I am currently writing this article sitting on top of my bed sheets. My legs are on fire when anything touches them and I’m constantly taking aloe vera baths… simply because I did not follow my own tanning rules! If you know me you know I’m the type of person who values a good tan more than gold. Canadian winters are super unhelpful for keeping up that sun-kissed, glowy look.
If you’ve been following my previous articles you know they’re mostly about online shopping (because that is my number one obsession), but this one’s going to be a little bit different! I’ll recommend some good buys, but mostly I’m going to keep you looking glowy AF with a tan that all your friends will be jealous of post-vacay.
I’m super lucky to be able to travel to Miami during Christmas break most years, so this is when I get my winter tan on. The thing is — unlike the rest of my family — my skin likes to burn instead of tan, why was I cursed with these bad genes?? So unfair. Anyways, I have to follow some important rules to ensure I end up bronzed and beautiful instead of red as a lobster.
RULE NUMBER 1: THE BASE
You probably thought rule number one would be sunscreen but don’t fret — that’s coming up soon. The first thing I like to do to prepare for a good tan is to exfoliate my skin. Exfoliating will clear up any dead skin and make you look super refreshed and smooth.
Getting a tan on non-exfoliated skin really has no point to it because it’s going to fade a lot quicker! Exfoliating also keeps your skin smooth and glowy which is how everyone wants to look and feel on the beach. I also make sure to shave before getting a tan. This is because shaving is a way of exfoliating and also because once you get a tan (or maybe a burn) your skin is super sensitive so it may not respond well to shaving! Bonus benefit— legs will look sexy and smooth on the beach.
My all-time fave exfoliator is the Frank Body OG Coffee Scrub. To keep up with all you vegans out there, Frank Body says that “Unlike your ex, I’m non-toxic. I use natural and naturally derived ingredients that are tested on babes, not bunnies” (they have a sense of humor, so huge points there). Be warned, it’s SUPER messy and will turn your shower into a literal pit of coffee, but it’s so worth it. Caffeine has some super amazing benefits, despite being the reason I am alive for my 9:30 am classes, it’s really good for your skin (who knew??). It contains anti-inflammatory properties that calm your skin down as well as get rid of scars and bumps and cellulite! I know that’s a ton of promises for a body scrub, but I swear it works and I swear this is not #sponsored or an #ad.
RULE NUMBER 2: THE BATHER
For your first day of tanning the bathing suit decision is super important. If you mess this one up you could seriously mess up your entire tan. For example — a few years back I wore a bandeau bathing suit top on my first day of tanning. Don’t get me wrong it looked super cute, but when I tried my triangle style top on the next day, I had the weirdest tan lines. It was horrible and I had an uneven tan on my chest for like, the entire trip.
For your first day of tanning, I would opt to go for a bather with the most basic style (I know, being basic is so out of style right now) and least coverage. This means you’ll be able to get as much of your skin as possible tanned. You can whip out your bandeaus and other weirdly shaped bikinis at the end of your trip when you’re already got your base down. Seriously, guys — awkward tan lines are the WORST.
RULE NUMBER 3: THE SUNSCREEN
I make sure to have tons of sunscreen choices available so I’m ready for whatever UV ray level is thrown my way. I consider myself a tanning expert and I am super excited to share my wisdom with you. Basically, the UV index goes from 1–11+, with 1 being the lowest UV and 11+ being the highest. Unless the UV is 1–2 you should probably be putting on some level sunscreen, you want to protect your skin! I usually will apply SPF 10–15 when the UV is between 3–5, and SPF 30 when the UV is over 5. I’ve been told that anything over SPF 30 doesn’t make any difference so I probably wouldn’t go out and buy SPF 100 thinking that it will fully protect you — because nothing actually can fully protect you from the sun except for just fully hiding out in your condo all year round. I usually will sit in the sun sunscreen free for the first 45 mins in the morning in the sun, and then apply my SPF (what I mentioned above). For my body I’m pretty OK with using any generic sunscreen brand, I love the Coppertone sprays because they cool you off a bit when you apply.
For face sunscreen, I have very different preferences. I usually don’t try to tan my face because I don’t want wrinkles when I’m older, plus I can just put some bronzer on my face, and I’ll be able to match my tanned bod. I use SPF 40 on my face and usually apply it roughly 15 minutes after getting out into the sun. I have super sensitive skin, so I’ve been obsessed with the Supergoop, Skin Soothing Mineral Sunscreen. It soothes my skin, protects my skin, and most importantly, it keeps me breakout free on vaycay!
RULE NUMBER 4: THE SHOWER
Showering is the first thing I do after a day in the sun. Got to get all that grimy sunscreen lotion off my body and face! The shower after the day in the sun is also probably the first place you’ll notice if you’ve burnt — that shit will hurt like hell. Make sure the products you’re using in the shower are suntan friendly!
You want to use a moisturizing body wash on your body to ensure that you aren’t drying out your skin even more (the sun dries your skin up pretty well). An oil-based body wash is perfect because it really allows for the moisture to soak into your skin. I’m currently obsessing over the Glossier Body Hero Daily Body Wash because its super oily and also because it literally smells like heaven. My skin is super sensitive, and I find this body wash keeps my skin smooth and hydrated without causing any rashes!
You also probably want to keep exfoliating, but make sure its light exfoliation because your skin is a bit more sensitive after being in the sun. This Nuxe Reve De Miel Body Scrub is totally amazing because it has honey in it. Honey is so amazing for your skin (Kourtney Kardashian taught me this when she was promoting a product on Instagram — but it’s really true!) because it’s natural and filled with nutrients. This product can usually be found at your local drug store and will work wonders on keeping tanned skin soft, smooth, and moisturized.
RULE NUMBER 5: THE MOISTURIZER/ALOE
One of the most important things to do post tan is to moisturize. When I’m tanning, I like to mix an aloe vera gel with a regular moisturizer because the aloe is super soothing! I know that there are regular moisturizers that have aloe in them, but I find that these leave me less moisturized. When I mix the aloe and moisturizers together it creates a super creamy and moisturizing whip that also has the amazing benefits of some aloe in it! It soothes my skin as well and moisturizes it — just what I need!
The aloe vera gel I use is the classic OG Banana Boat Soothing Aloe After Sun Gel. It’s just straight up aloe and sticks to the basics which is all you need in an aloe vera gel. It feels super cooling on your skin and is perfect for after the sun.
The moisturizer I use is the Palmers Body Moisturizer, I find it to be a much cheaper alternative to the Brazilian Bum Bum Cream and works just as well (and smells just as good). I for some reason bought the DJ Khaled version of this cream (this may be the most random celebrity collaboration I’ve ever seen) and the only difference is the packaging which says “We the Best Glow” on it and “DJ Khaled’s Key to Success” so that was fun. The regular non-DJ Khaled version works just as well though.
RULE NUMBER 6: THE MAINTENANCE
Keeping up a good tan is hard work! One thing to do is DRINK WATER. I’m really sorry, I know how everybody says doing this will fix everything in your life but seriously it works. Drinking water keeps you hydrated which is especially necessary if you’re spending a day in the sun. Getting sunstroke would put a huge damper on your vacation and make a major dent in your tanning time (trust me I’ve been there/done that). Drinking water will also help hydrate your skin which as mentioned before is one of the most important ways to keep your tan lasting.
That’s it for me! I hope you learned a ton about how to tan well and safely! I’ve been perfecting this tanning model for years and have suffered through many burns to get there, but I never gave up and now am so happy I can share the perfect way to tan. That being said — everybody’s different, some people can use no sunscreen and be totally fine and others will burn up and look like a tomato. Learn your skin and understand that sunscreen is super important no matter how badly you want to get a tan.
By: Emmy Goodman