Spring is here and with it bare legs and arms. And although we all know we should just accept the skin we’re in and eschew that sun-kissed look, there’s something about pale and pasty that’s just downright bad for the old self-esteem.
Now, that doesn’t mean head up onto the roof with a bottle of baby oil and a roll of aluminum foil—that’s so junior year 1998. Nor does it mean slathering on some potentially carcinogenic self tanning chemicals that turn you orange.
Actually, the active ingredient in most self tanning creams isn’t so bad. Known as DHA, dihydroxyacetone is a sugar that can be derived naturally from beets; it ranks as a moderate hazard on EWG’s Skin Deep Database.
Unfortunately, most conventional self tanning creams are also chock full of synthetic dyes and other chemical ingredients. What’s the worst?
Spray tans, hands down. Not only do you put them on your skin, you also inhale them into your lungs. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a spray tan that doesn’t look like a hot mess. Orange is orange—it’s definitely not tan.
The active ingredient in most self tanning creams isn’t so bad. It’s the other stuff that gets you. Before we get more into tanning, can we talk about the importance of sunscreen? An estimated 80,000 people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year, and effective protection–without dangerous chemicals–is essential for your family.
But if you’ve got to get color fast, self tanning is the only way you’re going to do it. So here’s how to do it safely:
1. Look for natural self tanning creams—not sprays—like Caribbean Solutions Beach Colours and True Natural Colors Self Tanner, both which score a low two on EWG’s scale. And avoid beauty red flags like parabens and synthetic fragrances.
2. Exfoliate, so the color goes on new skin and lasts longer.
3. Test first on skin that you keep—ahem—private, just to make sure you don’t turn orange.
4. Consider diluting the sunless tanning cream with some of your regular moisturizer and building up your tan over a period of days—unless you have a really great cover story about a weekend at the beach.
Then break out the short shorts!