Of course, the sun's a tough act to follow, but when it comes to your wedding, replicating its effects safely is the goal. Whether you'll be sashaying down that aisle in a chilly climate, in the heat of summer, or at a sunny destination venue, there's always an element of DIY to maintaining that beautiful bronze—even if you were spray tanned by an expert a day or two prior. Here, we caught up with top dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman, St. Tropez skin-finishing expert Sophie Evans and celebrity tanning expert Meredith Baraf about how to bestow a glow and keep it going until your honeymoon.
A Self-Tan Doesn't Mean You Can Skip SPF
Engelman advises her patients to to apply their sunscreen before they put on their bathing suits. "That way they don't miss any spots and allow for adequate coverage," she explains. Often we wait until we're settled at the beach or pool before applying sun protection and "since many sunscreens take 20-30 minutes to activate, they are going unprotected during that entire time," Engelman says. Chemical sunscreens are those containing UVB absorbing chemicals and more recently contain UVA absorbers as well, she says.
"These carbon-based compounds—oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone—create a chemical reaction that changes UV rays into heat, then releasing the heat.) take up to 30 minutes to activate so if you are waiting until you are outside to apply it, you risk being unprotected in the sun for up to half an hour." Those small increments of sun damage add up, and can lead to a sunburn.
Opt For A Chemical And Mineral Sunscreen
Engelman points out that studies show that suffering one or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person's chances of developing potentially-deadly melanoma later in life. For her face, Engelman likes layering sunscreens, starting with a chemical sunscreen. Her pick is COVER FX Clear Cover Invisible Sunscreen with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 and topping with a mineral sunscreen like Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart SPF 50, which provides protection from both the sun and pollutants.
"Physical sunscreens block the sun's harmful rays from getting to the skin," she explains. "Additionally, other causes of hyperpigmentation or accelerate damage (like smart phones, infrared, or light from devices) are not blocked by chemical sunscreens— only physical blockers, so this is the best choice for your face." For a bespoke tinted UV protectant, mix your facial sunscreen with a couple drops of Isdin Skin Drops for your desired coverage. ("Clear Cover" invisible sunscreen, $45, COVER FX available at Sephora; "Prevage City Smart" broad spectrum hydrating shield, $68, Elizabeth Arden; "Skin Drops" foundation, $52, Isdinceutics)
Evans recommends sloughing pre self-tan application with a non oil-based scrub. "Oil can leave residue on the skin that can interfere with the self-tan development," she says. She also advises that you exfoliate about eight hours before self-tan application. "A self-tan will work off the PH balance of the skin so exfoliating and washing 8 hours before will allow your PH balance to neutralize giving you perfect skin for maximum development," she explains. So, exfoliating just before applying a self-tan is fine but, if you want the best possible result the day before, eight hours prior is optimal.
Baraf recommends the VersaSpa Cleansing Body Wash (which is sulfate-free) and Exfoliator, a dual-chamber package that contains both products in one. Another tip of Baraf's is to use a regular washcloth to exfoliate, if you're in a pinch or forgot your scrub. (Cleansing body wash and exfoliator, $28, VersaSpa)
Take It Temperate
Your shower, that is. Baraf says that your first rinse post-application should be in warm, not hot water and advises that you soap up only the important spots, and just rinse arms and legs. "If you can wash your hair less often, that also helps so that the shampoo isn't running down your back," she explains. Because you have to wash your face daily, she advises using the VersaSpa Gradual Tanning Face Moisturizer. (Gradual tanning face moisturizer, $35, VersaSpa)
Day-of Eek: Streaks
If you need to fix dark marks or streaks the quickest way is to apply baby oil to the darker area and leave for 10 minutes, Evans says. "This allows the exfoliation to be more effective," she explains. Scrub the skin with an exfoliator, then buff the skin using a hot damp wash cloth. Hair removal cream is also very effective, she says. Apply it with a q-tip onto the darker area and leave it on for half that the time as recommended, then remove. "If you leave the hair removal cream for the full time it can create lighter patches, we want to make the skin match so half the time is recommended," she says.
You can also scrub over the skin with St. Tropez Tan Remover. Leave on the skin for a minute, scrub and then remove with a hot damp wash cloth. If you have missed an area, lightly scrub again and then apply the self tan. (Tan remover, St. Tropez available on Amazon)
Tan In The Shower
For a fully foolproof application, try the Jergens Natural Glow Wet Skin Moisturizer. When blended with water, it glides onto the skin to moisturize and gradually build a natural-looking glow. Plus it won't stain your towel. (Wet skin moisturizer, $8.69, Jergens available at Target)
Pack That Full-Size Spray
Baraf recommends applying your tan with an aerosol to spray at night before you go to bed is important. Gradual will fill in those spots. You can use a regular moisturizer. What happens is because the DHA in the gradual will help maintain the tan. But if you had a professional spray tan before the wedding, you'll probably want one before the honeymoon, as well. That's because your tan will last 5-7 days, as that's how long it takes for the top layer of your skin to slough off. If you're a novice self tanner, the spray is more user friendly, as there's no need to rub it in.
"The trick is to keep the can moving when you apply it," Baraf says. " I lift my finger up off the button before I stop moving the can to ensure even application."
Evans recommends using a mini facial tan applicator mitt to apply self tanner to the backs of the hands. "Smooth the mitt over an area of skin to pick up any excess product and blend down each hand blending in-between the fingers and down the sides for a natural look," Evans notes. Then, she says to take a baby wipe and clean the nails and the palms to prevent staining.
Morning-of: Dry Oil
Baraf says the VersaSpa Luminous Legs Shimmering Oil works well when applied all over the body early in the morning because you don't have to be worried about transfer. "Do it way before you're getting in your dress," she explains. It'll dry before you slip into your gown and no one will be the wiser. ("Luminous Legs" shimmering oil, $40, VersaSpa)
Ace That Face (Tan)
The reality is that reapplying self tanner to your face daily is necessary, that is, if you're a daily face washer. Baraf recommends spraying your face in the morning (or at least, every other morning) and to make sure you have a foundation that coordinates with your tan hue. "You can repurpose your contour colors for when you're tanner by mixing it with your go-to foundation," she explains. This will amp up the shade so that your face will match your body.
Back It Up
The hardest part for any self-tanner is always putting your back into it, in the paraphrased sage words of Ice Cube. Baraf's tip is to do it the way you learned how to spritz perfume: Spray and then hop into it, but do it backwards, moonwalk style. "Make sure you do that a few times so that you can ensure your back is fully covered," she explains.