THERE MAY ONLY BE only a few weeks of summer left; still, nothing’s sadder than Pasty White Legs (PWL). Even if you’re slender and you work out, PWL spell defeat. Something about having a veil of subtle color downstairs, even when your upstairs doesn’t, looks right. Your legs appear slimmer, more toned and sun-lessly healthier. Plus the added color helps obscure a whole world of tragic imperfections, including spider veins, dimples, pimples, cellulite, stretch marks, scars, spots, broken capillaries, lumps, bumps and bruises.
In other words, self-tanning your legs is the modern equivalent of wearing pantyhose. And who wants to wear pantyhose in this stifling weather? Not me. Not you.
Let’s fake bake.
1. Close the mini-blinds and draw the curtains. I failed to do either back when I was a self-tanning virgin, and my neighbors had one of the funniest–for them–visuals of their lives. I had to drop to my hands and knees and crawl backward to the powder room.
I don’t want that for you.
2. In the shower or bath, either shave your legs or exfoliate them. The idea is to slough off the top layer of dead skin cells and have a hairless, smooth canvas. With your hands, a cloth, or the fab new Clarisonic Plus, gently massage your legs, feet and soles, and butt (I’ll explain shortly) with body wash or body scrub. You’ll want to use a scrub if you haven’t exfoliated for a while, particularly if your skin and feet feel rough.
My two scrubby faves this summer are Kiehl’s Gently Exfoliating Body Scrub in Grapefruit ($28) and Anthony Blue Sea Kelp Body Scrub ($28). Both are super-clean and refreshing.
3. After drying off, turn on the water in the sink. Place one dry towel you don’t love across the toilet seat lid and another over your carpet. Self-tanning can stain things other than skin, and you don’t want it to transfer onto good textiles. Sit on the first towel and moisturize the souls of your feet, coming up along the sides and in between your toes. Then do your ankles and kneecaps. Those are the driest places, and self-tanner tends to collect unevenly there. Moisturizing first makes everything blend together nicely. I love CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($14.97) for its richness, Orgo California Essentials Antioxidant Vitamin D3 Body Lotion ($56) for its silkiness and Avon’s Skin So Soft Firm & Restore DD Body Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 15 ($12) for its soothing sun protection. Now stand up. For your butt, I like Bliss FatGirlSlim Skin Firming Cream ($36). Its caffeine helps tighten and reduce the appearance of cellulite. You can use it on thighs, too.
4. Sit back down. Always start low and aim high. With your hands–I’m not a glove person; I need to feel what I’m doing–and it’s okay if you still have a little lotion on them, spread the self-tanner on the tops of your feet, toes and ankles. Then spread it across and onto each calf. Make sure to go all the way around as you would with a regular body lotion, which is, really, what this is. Then do the same with your thighs. Stand up and do your entire butt. The point here is to avoid major lines of demarcation, so that if you rock a bathing suit, say, everything will look uniform, front and back.
The following is the holy trinity of self-tanners. They smell good, work perfectly every time (no streaks or patches) and always give you credible (to wit, non-orange) color. Whichever texture you prefer–lotion, gel, mousse, dry oil–go with a self-tanner close to your natural skin tone, if there is a choice. Some are universal, and others are labeled Fair To Medium or Medium-Dark. Some are gradual, letting you build up color over days, some are virtually instant. All are superb.
5. Immediately wash your hands. That’s why we left on the water, so we wouldn’t get self-tanner all over our palms and the faucet handles. I’m in love with Softsoap’s new Décor Collection ($2.49 each), a trio that looks pretty on the countertop and smells even better on your hands, especially the Wild Basil & Lime. While you’re at it, wash the self-tanner container, too, so it doesn’t tan itself. Dry your hands.
6. Lightly smooth Johnson’s Baby new Pure Cornstarch Powder in Magnolia Petals ($3.44) on the inside of your thighs and behind your knees. The fragrant talc-free powder won’t disturb the developing color and will keep you unsticky when you dress.
7. Rinse off your hands and go do something vertical for 20 to 30 minutes. You want your skin to be perfectly dry before moving on with life, whether it be the rest of your day or your bed.
That’s all there is to it. You should see tanning action within 30 minutes. Your faux tan should last at least four days if you moisturize after every shower. No more PWL!
— Gigi Anders
Gigi Anders regularly writes about beauty for MyLittleBird.