Winter is nearly here. You’ve said goodbye to the sun, mojito drink specials, 90-degree days at the lake and, lastly, your tan. It’s not that milky complexions aren’t stunning — Nicole Kidman, Jack White and the vampires from Twilight seem to be doing just fine. But if you happen to be one of those people who feel more confident with just a slight (or obvious) tint of color, the options are as bright as a sunny day.
A visit to the tanning spa offers a warm break from the arctic tundra that is Division Street in January — especially for those who darken easily. Others cringe at the thought of lying down in a glowing casket.
“The public still views tan skin as desirable, so we are trying to change that viewpoint and relay that tan skin is still damaged skin,” says Mara Geffken, physician’s assistant at Northwest Dermatology. Geffken cites a recent study, which indicated a 75 percent increase in melanoma for women who consistently tan before the age 35. “We are seeing more and more cases of skin cancer and melanoma in females from ages 15 to 29.”
Noted. No one wants football skin. But what about UV rays in moderation? The body does need about 1,000 IUs (International Units) of vitamin D a day to support healthy bone growth.
“Fifteen minutes a day in the sun, maximum, is all dermatologists recommend, and they prefer you to take vitamin D supplements as opposed to going out,” says Callie Gross, registered medical assistant at Spokane Dermatology Clinic.
Jennifer Miller, owner of De Soleil Tanning Salon, disagrees, starting with the math.
“About 5 percent of the light energy we receive from the sun is ultraviolet light. Of that small percentage, approximately 95 percent is UVA and 5 percent is UVB, although atmospheric and geographic variables change that ratio every time we step outside,” she says.
For those of us who are uncertain of the difference between the two, UVA waves (long-wave solar rays) are less likely to cause sunburn but are deeper penetrating and more likely to cause photoaging. UVB waves (short-wave solar rays) are considered a major contributor in the risk of developing melanoma.
Miller asserts tanning for brief periods of time in a controlled environment energizes the individual and activates one’s vitamin D production, which in turn strengthens the immune system. “The rays are also leveled differently,” she says. “Five to 20 minutes in a bed will give you that same amount of color, but without burning you.”
Still on the fence? Not to worry. Tan enhancement has come a long way since baby oil and tinfoil.
Consider a spray tan. Don’t judge the process just because Kim Kardashian gets them every day and looks like she was dipped in a bucket of syrup. It’s actually quite natural looking and won’t give you melanoma.
“Spray booths can spray out so much solution that you tend to drip and can be very orange-based,” says Miller. “But with airbrush tanning you get a perfect, flawless tan, at any level you want.”
Something to note, if you aren’t willing to risk looking like a pumpkin.
The gun Miller uses looks like something an alien from an old sci-fi flick would use to stun a space cadet. But don’t be fooled. It’s more like a magic wand.
“With air brushing I’m able to customize,” says Miller. “There’s a solution and level that needs to be used for each individual.”
Abdominal definition and tan-line concealment are common requests as well. “I can even make your boobs look bigger,” says Miller.
Proper protocol entails exfoliating beforehand, coming in with a clean, lotion-free body, and getting (gasp!) naked. Miller says people dress down to their comfort level, but about 85 percent of her clients take it all off — and we’re not just talking about 20-year-olds, here. Ages range from young folk to people in their 80s.
The application takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes and lasts about a week or longer, especially if you moisturize. It’s best to get sprayed towards the evening, go home, sleep on it, wake up in the morning, and shower. When you re-emerge from the bathroom, you’ll look like Miss Tropicana. The top coat can rub off before the initial shower, but it’s completely washable.
“Most solutions are all-natural, consisting of brown sugar, amino acids and vitamins,” says Deena Treperenas, owner of SunnyBuns Tanning Salon and Day Spa. “You can even lick it. It’s great!”
While the solution isn’t harmful, a very small percentage of sprays do contain walnut extract, so if you’re allergic to nuts, best keep your mouth closed.
And what of the smell?
“It smells like soy sauce,” says Treperenas. “But definitely not to the point where people go, ‘Dude, you stink.’”
For killing two birds with one stone, tanning lotions are also a practical and inexpensive way to darken UV-free and moisturize at the same time.The only problem? Knowing which brand to pick and how to use it. Be conscious not to over-apply in areas like the elbows, knees and armpits, or you could end up with splotchy, orange patches, like a giraffe.
Repeatedly recognized by beauty magazines Allure and Glamour, the Self Tanning Instant Gel ($32) from Clarins is top of the line.
“It’s definitely a best seller,” says Lori Vega, counter manager for Shiseido at Nordstrom. “It has a wonderful texture.”
Other products frequently ranked as effective and popular include Neutrogena Micro-Mist Sunless Tanning Spray, L’Oreal Sublime Bronze, Jergen’s Natural Glow Revitalizing Daily Moisturizer and Dove Energy Glow Moisturizer, all priced from around $8 to $10.
Granted, varying skin types and complexions will work better with different lotions. Testing out a few brands couldn’t hurt.
Something you might want to skip experimentation with? Tanning pills. Side effects can include nausea, orange skin and crystals in your eyes. Better to evade the risks than to end up with a tangerine face and having to wear a paper bag over your head to work.