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Tanning 101

Written By: Brigitte on May 19, 2012 4 Comments

Did you know that until about the 1920’s, the upper classes considered a tanned appearance to be an entirely undesirable effect from being outdoors, only suited to farmers and workers?

As sports and the popularity of outdoor life rose, though, so did the sun-kissed look. It became the craze it is today thanks to the growth of mass-tourism in the 1950’s and 60’s. In other words, for the longest time, wearing a tan showed that you were at the bottom of the social ladder, while later it showed that you could afford sports and travel. Yup, what you thought was only a variation of skin tone has actually always been a status symbol!

Of course, the idea of having a warm, golden glow to the skin is very appealing as soon as the temperature hits 80. Our instinct is to shed winter’s dark rigid clothes, lightly wrap our bodies in flowing sorbet colored materials and show off arms, legs and new bold pedicures in sexy sandals. But it’s hard to reveal much skin if your complexion feels pasty and sallow. So, what are the options to make an instant tan impression?

This includes wipes, creams, gels and lotions that are supposed to make you look as tanned as if you had been on the beach for days.

My comment: dear friend, allow me to give an honest reality check – it’s really not working! I have seen or tested just about every self-tanning product out there and let me break it to you gently, they look awful. I have to this day never seen a natural looking self-tanning application. It is ALWAYS too yellow, orange or dirty looking. Hideous! Don’t ever ask me what I think of your self-tanning job – I would be too polite to hurt your feelings, but know that beneath my smile I am biting my tongue so hard it’s bleeding.

Spray Tan
Ok, this method relies entirely on the talent of the person who handles the spray gun. She/he has to select the right formula as well as the shade. Getting the perfect color is key. It has to look super natural and match the skin tone. When it’s not right it has an orange-y Ooompa Loompa effect – when it’s right it looks natural and great for 24-48 hours then it starts having a “dirty” appearance. The best work I’ve noticed so far is done by Jimmy Coco in Los Angeles and Euphoria Spa in New York.

Tanning Bed
This is straight talk: I don’t care how pale you or your kids look – a tanning booth is not to be over-used! The truth is, they’re just not good for you. However, if you have a wedding or a big once-in-a-blue-moon function and you just want a bit of glow, one or two well-calibrated sessions are not going to kill you. You will look naturally golden and not have to worry that it’s going to come off by accident. But you can only do this on a rare occasion. If you are super-social, you might have to consider other options.

Body Makeup
Well duh, of course this is the absolutely harmless method that will give you quite a bit of control. It can look absolutely perfect and I very often use this on my celebrity clients. Because of the wide variety of good shades available, my favorite brand for body makeup is Makeup Forever applied with a large, moist natural sponge. To give it extra staying power I finish the body off with a fixing spray that will make the color stay put.

Tanning for the Face
Well, my clients are very smart and they don’t mind tanning the body in one way or another but they keep the face out of harms way. So, I just match the face with my beautiful Armani Luminous Silk shades because they have a light, magical quality. However if there’s too much discrepancy I will resort to a technique I call “Framing the Face” that requires a good eye, a light hand, sheer foundation and a moist sponge (Beauty Blender).

photograph: Robert Erdmann    makeup: Brigitte Reiss-Andersen

Lightly apply your normal foundation or tinted moisturizer. Layer with a shade of foundation that can be quite a bit darker but start at the outer edge of the face: forehead, cheeks and chin and delicately work your way in. Leave the under eye area and the upper lip alone. And then blend, blend, blend until the effect is sheer and seamless. Of course this is best done in daylight, where you can gauge how realistic it will look. Add a touch of warm, reddish cream blush to mimic slight sunburn on the top of the forehead and cheeks and bridge of the nose. Add a little on the cheekbone and the bridge of the nose for a touch of sexy light reflection. I powder with a uncolored powder and delicately brush some bronzer onto the face for some extra blending. Voilà! Welcome to the Bahamas.

In the end we have to ask ourselves how we want to deal with the desire to look tan all while being aware of all the skin cancer alerts out there. However, a tan conveys “sexy” and many women thinks that it’s the only way to go. Well, too much tan and you will look like the star of a really tacky reality show or a very scary person featured in the news for dragging her kids to the tanning booth. Between these two infamous examples, social media is rife with sarcasm about their skin color. And it is obvious that wearing any amount of makeup can be tricky when your skin looks like a shade of cherry wood. The alternative is to look chic, rather than sexy. I love when a pale person embraces her natural self, like Michelle Dockery or Cate Blanchett, because it opens the face to a variety of makeup styles. In the end, the “less is more” look wins any day.

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4 Responses to “Tanning 101”

  1. Abby Fazio on: 4 June 2012 at 8:43 am

    Good article..enjoyed reading it. Many people come on to pharmacy with sunburns and I can’t believe they are burning their skins after all the media explains the truth. We have so many companies that have excellent products to make yourself look like you were sun kissed. My favorite are the pills by Oenibiol — you take these right before a trip and produce a tan. Perfect for the bride who wants a little bronze!!

  2. Evie on: 4 June 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Hi Brigitte, I thought this one of the best features on tanning that I’ve read and I loved the look you’ve done on the model.

    I’ve never been tempted to try fake tan, and now I feel vindicated. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your tips on how to achieve the perfect summer glow. Blending two foundations does sound a little tricky, though, and probably takes some practice to get right.

    Do you have any favourite products/colours that you use to set off that sunkissed Bahamas look?

  3. Brigitte on: 4 June 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Hi Evie,
    You make my day! Thank you for your kind words. I do like the Armani skin colour products including their tinted moisturizer as well as Guerlain’s Terracotta line. However, I will also share a new favorite product with you. It’s a gel based sheer tan colored liquid that may look like it’s for the darkest skin out there but in fact it’s so sheer that it works really well: Dr Hauschka Tönungs fluid. I find it here in the US at Whole Foods since it’s a natural product. Good luck, Bahama mama!

  4. Brigitte on: 4 June 2012 at 9:54 pm

    I agree, crazy to let yourself burn in this day and age. I know you have great products in your store. I’m a client. And I know the Oenibiol pills. The have sold those in France for years. As for burn victims, I recommend Calendula ointment.

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