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To Tan or Not To(o) Tan?

July 28, 2011

Posted by Rachel & Christine

All 3 of us were born with pretty fair skin. Even with the Italian side of our family, I don’t think you could classify any of us with ‘olive’ type skin. Nope. We’re blue-eyed, light-haired, pale skinned ladies. Here we are on the ‘redder’ side in Aruba in 2008 with Mom:

I wish I had beautiful pale skin…you know, the kind where you aren’t supposed to sit in the sun ever because your creamy, milky skin might just combust and wouldn’t that be akin to the apocalypse? Instead, I have the kind where I just look like I’m straight out of a scene from True Blood; and not in a hot actress kind of way, but in a baggy-eyed, undead sort of way.

In just 3 days, we’ll be jetting off to our annual Aruban getaway (cue the celebratory kazoos!).

In prep for the trip, I had a serious internal debate about the controversial topic of tanning. I do not want to arrive on the island sporting the ‘executive tan’; pasty and white from being indoors all summer and running the risk of extreme sunburn – for both aesthetic reasons and safety reasons.

To me, it does not seem safe to enter the Caribbean sun with nary even a sun-kissed glow. It is inevitable that I will be in the sun, so starting with no base whatsoever is not appealing as I do not want to spend the first few days of the trip cooked like a lobster and miserable (no matter how much sunscreen I apply).

Of course the whole concept of tanning is SO dangerous in general, be it on the beach in direct sunlight or in a tanning booth. My grandfather actually died at a very young age due to melanoma, so sun protection is no joke in my family. You can find each of us lathered in sunscreen, donning hats and mostly sitting in the shade. But being in the beautiful blue water is not something I’m going to pass up on and therefore a minimal tan is necessary at the very least!

The way I saw it, I had 3 options.

Lay out in the sun
To me, this would be the best option. I could still sport sunscreen while working on a nice healthy glow. Unfortunately, all of my summer weekdays are spent sitting behind a desk for 9 hours. Not ideal.

Go to a tanning salon
I considered doing this 2 weeks ago. Though it is not something I would ever do on a regular basis (orange like Snooki? No thanks), I see nothing wrong with going for 5 or 6 sessions to simply get a base in preparation for the Caribbean sun.

Use self-tanners
I have never used these, but Christine has and she has lots of information to share with you!


Self tanning can be a little intimidating, especially if you are new it. Luckily, there are plenty of options, many you can order online or find at your local drugstore.

I would say that the most popular option would be the gradual tanners, such as Jergens Natural Glow.
This is basically a lotion that you apply every day and after a few days your skin will begin to darken.It is an extremely safe way to go because you really can’t mess it up and it won’t turn you orange.

Say you just need a tan for the evening. Products like Charlotte Island by Lush Cosmetics is a great option because it is a brown lotion with subtle shimmer in it. All you have to do is apply it wherever you need for the night and it’ll wash off in the shower. I love this for when I have to wear a dress in the winter and want my legs to have a killer glow to them.

The last option is go full-out self tanner like with St. Tropez self tanning mouse. This can be a bit frightening but I have a few tips and if you follow them you’ll be sure the be a bronze goddess in no time.

1. Exfoliate!! This is so so important to do before you apply the tanner. This will remove the layer of dead skin cells and help the tanner glide on easier and not collect on all of the dry patches of skin (so gross I know). **Be sure to go over your elbows, knees, and ankles so it doesn’t get all splotchy.

2.Go Slow. Seriously, take your time! Make sure to really massage in the lotion and get every single spot.

3. Work from the feet up. The last thing you need is the lotion to gather in spots as you bend over to get your legs.

4. Stay naked. Keep your clothes off for at least 15 minutes while it sinks into the skin and dries. Also, wear old clothing to bed and shower the next morning. You don’t want all that hard work to go to waste and wash it all off.

So there you have it, I hope you find the self-tanner for you. Also, don’t be scared to try new things, it’s only lotion and it’ll fade in a day if you don’t end up liking it. Now, I’ll send you guys back to Rachel.

The verdict?
I dropped the ball on the tanning salon. I think it was mostly subconsciousness telling me not to do it because it’s just unhealthy and kinda weirds me out. Luckily, I spent last weekend down the shore with Shaun and his family, so I spent one day on the beach and one day at our friend’s house on the bay sitting in a kiddie pool and drinking adult beverages. (side note: it was heavenly). I believe that even slathered in sunscreen, I have created a lightly tanned base which I think should be enough to get me through Aruba without lobsterifying. Once my freckles start to show, I know I have at least a little tan, and that is enough for me!

So what are your thoughts on tanning? Do you sit in the sun? Do you condone the controversial tanning booth? Or are you an SPF 75/floppy hat-wearing, shade-sitting beach beauty?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 28, 2011 12:37 pm

    I used to tan religiously, whether it be in a tanning booth or laying out in my parents backyard. Since I’ve grown older (and wiser), I’ve stopped those not so good for you habits! Now I brave the sun with my spf 45 (frequently applied) with my pasty skin! I rarely burn, unless of course I miss a spot!

  2. Kelzie permalink
    July 28, 2011 12:50 pm

    I think im quite lucky when i go abroad,im naturally oilved skinned so i tan incredibly easy. I guess i have my cypriot side of the family to thank for that! I still do exfoliate everyday for two weeks before i leave,is it just me or does everyone else compare their tan lines? 😀

  3. July 28, 2011 12:58 pm

    I’m most definitely a hat-wearing, high-SPF-slathering, shade-sitting beacher. I used to always be tan as a little girl, but after I had cancer (lymphoma), the doctors told me I had a much higher chance of getting skin cancer from sun exposure. Now I hardly go anywhere without slathering the ‘screen on my exposed skin. I am NOT. fond of the idea of having cancer twice in my life. It’s not worth it. At all. I’m not sure if I have “pretty” pale skin or “vampire” skin like you mentioned, but either way- it’s not worth risking my life.

  4. Katie permalink
    July 28, 2011 1:28 pm

    As one of your fellow pasty comrades, I’ve given up on ever being a bronzed goddess. I’m a vigilante for sunscreen and rely on self-tanners or gradual real sun exposure pre-vacay. Having had multiple moles removed (non-cancerous thankfully) I skip tanning beds entirely because it’s just not worth the risk…not even before my wedding! I’m glad to hear you skipped them too. Our skin will thank us when we’re 40!

  5. July 28, 2011 2:19 pm

    have you ever come across fake bake? its the most natural fake tan i have ever used, and i haver had some serious disasters!

  6. July 29, 2011 12:45 pm

    oh i know that feeling im not pale enough to be interesting 🙂

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