Fake That Bake
There may be only a few weeks of summer left, but still, nothing’s sadder than Pasty White Legs (PWL). Even if you’re slender and you work out, PWL spell defeat. Something about having a veil of subtle color downstairs, even when your upstairs doesn’t, looks right. Your legs appear slimmer, more toned and sun-lessly healthier. Plus the added color helps obscure a whole world of tragic imperfections, including spider veins, dimples, pimples, cellulite, stretch marks, scars, spots, broken capillaries, lumps, bumps and bruises.
In other words, self-tanning your legs is the modern equivalent of wearing pantyhose. And who wants to wear pantyhose in this Death Valley-esque weather? Not me. Not you.
Let’s fake bake.
1. Close the mini-blinds and draw the curtains. I failed to do either back when I was a self-tanning virgin, and my neighbors had one of the funniest -- for them -- visuals of their lives. I had to drop to my hands and knees and crawl backward to the powder room. I don’t want that for you.
2. In the shower or bath, either shave your legs or exfoliate them. The idea is to slough off the top layer of dead skin cells and have a hairless, smooth canvas. For shaving, I’m in love with philosophy’s renewed razor sharp for men ($20). A cross between a gel and a cream, it slides beautifully, smells fresh, imparts a cooling sensation, and leaves your skin perfectly hairless and ultra-smooth for days.
3. After drying off, turn on the water in the sink. Place one dry towel you don’t love across the toilet seat lid and another over your carpet. Self-tanning can stain things other than skin, and you don’t want it to transfer onto good textiles. Sit on the first towel and moisturize the souls of your feet, coming up along the sides and in between your toes. Then do your ankles and kneecaps. Those are the driest places, and self-tanner tends to collect unevenly there. Moisturizing first makes everything blend together nicely. Now stand up and moisturize your butt.
4. Sit back down. Always start low and aim high. With your hands -- I’m not a glove person; I need to feel what I’m doing -- and it’s okay if you still have a little lotion on them, spread the self-tanner on the tops of your feet, toes and ankles. Then spread it across and on to each calf. Make sure to go all the way around as you would with a regular body lotion, which is, really, what this is. Then do the same with your thighs. Stand up and do your entire butt. The point here is to avoid major lines of demarcation, so that if you rock a bathing suit, say, everything will look uniform, front and back.
The following is the holy trinity of self-tanners. They smell nice, work perfectly every time (no streaks or patches), and always give you credible (to wit, non-orange) color. Whichever texture you prefer -- lotion, gel, mousse -- go with a self-tanner close to your natural skin tone, if there is a choice. Some are universal, and others are labeled Fair To Medium or Medium-Dark. Some are gradual, letting you build up color over days, some are virtually instant. All are superb.
5. Immediately wash your hands. That’s why we left on the water, so we wouldn’t get self-tanner all over our palms and the faucet handles. Use Neutrogena Rainbath Pear & Green Tea Renewing Shower and Bath Gel ($9.97) as your new and forever hand wash. Yes, it’s awesome for the body, too. But people who wash their hands all day long – like beauty writers – don’t want anything harsh. This gel cleans gently and its delicate scent lingers on your skin. While you’re at it, wash the self- tanner container, too, so it doesn’t tan itself. Dry your hands.
6. Lightly smooth Johnson’s Baby Pure Cornstarch Powder ($4.92) on the inside of your thighs and behind your knees. The talc-free powder won’t disturb the developing color and will keep you unsticky when you dress.
7. Rinse off your hands and go do something vertical for 20 to 30 minutes. You want your skin to be absolutely dry before moving on with life, be it your day or your bed.
That’s all there is to it. You should see tanning action within 30 minutes. Your faux tan should last at least four days if you moisturize after every shower.
No more PWL!