Sun tanning vs. Self-tanning? To avoid getting browned off this summer


Here comes the sun. And with it comes a lot of controversy. Is it really good or bad for you?

Well, when it comes to your skin, it can be extremely harmful. Regardless of damaging your epidermis, causing wrinkles, sun spots and giving skin a leathery appearance, it’s also responsible for skin cancer, (malignant melanoma), a cancer that’s increasing…every year. But you knew all this already, right?

Perhaps that’s why the self-tanning industry is now an $11 billion dollar business in the U.S., which is probably not surprising considering all the anti-sun warnings that are out there. So with that in mind, I decided to focus on self-tanning or sunless tanning. (Just to give you the other side of the coin, the sun is also very good for you. Studies show it helps release vitamin D, gives you extra energy, and most importantly, helps keep you thinking more positive…not to mention getting you up in the morning!).

The thing that really surprises me, however, is just how fussy we’ve become about the quality of tans we demand from our self-tanners. The “tan” is never going to be as “natural-looking” as the sun, and that’s a good thing, because remember, tanning from the sun, means you have to burn your skin first – even if you don’t “burn.” So you will get a color without any burns, blisters, or freckles – though I personally love freckles…especially when they come with a tan!

That said there are a lot of pros and cons about the self-tanning world. The good thing is that you have more options now than ever before. Creams, lotions, spray on tans, tanning towelettes, and even pills can help you take in the sun. The bad news is that you really do have to experiment to find that true natural color that’s right for your skin. In other words, there are definitely a lot of things to consider if you want to get that sun-kissed, beachy-bronze appearance that’s even and not “fake” looking.

First, Smoothing Things Over

Exfoliate! Exfoliate! Exfoliate! This is one of the most important steps to take before you apply your self-tanner. Here are a few recommendations that myself and my experimenters tried out.

Nourishing Buffing Beads

This ultra gentle exfoliating buffing formula is made of a blend of jojoba oils, flax oil (fantastic for your skin, stomach, nerves, you can take it orally too), and botanical nutrients. It not only gently removes surface dead skin cells, it also emulsifies sebum and unclogs pores. Your skin feels smooth rejuvenated, and best of all, not dried out. It’s a great way to wake up your skin in the summer.

Also, I like to use it on thigh and buttock areas – good for cellulite! It’s easy to use, simply lather a washcloth or mesh glove and smooth over your skin. Rinse thoroughly. This formula is soft enough that you can do it every day.

Strawberry Almond Body Polish

I’m not sure whether this was made to be eaten or applied to your body. It smells so delicious. And when you see the ingredients, you might think it’s the latest in smoothies. Pure strawberry puree, whole leaf aloe, and almond meal make this formula nourishing, moisturizing, and hydrating for summer skin.

Just use a small amount with water, and it exfoliates and coats the body, leaving it with a polish that’s silky and smells yummy.

Heard about Healing Garden?

I’ve seen this brand “The Healing Garden” in many places, K-Mart, CVS etc. And I have to say I’m very impressed with the ingredients, the results, and the price! (I’ll have to cover their whole range in the next few months.)

So if you want a good exfoliator, with an all-natural, invigorating smell, try one of these The Healing Garden body scrubs. I tried the orangey, Mandarintherapy, an instant zingy, energizer with a citrusy blend of mandarin, Clementine, and ginseng. It is also loaded with rosehip and vitamin C to help protect your skin. You can also choose from Green Teatheraphy, Lavendertheraphy, White TeaTheraphy or Zzztheraphy.

Keep an eye out for this brand…in fact, go to to see their full range of products. Nice site, very soothing, just like the products.

A golden “pencil” for Dr. Brandt’s Liquid Loofah?

First of all, whoever came up with this name “liquid loofah” deserves to win a Golden Lion at Cannes. But aside from the cool name, and even cooler black container, this exfoliator is very unique. It’s very mild, yet very effective. You only need a small amount, and if you rub it into the body with circular motions, you’ll definitely feel as if you’re using a loofah that gets to those “cottage cheesey” (ooh what a horrible image) cellulitey areas that need circulation and movement to release toxins.

OK. So I’ve covered the exfoliators, for now. On to the next step. The tanners.

Down To The Tanners…

DDF Sun-Free Self Tanner

My “experimenter” who tried this formula, has a light, fair-skinned complexion that has been exposed to the sun over years. As result, she wants to avoid the sun as much as possible since she had a scare with moles. So she was looking for the most “natural” looking self-tanner. She loved the “lightness” of this formula. It was so easy to put on. Unlike some sudsy foams or other thick formulas, she felt this one was smooth and easy to spread on so it was easier to avoid streaking. In addition, she liked the fact there was no “fake” smell – that funny self-tanner smell that usually lasts for days on your skin.

She recommends that you apply a generous, even layered coat and blend it into areas where you want tanned. Be careful applying near hairline, ankles, elbows and toes. And make sure you wash hands immediately after each application. Avoid contact with clothing until the lotion is completely dry – wait at least 45-60 minutes.

You can deepen your tan by reapplying 2-3 hours after first application. And to keep up your tan, reapply every 1-2 days.

Go With The Glow

Avon’s beComing Bronzed and Beautiful

This is the new skincare/suncare line from Avon, which offers new formulas rich in active ingredients like bergamot, olive fruit, orange and mandarin extracts. As a result, the fragrance is much fresher and it contains anti-aging fighters to reduce free radical damage. Plus, the addition of DHA gives your skin that “glowing” quality.

Glow It All Face

Before you use these products, I think it’s important to know that they really do work for those of us who “take” the sun. If you’ve got dark, sallow, Italian skin that takes an even tan, this self-tanner is perfect for you. It adds a rich golden hue to what you’ve already got, and as a result, the color is deeper and darker.

My other “experimenter” found the formula nice and lightweight and non-greasy (it’s oil-free). It also absorbs quickly. Again for those who take the sun, this will definitely give you a natural golden tan. It works well before or after the sun. What I like about these formulas are their ingredients.

Glow It All Body is formulated with a Marine Extract Blend that includes Red Algae from Hawaii to leave your skin feeling hydrated and soft, Red Marine Algae known for visual contouring, and Green Seaweed is good for elasticity.

After you apply, make sure you wash your hands immediately, don’t wait more than 30 seconds! Your hands will appear more orangey than before.

To learn more about Glow It All Face and Glow It all Body, go to or call 1-866-ibecome.

Don’t want to turn brown? Turn to Molton Brown.

Finally, if you’re like me, a total milk bottle white who wears factor 50, dons a big floppy hat on the beach, and secretly admires the “alabaster” Kidman complexions, I don’t even experiment with self tanners. Why? Well, it’s a risk. For me, turning another shade over night is rather dramatic, because 9 out of 10 times it just doesn’t look natural.

So stay pasty white all summer? Not exactly. There are plenty of alternatives – ones that don’t change the color but just the tone of your skin, to give you that little sun-kissed glow. I do my usual skin routine and then apply a tiny bit of Molton Brown Barefaced Tinted Bronzing Gel. I love this!!

It’s this light, easy to apply, and actually improves the hydration of the in by 20%. Plus, I like the look – it’s a healthy glow, very subtle, and contains sunscreens to protect your skin. That’s not all. It’s a blend of oat bio-proteins that improve the flexibility of epidermis, reduces the number of wrinkles, and smoothes the skin. So while I definitely don’t look “tanned” I do have a glow and at least I know it’s natural!(Because it’s fragrance-free and dermatologically tested.)

And with that “barely there” appearance, it doesn’t look as if you have a “self-tanner” tan. Molton Brown products are available at Barneys, Neiman Marcus, and Sephora. (British Airways have been using Molton Brown for years. I like to think of them as the L’Occitane of the UK.)

The Last Word…

So when it comes to the sun, tanning or self-tanning, use your own judgment. You know your skin best. If you like to lie out, do. Just be sure to wear higher factor than usual and don’t go out from 12-2pm, when the UV rays are the most harmful. If you don’t want to be in the sun, don’t be. Get an umbrella, a hat, a t-shirt and just expose those parts you want to. If you wear factor 50 for a few days on your legs, you can go lower and lower. You will get a good color, but you won’t burn.

And if you don’t want the sun at all, go for the self-tanners. As you can see, there are more options available than ever before. Just make sure to try them on a small patch of skin first.

Whatever you do, just be careful this summer. The sun is a wonderful thing, but like most things in life, only in small doses.

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