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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Tanning Routine: What I Do and the Products I Use

For the final post in the tanning series, I want to let you in on my personal tanning routine. As I mentioned in my last post, I don’t advocate for UV tanning, as I think DHA self-tanners are a better and safer option, but for those of you interested, I do want to share what I do.

After you do the research and decide you want to take the risk and use a tanning bed, it’s time to start looking for a salon. For me, cleanliness and quality/type of beds are the most important part of selecting a salon. For those of you who are new to UV tanning, look for a salon that you have seen sanitize the beds after each use (don’t just take their word for it). Also, you’re going to want to look for a salon that offers multiple levels of tanning beds, including “high-pressure” beds. Each level has a different distribution of UVA and UVB rays, which tan you in different ways and create slightly different color variances. Usually, the cheaper the bed the higher the UVB concentration; high-pressure beds consist almost entirely of UVA rays and are usually the most expensive.

When you first join (most salons require a membership, and it’s usually significantly cheaper than paying per tan if you plan to go more than once) you need to go ahead and sign up for the membership that provides unlimited access to all beds, including the high-pressure bed. The reason for this is that while you’re building your base tan (and even if you’re already naturally dark you need to do this) UVA rays are going to be the most helpful. UVA rays create a more bronzed looked and are significantly less likely to burn you than UVB rays – that said, some studies suggest that UVA rays are more likely to cause cancer. To build your base, spend your first few visits in the high-pressure bed building up to the full time, or close to the full time, and then start working your way down to the lower level beds.

The reason you want to combine the upper and lower-level beds is that the UVA and UVB rays do different jobs; yes, they both tan you, but they do different things to get you there. As mentioned above, UVA rays bronze you, but they also primarily only work with the melanin that is already in your skin, so you need to increase your body’s melanin production with UVB rays. However, UVB rays are reddening rays (i.e. the rays that burn you) so you need to be careful and go slow. The best way to get a deep tan is to use the lower-level beds and occasionally use a high-pressure bed to amp up the bronze.

Once you’ve built up your base tan, you don’t need to use the high-pressure bed as often, so you can downgrade your membership to something cheaper. That said, do maintain whatever membership level you need to have access to a standup bed, as you’ll need that occasionally to make sure your neck is getting tan – the neck and top of the chest don’t tan as well laying down. After you’ve built your base, meaning that you can go full time in all level beds, start mixing up your routine. My recommendation is tan primarily in one of the two lowest level beds your salon offers – I tend to stick with the second to the lowest, as the base level beds generally suck for a variety of reasons. Mix up your tanning routine by popping into upper-level beds, including high-pressure beds, once a week or so.

My personal routine consists of tanning in the second-lowest level bed 2 times per week, on weeks that I do not have an event. And then the week before an event tan 3-4 times during the week, including going to one higher-level bed that is not high-pressure. Finally, the week before the event or comp, I tan every day, spending two days in my normal low-level bed and then the three days before in the high-pressure bed to bronze everything up.

Keep in mind, that while I spend most of my time in UVB heavy beds, I do not get red. Not getting red is vitally important to having a great-looking tan on the dance floor. Most people, especially those with pink undertones, naturally turn red with UV exposure, even if they do not burn. For this reason, I highly recommend individuals with pink undertones to use other methods of tanning. People with yellow undertones tend to get OK results, but those with olive undertones get the best results. Again, it is important to remember that UV tanning only deepens your natural skin tone (even the bronzing UVA rays), so if you aren’t naturally olive, you will never get that complexion without fake tanners and makeup.

When you first start tanning, while it’s perfectly OK to pick which bed you want to use, you need to follow the salon consultant’s recommendation for how long you stay in the bed. Tanning beds provide significantly more UV exposure than just sitting outside, so you’re a lot more likely to burn. To give you an idea, even fifteen minutes in some lower-level beds can equate to three hours of natural sun exposure. As someone who has never had sunburn in my life, I started tanning at five minutes and added a minute each time I went in until I reached the maximum. You need to follow the salon’s recommendation to prevent burning, and no matter how much you think you know about your skin, the tanning consultant knows more than you about how quickly you’re likely to burn in a tanning bed. Just spend a week or two building up rather than burning yourself and spending two weeks peeling and having to start over. Also, once you’ve built up your base and become a regular tanner, take the consultant’s advice on time when the bulbs are new. When tanning bed bulbs get replaced they are much stronger, so you’re more likely to burn even at your normal tanning time – not to mention new bulbs make it hot as hell, even with the fans and air con.

Finally, in regards to safety, always wear your eyewear! A lot of tanners complain about wearing eyewear, as they don’t want tan lines on their face. However, I really recommend covering your face with a towel in addition to wearing eyewear, as the skin on your face is thinner than elsewhere and more prone to damage; it’s much easier to use makeup to match your face and your body than to try to repair the sun damage caused by not covering your face. However, if you choose not to cover your face, you do still need eyewear, as UV exposure can cause permanent vision loss, cancer on the retina, and cataracts within just a couple of months. The eyewear they sell in the salon is specially designed to limit UV exposure, so just buy them and use them; and no, your sunglasses won’t cut it.

Last, but not least, I really recommend you use lotion in the tanning bed. Yes, they’re expensive, but they do work.  I’ve tanned both with and without lotion, primarily so I could blog about the differences, and I did notice a huge difference. Primarily, I noticed that my skin became super dry when I didn’t use lotion in the bed. Also, I tend to like lotions called bronzers, which include DHA, to help amplify your tan, so there’s even a difference in how long your tan lasts and how dark you get when you stop using those. My favorite lotions are Jwoww One and Done Advanced Black Bronzer by Australian Gold and Black Noir by Designer Skin. For beginners, I really recommend Fig Get Me Not by Swedish Beauty; this one uses natural bronzers rather than DHA, so it won’t leave you looking streaky or orange if you’re not already sporting a good base. I’ve purchased each of these three multiple times and continue to repurchase over and over. Personally, I don’t like intensifier lotions, so I stick with bronzers. Also, you need to purchase true tanning lotions rather than taking your St. Ives or whatever into the bed because not only do these lotions help amp up your tan, but they have more moisturizing properties and vitamins than your typical lotion, and they also don’t have ingredients that break down the acrylic in the bed. In fact, many salons won’t let you use lotions not specifically made for tanning, because many of them contain ingredients that break down the acrylic in the bed. Not to mention, some of those same ingredients prevent optimal tanning. While I know the lotions are expensive, especially in the salon, it’s worth it. While I used to purchase my lotions in the salon, and I think this is a good idea to familiarize yourself what the real lotion looks/feels/smells/etc. like, I now buy my lotions on eBay from one specific seller who actually sells legit shit (email me if you want the seller’s name). It is important to know that your product is authentic, as many online sellers sell counterfeit tanning lotions online that can cause rashes, burning, and other issues.


As I’ve said multiple times, I really recommend you use self-tanners that are safer than UV tanning, but for those of you who kept asking about my personal routine, there you have it. Also, I just want to say that I do know all of the risks associated with using a tanning bed and I made an educated decision after looking at general risks, as well as looking into my own personal genetic risks. If you decide you want to pursue UV tanning, I strongly recommend you do the same.

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