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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Self-Tanners: The Best Way to Get a Ballroom Glow

For those you following the tanning series here on Ballroom Bitch, you will recall that we have established two things so far:

I’m sure that by now you’re wondering if I’m ever going to get around to telling you how you should tan. I can assure you that I am, and today we’re going to delve into discussing the best way to get your ballroom bronze on (note: I mean tan, not proficiently level). Believe it or not, the general consensus is that self-tanners are the best way to achieve the prefect golden glow on the dance floor. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, with self-tanners you can control the level/deepness of your tan yourself, unlike with spray tan. Second, self-tanners offer a more long-term result, which means there is less fear for a streaky, runny tan that stains everything in sight. That said, something you will want to keep in mind if you plan to use self-tanners is you need to start well in advance of your competition if you plan to be dark enough. In fact, I recommend that some steps become part of your nightly routine.

DHA bronzers are by far your best bet when it comes to self-tanners, and luckily it is the number one ingredient of self-tanners on the market. Let’s get a little science-y for just a minute, so you can understand how DHA works and why it’s the best:

DHA, or Dihydroxyacetone, is a color-less compound of three sugars that creates a chemical reaction when they combine with the amino acids in your skin. This reaction creates a darkening effect on the epidermis, which is what creates the bronzy glow you’re hoping to achieve. Also important to note, while somewhat drying, DHA is perfectly safe for use on the skin and doesn’t create any long-term damage since it only affects the very top layer of cells, which are going to be sloughed off soon anyway. Another cool effect of DHA is that it actually works to protect your skin from UV damage, so it’s a win-win as far as tanners go. (PS: I didn’t have to Google that, I’m just a fucking genius sometimes).

Now something to remember when selecting a self-tanner is that each self-tanner contains different levels of DHA, usually noted as a percentage. Obviously, the higher the percentage, the tanner you get. In my personal experience, it’s usually better for everyone to start off with products labeled as “medium,” as the “light” products often only contain around 2.5-3% DHA, which isn’t enough to make a huge difference except for sometimes looking orangey. Most popular self-tanners top out at around 5% DHA, but if you hunt for the good shit you can find some that contain 10% DHA. Obviously, if you’re really fair you’re going to want to start working up well in advance, using a lower-level DHA product for a while, eventually building up to the higher levels right before your comp. If you’re already fairly tan, you can probably jump right into the good stuff. Something else to keep in mind is DHA is a gradual product, and also one that builds, so give yourself at least a few days to build up a nice dark tan before your comp; if you’re really fair, start with gradual tanners and work up over a couple weeks. I also recommend using a low-level DHA gradual tanner nightly just to keep a base tan; it’s much easier to intensify a base tan than to start from scratch.

To achieve a perfect, even tan with self-tanners you need to take a few steps before you apply. First, take a couple showers with intense exfoliators in the days prior to applying your tanner. You need to get all the dead skin cells off before you apply your tan, otherwise you’ll likely get patchy results and your tan won’t wear off evenly. Also, make sure you do all necessary shaving before you apply your tan; if you shave after, you’re going to shave your tan off. Second, DON’T apply moisturizer or lotion immediately before you apply your tanner! Applying moisturizer dilutes the product, creates unevenness in the skin, and will leave you with an uneven application. Feel free to moisturize in the days prior to applying your tan, and of course load up on that shit after your tanner dries, but do not apply immediately before you apply your tanner. It’s best to use a light moisturizer, let it dry, and then apply your self-tanner. Along these same lines, its best not to use soaps right before you apply your tan, or if you do use soap make sure to wipe your skin down with an acidic toner prior to applying your tanner; you should really do this step anyway to insure you get the most even application possible, because you need to get off any excess lotion/residue that didn’t soak into your skin.

When it comes to the actual application, I highly recommend you buy a tanning mitt to apply yourself tanner, with the exception of gradual tanners, because these really aid in getting a smooth application, not to mention they help you avoid orange hands. Be careful to apply evenly, but don’t worry too much if it looks patchy immediately, because what you’re seeing right away are cosmetic bronzers that will wash off, but make sure you get all your bits and don’t miss any spots. Also, be careful with any dry patches, especially elbows, knees, and knuckles, because these tend to soak up more product and look darker. Remember to tan the tops of your feet and backs of your hands; missing these parts is a rookie mistake, and it makes the fakeness of your tan very apparent. Once you’ve finished, wipe your hands off to avoid orange palms. If you can, try not to get dressed for at least 30 minutes after applying your tan, as this will not only stain your clothes, but can also create patchiness. Finally, don’t shower again for at least an hour, but I recommend not showering until at least the next morning, as this will give your skin plenty of time to absorb the DHA. You’re likely going to need a couple applications before you reach optimal darkness. Once your tanner dries, preferably the next morning, start applying moisturizer regularly, ideally one with low levels of DHA.

For those of you worried about staining, the only reason you would stain sheets or clothes with your self-tanner is if your selected product contains cosmetic bronzer, since the DHA itself is colorless; keep in mind that most self-tanning products do contain these, since people usually want instant results. If you’re worried about staining you can either look for so-called “white bronzers,” or buy DHA power and mix it into your own lotion. Be careful if you choose to mix your own, because getting the portions correct can be tricky! I highly recommend you test your tan a couple times before your competition, because everyone tans differently and you may need more/less DHA or more/less applications.

I’ll wrap up with a few suggestions from some of my favorite dancers as to which self-tanners are particularly good. I’ll get more detailed with the specific products at a later time.
Maybelline Tanners
Jergens Natural Glow - this is great for daily maintenance.

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