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Get a summer glow without damaging your skin

By Jen Wood Cunningham

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In preparation for summer, many people visit a tanning salon or begin using a sunless tanner. But as they become more aware of health concerns related to sun and tanning bed exposure, people are seeking alternatives.

There are many sunless tanning options, but it can be difficult to find the option that is the best for you. We solicited advice from a local tanning expert, Misty McMinn of Glow on the Go, for tips on getting the best, and safest, summer glow.

Q: What is the first thing you should do before using a sunless tanning product?

A: The most important step of the sunless tanning process is to properly prepare your skin. Proper exfoliation is step one. You must be particular in the exfoliant you use because you are removing dead skin cells and clearing your skin of oils and perfumes. Many exfoliants have heavy oils and it will cause the spray tanning solution to bead up and prevent the solution from absorbing properly.

It is very important to moisturize. Your skin can be too dry, and the sunless tanning product could dry your skin out as well, which could cause the skin to flake or crack.

The day before you use a tanning product, you should exfoliate and moisturize. The next day, you should exfoliate and then apply the sunless tanning product.

If you plan to get a manicure or pedicure, you should do it before your spray tanning session because the products used at a nail salon could ruin your sunless tan.

Q: What are the options for obtaining a spray tan?

A: You can seek support and expertise from a technician, visit a salon with spray tanning booths, or use a spray-tanning product at home. A technician provides quality products and support and can answer questions you may have.

Technicians also have products available that allow for touchups or general at-home applications. Technicians tailor the products and application to your skin.

You won't receive one-on-one assistance and tailored formulas with the booth. The booths work best on olive skin tones, but the solution doesn't always get applied evenly.

Q: What should I wear to get a spray tan?

A: What you wear during your spray tan depends on why you're getting it. If you're going to be wearing a bikini on the beach or the stage, you need to take the lines of that bikini into consideration when choosing what to wear during your session. If you're going to be wearing a strapless gown, you won't be able to wear a full bra. Your spray tan technician will be asking you about the lines of your garment to make sure there are no tan lines for your big event.

After your spray tan, you will need to wear loose-fitting clothes only. Preferably no bra and no socks. Sandals would be great. You need to give the formula time to absorb and develop on your skin. Tight fitting and restrictive clothes could rub the spray tan off in places before it has had time to develop. If your vehicle has leather seats and you're wearing shorts, bring a towel to place between your skin and the leather.

Q: Do at-home sunless tanning products work? What are the pros and cons?

A: Some over-the-counter products work, but it is difficult to reach your back without someone at home to assist you. It's also difficult to avoid the "white glove look" because you apply the lotion or product to your body and then wash your hands, as directed.

Spray products, especially those formulated by a technician, are easy to use in the comfort of your own home. For any at-home product, you should do a test spot in an area that isn't normally seen so that you can be sure you won't have an allergic reaction to the product and that it will give you the color you desire.

It also helps to purchase at at-home or over-the-counter product from a retailer that has a money-back return policy. If you have an unwanted reaction to the product, you want to be able to return it.

Also, make sure you know what you're buying. A bronzer, whether it's a powder, spray or lotion, is a temporary product. It will wash off during your next shower or could run if you get caught in the rain.

Q: What do I do after getting a spray tan?

A: You will need to wait a minimum of six hours before you can take a shower or sweat. When you get in the shower, rinse off. You will see color come off, which is only the bronzer. After you have rinsed off completely, you can wash off with just your hands and soap. After your shower, pat dry with the towel, do not rub dry, and moisturize twice a day.

Q: What are some tips to extend a sunless tan?

A: The duration of a spray tan depends on how you treat it. How often you shower, sweat and shave, your exposure to salt water and chlorine, and what soaps and lotions you use all can cause your spray tan to fade faster.

The key to any sunless tan is to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Read the labels of your soaps and lotions and make sure that fragrance, perfume and alcohol are not high up in the list of ingredients as this will harm your spray tan. Moisturize at least twice a day.

Avoid the following because they will affect your spray tan:

Alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, retin-A, alcohol, witch hazel, Band-Aids, pore cleansing strips, depilatory creams, hot tubs, chlorine, saltwater, bug spray, citrus fruits and shaving.

• • •

In addition to the factors McMinn states above, another you may need consider is price. Sunless tanning booth sessions are about $20 each while a spray tan by a technician costs about $30. Technicians also often offer professional products that you can apply at home. Glow on the Go offers an at-home spray for $15. You can spray only the areas you would like to tan or your entire body or use it for touchups. Over-the-counter products range from $9 to $50 and take multiple applications. It's important to find the right option to meet your skin tone and type.

Whether it's a lotion or spray from the drugstore, a spray tan from a booth or technician, get your summer glow a safe and healthy way -- without the harmful rays from the sun. Don't forget that when you show off your sunless tan in the outdoors that you are protecting your skin and hair. Wear a hat and put on sunblock. A swimsuit cover-up helps block the rays when you're not in the water too. The skin is our largest organ and it needs care and protection.

Follow Jen Wood Cunningham on Twitter at @miss_sociable.


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