time when we forged our parents’ signatures to spend our lunch hour baking in an ultraviolet pod (sorry, Mom!), but now we like to think that we’re a little older and a teeny bit wiser (emphasis on the teeny). Luckily for us, self-tan formulas have improved a heck of a lot. However unluckily for us, an at-home fix is way more likely to result in more of a Oompa Loompa-situation than a sun-kissed Cameron Diaz one. In a preventative measure, we turned to sunless tanning expert Kimara Ahnert (whose Madison Avenue studio attracts the likes of everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep―yes, the Meryl) for all the dos and don’ts of faking it. We rounded up the very best in D.I.Y-tanners and asked Kimara our most pressing questions, and then yes, proceeded to get our tan on. 

What we learned? 

1. Everything in moderation.

2. It’s nice if someone has your back (literally and figuratively). 

3. Always wash your hands. There is nothing worse than being caught red (ahem, orange) handed

  • On the importance of making time for your tan: 

“Have time on your side. Allow for plenty of time to be able to evenly and thoroughly blend self tanner into your skin. Allow for 10 minutes to let the product absorb into your skin and dry on the surface before dressing. (Tip: apply self tanner and then use the 10 minutes of drying to apply your makeup or style your hair.)”

We recommend: St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse, which dried the quickest out of any formula we tried. Swearsies.

On always being prepared: 

  “Prep skin by exfoliating first with a loofah or mild scrub.  Avoid any scrubs that are oily or moisturizing.  This will cause the self tanner to not adhere to the skin.  Use a light body lotion, before self tanner, to any areas of skin that may have rough patches (elbows, heel).  This will prevent the self tanner from grabbing to dry skin and looking patchy or uneven.” 

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads, which exfoliate with Alpha Beta acids while they tan. Double duty!

On matching your face to your body:

“Most self tanners are intended for use on body and face. If you have particularly sensitive skin, choose a self-tanner made primarily for the face. Also, you don't have to use self tanner on the face if you’ve used it on your body. Match your facial skin tone to your body with tinted moisturizers or bronzers.”

We recommend: Kate Somerville 360 Tanning Towelettes, which come with special formulas tailored to both body and face. We know, it’s genius.

On the differences between wipes, gels, mousse and sprays: 

“This comes down to personal preference. People do better with different formulations for different reasons. For example, wipes are quick and easy to apply to legs. Spray tends to work well for areas hard to reach, like your back. Mousse is good for its quick drying benefits but sometimes dries before you have evenly spread to the skin. I prefer the original lotion formulation. I like to be able to evenly feel I am blending the product and the ease of lotion to liberally cover an area.”

We recommend: NARS Body Glow or Laguna Bronzer to fix streaks and smudges.

On what to avoid: 

“Plan your self tanning around the time you will have to let it set for a good 8 hours without having to touch it. For example, horror stories people should try to avoid before six to eight hours of application: going to the gym after you apply self tanner, going for a pedicure after you apply self tanner, wearing panty hose or tight fitting clothing after you apply self tanner, showering or taking a bath, using a body lotion or having a massage.” 

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