notes from a former tanorexic as summer approaches

In the spirit of making this blog whatever I want it to be, today I talk tans.

I'm admittedly a former tanning addict.

And by addict, I mean I was seriously bummed if for some reason I couldn't make it to the tanning salon seven days a week. I got an eerie, satisfying bonus high if I got to lay by a pool or on the beach after a tanning bed session.


Told you.

Starting at age 17 and throughout my twenties, tanning equaled beauty to me. And it still does. The warm, buzzing beds offered relaxation and a feeling of accomplishment.

When I was 28, doctors discovered that one of my ovaries was practically - for lack of a better word - rotten, and the other one was being ridiculously stingy with its eggs. Nobody knew why. Call me dramatic, but that was when the tanning stopped. Suddenly, baking my organs in a large, microwave-like device just didn't feel like the greatest idea. I cut tanning cold turkey. I focused every part of me on trying to conceive a baby.

Carter's 18 months old now. For the past two years I lived on the Planet of Pale People (not such a bad place, Carter lives there), and I've just recently started seriously dabbling in self-tanners. I'm loving the boost the color on my skin is giving my confidence. Except the irony? When you miss spots or work too quickly, the funky marks are embarrassing.

I thought I'd share the perfect, fool proof, self-tanner concoction I created.

The first part I found by accident - I selected it off the shelf thinking it was a self-tanner. That night I was floored by how flawlessly it glided on and loved the rich, instant color its tint was giving my skin. The next morning, I showered and noticed the water running off me was super brown. After all that work, I was handed a subpoena back to Planet Pale. I grabbed the bottle, squinted at the label, and man, was I mad. I'd misread its name: L'Oreal Sublime One Day Tinted Gel.

loreal sublime bronze one day tinted gel

After I got over my fit and figured out how to sum up L'Oreal's betrayal in 180 Twitter characters, I realized that even though it wasn't an actual self-tanner, I'd really loved the stuff. My tan had been beautiful, and the pump spout on the bottle made it so simple. I envisioned it being the perfect tan fix right before a summer wedding or barbeque.

Still on a mission for an actual permanent-ish tan, I clunked the bottle back onto the bathroom counter and went to the store to pick out another product. I'm not into floofy, gradual, build-a-tan lotions. I want something with immediate, 4 hour results. I've heard that gels offer the easiest, streak-free tan, so that's what I focused on. I decided on L'Oreal's Sublime Bronze Clear Self-Tanning Spray Gel. After the tan developed, this turned out to be the perfect tanner; the color payoff is incredible. Except that during application, it lacked everything that One Day Tinted Gel had - it was thin, runny, and I couldn't tell where I was putting it because it's as clear as water. I sprayed five pumps of it into my hand at a time and had to carefully balance my cupped palm so it wouldn't drip on the floor. If only it had some color and consistency to it.


And that's when it clicked. The girliest mad-scientist character you can imagine unscrewed, poured, and combined part of the One Day bottle with the Spray Gel bottle. I stared gloatingly into my bathroom mirror.

My combo's been working great. The self-tanner scent seems really faint; it's possible my nose is immune to it because I've been slathering it on twice a week. The other day Matt even told me I looked hot.

Some tips:

♥ You're not going to find a self tanner that doesn't - at some point - smell like a self-tanner on your skin. They all use the same active ingredient. Apply before bedtime and shower in the morning. I try to do it the night before I'm going to wash my sheets.

♥ Work in large, circular motions with your wrists and palms. Be really meticulous.

♥ Your butt is reachable. Therefore it is tannable.

♥ I work a nice facial soap over my palms and between my fingers when I'm done. Be especially conscious of washing the lower part of your thumb, my application method almost always causes buildup there. Then I dollop some tanner onto a cotton ball and work it on the tops of my hands, fingers, in between my knuckles and out towards the tops of my wrists.

♥ Wearing lotion every day is like a tanning insurance policy. It makes the color last longer, look prettier and saves self-tanner money so you don't have to repurchase as often. Although, you'll burn through a big lotion bill. Hmph.

♥ When I was pregnant, every doctor I asked advised against self-tanners. And believe me, I batted some hopeful, desperate eyes at them.

♥ A white face with a tan body makes you look a lot less put together. A little tanner on your face looks great, but it's mostly pointless if you wear foundation. I use Nars Laguna Bronzer to match my face to my body.

♥ Method for hard to reach back application? One persuadable husband.

The Top Baby Blogs icon has a nice tan.
Bet you it gets darker when you vote.
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  1. Love this post! Thanks for the pointers- I already have the bronzer, and yes, I thought it was self-tanner when I bought it too! Haha :)

  2. Love this! I used to b a tanorexic too until I couldn't get pregnant... I bet there is a link. I have never been this pale before in my life.

  3. I just want to say I think pale skin is beautiful and healthy looking, or even skin that is prepped with self-tanner to look slightly olive, but when I see women who are really really tan, they just look really old and wrinkled to me....yuck! I think it's because I can see the damage that real tanning has left on their skin. Your skin looks beautiful pale as well.

  4. Jergens self tanner lotion says that it's buildable over a few days of re-applying but I get color two hours after applying if I buy the shade that's much darker than my color and I never get streaks. It's great!

  5. I thought you swore by Tan Towels - what happened?

  6. Oh, and I also loved going to the tanning bed - it was so warm and I always felt instantly pretty when I got out. I finally quit when I found a wrinkle on my forehead at the tender age of 27 :( Booo

  7. I SO wish someone could design a tanning product that didn't smell so bad! Some day, hopefully!
    Thanks for the tips...I love the beauty tips you give!

  8. LOVE THIS! you're a genius! have you ever done a spray tan?

  9. Ooh, I will have to try both products!

    I love Tan Towels because it literally takes 1-2 minutes to apply. I just wish the color was a little darker. It's also annoying having to order them from HSN to get a decent price. L'oreal makes tanning wipes too - they're a good bit darker but a little more orangey and it's harder to get the tan perfect (sometimes turns out a little streaky)

  10. I live to be tan! I'm supposed to be tan- I'm australian hahaha. But when I can't get my weekly spray tan I swear by 'Le Tan Fast Tan' in 'deep bronze'. It is a deep tinted cream and is nice and thick like chocolate almost.. so you can see where its going. I recommend using latex gloves to avoid washing your hands after every limb. Also wipe your heels, knees, elbows and knuckles with a tissue so they aren't 'dirty looking'.. or you could just apply more carefully than I do. I usually put a second coat on after 30 mins of the first one if I'm going to the beach the next day :)

  11. We live on a wonderful planet orbiting a life giving sun, spring is here go outside get your Vitamin-D enjoy but don't over do it.
    Avoid the airport scanners and Tanning Bed if you are expecting, and or if you are the 1 in 20 with the BRCA DNA repair issue. You may find articles below informative.

  12. Love this post! Thanks for the insight and advise.

    I also LOVE Nars Laguna...not sure about where you live, but the Sephora 's in my area (I live in the Mideast) have told me that the product is being discontinued. I just ordered 3 online from the US....just in case it is true.

  13. Yes brown skin I too was a slave to a tanning bed before fear got the best of me... great pointers.
    Also wanted you to know I am doing the project 31 I know the links now closed but I'm doing it anyway I just used your question I don't have time to think of anymore.
    anyway hope you and Carts are doing well.

  14. @crystal.m. i bet they designed the label like that on purpose to trick us into getting it!

  15. @Anonymous thanks deanna! i've seen beautiful pale skin too. i guess growing up, the girls i was around got me into the tanning mindset, i worked at a sports bar and we all worked really hard on our tans. to me, a tan is great for covering up purple undertones in my face & helps clothes look prettier against my skin. but i agree about the wrinkles & aged skin, which is also half the reason i stopped :)

  16. @Jill i did! good memory! at $25 for a pack of 5, they were getting too expensive. i was really attracted to the easy & flawless application. they do work great, but i've recently discovered that there are things that work just as great for less money. L"oreal came out with their version of the tan towel for $9.

  17. @Jill i loved the feeling i had for the first hour after i got out of the tanning bed, it was like walking into a really clean house hahaha what a comparison :P

  18. @Christy you'd think they would have come up with something less orange, less smelly & safe for pregnancy by now! when they do, i'll be their #1 customer!

  19. @Kaity (As We Grow) yep! i bought a year package of spray tans and had to talk them into letting me cancel it & refund my money because it gave me this horrible, scary sharp pain in my head a few seconds after the mist was released every time i did it

  20. @BethanyBoo i agree! i can't afford tan towels anymore, i want to use them frequently & they don't give enough color payoff. i was excited to find the l'oreal towels too, much more affordable, but i kept missing spots & just decided to give the towelette a rest for a while.

  21. @kriznizzel i'm loving your project 31 so far! i only made it to day 16.

  22. @Anonymous thanks for the nars laguna tip! i just recently started using it so now i'm a little freaked & might have to stock up :)