Self Tan Tips For Black And Brown Skin – How To Get A Natural Look
When the topic of self-tanner is brought up in black and brown spaces, you’ll probably hear something like, “I’m already brown, why would I need to tan?” I was often the one with this answer until I tried a Dr. Dennis Gross Glow Pad on a whim. For the next two days, people gave me incessant compliments, and the skin care benefits that I had intentionally missed became all too obvious.
“I’ve always felt a bit unwelcome by tan brands and in tanning areas because they don’t do enough to diversify their content,” says Alicia Lartey, UK-based esthetician and content creator who advocates tanning on darker skin. “It’s a shame because there is a big market for black women using tan spray. [products]. The main benefit for me is that ethereal, sunny glow. The added benefit of tanning is that you can use a self-tanner to hide the hyperpigmentation.
While still dreaming about the results of my first dance with the self-tanner, I decided to walk the nine yards and try a professional spray tan. At the St. Tropez counter in Northstrom’s NYC Beauty Haven, my technician Abigail immediately made me feel welcome as she spoke to me every step of the way with a familiar Jamaican accent. She started by prepping my skin with a full body exfoliation that included probiotic yogurt mousse and warm polishing gloves. I admit, the level of privacy of this service is neck and neck with a Brazilian wax; However, skillful tech like Abigail can make you forget about the cold tan solution and the relative stranger spraying it against your fully naked body.
Between her wealth of knowledge and the experts who helped me prepare, I came away with the keys to a foolproof tan on darker skin every time.
Don’t go straight for the darkest color
“So many people think that if you have a darker skin tone you should go for the darker formula, but it all depends on what color you ultimately want,” says Sophie Evans, tanning expert at St. Tropez. “Do you want to look like you’ve had a weekend or two weeks vacation?” Understanding the desired end result is crucial to achieving the best finish and requires a conversation between you and your technician. While Sophie suggests using the vacation analogy to discuss what type of tan you want, you can also point out issues like tan lines or ash. Abigail and I opted for the Express Tan formula, which she applied in two passes to achieve a “subtle shine” finish.
You might need to customize
Every spray tan solution is a little different, so while finding a seasoned professional is the first initial step, you may need to try a different product or method if your first experience isn’t perfect. Sunless tanning products contain a sugar called DHA which reacts with the proteins in dead skin cells and darkens them, creating a tanned appearance. The length of time you leave the solution on your skin determines the end result and offers the flexibility to play with customization and color.
“My ‘gradual’ tan may look different from your gradual tan,” Evans tells me. Patch testing can also be helpful in making sure the color is developing properly. I left my tan on for four hours before rinsing off in a lukewarm (not hot!) Shower. Although the bronze seemed to fade completely, over the next day the natural shine that I initially loved came back in full force.
Watch out for hyperpigmentation
Because tan sprays work with the skin’s natural melanin, visible dark spots can become darker (temporarily). Experts suggest reporting specific problem areas to your technician, who can then apply a barrier cream to areas that will prevent the development of DHA. This trick is commonly used on the nipples, face, and hands, which often get darker than other areas of the body. “Occasionally [darker areas] get darker and sometimes the spray tanning solution will make them look more even, ”says Falen Whipplemore, CEO and Founder of Valet Tans. “You really don’t know until you try it. You can always take it off if you don’t like it! A simple scrub of lemon juice, water, and salt can help remove those unwanted dark spots.
Come to your appointment prepared
Showering and exfoliation 24 hours before your appointment removes dead skin buildup and ensures a longer lasting tan. Avoid wearing lotion or other body products on the day of the appointment so that DHA can bind and develop properly. And be sure to wear dark, loose clothing to prevent color transfer afterwards. For a tan at home, Alicia recommends showering, exfoliating and shaving before application.
Don’t skimp on follow-up
Extend the duration of your tan by moisturizing regularly and avoiding long hot showers. Evans cautions that the oils will degrade your color and should only be used if you are looking to remove an old tan. It’s important to remember that everyone loses color from their hands and face faster because we wash these areas more frequently. You can touch up your tan with a mist or self-tanning mousse to maintain the even shine, but you should see full results last for more than 10 days.
Darker skin is harder to go wrong
You will be relieved to know that unlike many cosmetic services, spray tans are among the least risky for darker skin tones. The sugar in spray tans is derived from vegetables like carrots and beets (which explain the dreaded orange hue often associated with a spray tan gone bad). “With darker skin it’s actually harder to make mistakes because you have a base color,” says Whipplemore. While it’s always possible to end up with a red-yellow tint, it’s much less likely.
As the summer wears on, the feeling that I’ve just returned from an island vacation brings me a sense of calm, and that effortless sunny appearance becomes harder and harder to achieve as the year progresses. That, coupled with the spa-level attention, makes spray tanning the kind of service I’m officially adding to my must-have monthly beauty services.
If you’d rather stick with the more affordable at-home self-tanning session, check out five expert-approved tanners below.
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Whipplemore recommends this self-tanner for a full body tan at home or as a touch-up between your professional services. The quick-drying formula can be rinsed off 2-4 hours after application for best results.
Evans recommends this clear, leave-in mist for touching up face and hands over a days-old spray tan. While the color payoff is less intense than a conventional spray or self-tanner, it’s portable and easy to apply, making it perfect for an extra boost of color when needed.
Dr Dennis Gross is known for his daily peel pads that transform the skin into a tanned glow. Glow Pads are similar with an easy one-step application process and color that develops over several hours for a touch of natural color that is perfect for novice or on-the-go tanners.
Unlike most tanning products, the Pure collection does not include tanning ingredients that must be washed off. Alicia swears by the transparent and easy application, ideal for those who fear the transfer of color to clothes or bed linen.
These drops instantly transform any skin care or makeup product into a self-tanner. Available in three different shades, users can create highly customizable results, making it perfect for a more seasoned tanner looking to create a natural looking bronze to build.