To tan or not to tan
August 12, 2014 1:08 PM   Subscribe

My attempts to stay out of the sun and covered with SPF 50 have not worked. I am getting married in a strapless gown in 3.5 weeks, and I've got a farmer's tan. I also bruise easily and turn a multitude of colors when I am emotional (as I expect to be at the wedding). Help!

I've got three issues, and I'm looking for a way to solve them all. I'm getting hitched and am looking for ways to make my skin less technocolor on my wedding day.

1. I'd hoped that I would be able to become an Indoor Girl this summer and avoid the tan lines, but it's just been so beautiful outside. Therefore, I've got a slight-but-noticeable farmer's tan as well as tanlines on my chest.

2. I also bruise quite easily, and the bruises will last for weeks. I will be moving the week before the wedding: carrying lots of boxes, getting lots of bruises. This is unavoidable.

3. And I turn bright red, pink, light purple, shock white, somewhat greenish and sallow when I am emotional. This particularly happens on my chest. I expect that, on the day of the wedding, I have the capacity to look positively psychedelic. are the options I've come up with. Any advice? Help?

Spray Tanning

My sister took me to a spray-tanner a few months ago. It was some sort of all-natural tan made out of beet juice, I think. I paid the extra $5 for an "accelerator" so that I could move around like a normal human being "only" six hours after the spray. All was well, but I could not wear light colored clothes for 24 hours. A few days later I went hiking and the color was coming off on my sports bra and legs. My sister said, "You're not supposed to sweat while you've got a spray tan!". Since I'll be moving right up until the day of the wedding, I don't want to get a spray tan just to have it fade/run because I can't sit on a chair and watch my fiance move stuff around me. It looked pretty funky as it came off - particularly on my chest. I also don't want to get it done too close to the wedding because I don't want it to come off on my dress. Are all spray tans like this? Do they require you to not get sweaty, and to not wear light clothes on the first day? I'm not keen on trying another spray tan, because I'd want to do a trial run and it's getting pretty close to the Big Day.


I went to a tanning booth once, back in the 90's. I have never laid out to tan. Would it be the worst thing in the world if I tanned just this once for the wedding? I do not have a history of skin cancer in my family, but I'm no fool. I wear SPF 15 every day and more if I'm going hiking. Ordinarily I wouldn't even think of going tanning. But it seems like it would help to solve my skin color issues. Would going just once (or however many times to get a nice "base tan") do irreparable damage? What should I look for in a tanning salon?


Is there a kind of makeup/self tanner that you know of that would help? I'm completely at a loss here and am quite nervous about using something that makes me look weird or will rub off on the dress.

I will have a hand-knit stole, so there's no way I'm going to wear a bolero or anything over the dress itself. I am certain that the photographer can do some fancy photoshop to make my tan lines/flushed chest/arm bruises from moving disappear in pictures, but I'd like to look more even in person, as well.

posted by Elly Vortex to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Would it be the worst thing in the world if I tanned just this once for the wedding?

No, no it would not.

I say this as a very fair skinned pasty person who basically just rolls over and dies when confronted with sunlight, who uses sunscreen, who hides from the sun, and basically just hisses and recoils into the cool, dark reaches of her house from June to September every year.

Makeup, even high quality everything-proof makeup, can melt or sweat or rub off and make a smudgy mess.

Spray tans, same thing.

As loathe as I would be to ever suggest actual tanning for anyone, it really makes the most sense for your situation, and one 3.5 week stretch with some intermittent "responsible" tanning is not going to irreparably damage you. And it seems like it would do wonders for your anxiety about this one issue, so have at it.
posted by phunniemee at 1:20 PM on August 12, 2014 [11 favorites]

I have a very similar problem with bruises and turning colors. To prevent bruising, I find that taking an iron supplement is super helpful.

Dermablend is made for covering up serious skin issues, and can be used all over the body.

For the color-changing, the only thing that works for me to prevent it is pharmaceutical, and I've had lots of luck with Klonopin, Xanax, etc.
posted by elvissa at 1:25 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

You should make absolutely certain to start at the lowest possible setting for the least amount of time if you have never tanning salon'd before. You can also use a very high SPF sunblock on the areas that are already tanned and a low one on the untanned areas to try and even things out.
posted by elizardbits at 1:25 PM on August 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you don't want to do the tanning both, these Jergens moisturizer lotions really work. I used them this spring to mitigate my farmer's tan and pale legs once the weather warmed up.

Exfoliate in the shower, rub the lotion in really well, wait a few minutes and get dressed. It does not come off on clothing or when you sweat. Be very careful to rub it all in well and evenly, and avoid rougher skin like your elbows. You build up the tan over the course of a week or so, so you have time to try it.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:25 PM on August 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

What about trying a regular spray tan or self-tanner rather than the all natural beet one? I think that might be the issue.

I have never had a spray tan, but I have used self-tanners, and they don't rub off on everything after the initial drying period. (I think that spray tan is basically the same active ingredient as self-tanners, it just is supposed to be easier to avoid streaks if you get sprayed instead of applying it yourself).

You can mix self-tanner with lotion to dilute and make it go on more evenly, and do it several days in a row to gradually build up a fake tan - this makes it easier to avoid streaks.
posted by pseudoname at 1:32 PM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I use the Jergens lotions also, when I want to spruce up for special occasions. One application every three days for about ten days would work. It evens out my very pale skin and gives me a nice moisturized look.
posted by raisingsand at 1:39 PM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Girl, you need an all-chemical DHA spray. tan. I am not a spray tan expert but a good friend of mine swears by them and is always trying to get my to get one (I don't tan at all, ever, at all), and she never complains about smearing or sweating off. Proper DHA tans don't budge.

Edited to add: are you getting a makeup artist? I wound up splashing out to get my makeup professionally done for my wedding and it was money well spent. I also turn all sorts of colours when I'm emotional, and the makeup artist covered me in so many layers of MAC Face & Body you'd never know. I still looked like 'me', just a made up version.
posted by nerdfish at 1:41 PM on August 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

Nthing the Jergens moisturizers. I've used foaming self-tanners before (blotchy tan, weird smell) and I've used a tanning bed before (definitely make sure you tell the salon attendant that you are a first-timer; I had a horrible experience wherein I was directed to the wrong bed and after 11 minutes I turned purple - I had to take time off of school, the blistering was so bad), and neither were as easy, consistent, or realistic as the Jergens moisturizers.

If you can find the one for your skin tone today or tomorrow, you should have more than enough time to even out your tan before the wedding. Good luck!
posted by gursky at 1:44 PM on August 12, 2014

How about regular sun-tanning? Apply SPF on where it is already dark and try to even out the lighter spots. 3.5wks should be enough, or spray tan a few days before hand.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:44 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get a real spray tan instead of whatever beet nonsense you got. A real spray tan doesn't come off like you describe. Do a test run now and then do the real thing closer to the date. Congratulations!
posted by quince at 1:48 PM on August 12, 2014 [8 favorites]

I had a horrible farmer's tan before my wedding, as well as various white lines from tank tops and swim suits, and when my mother saw me she burst into tears so for her sake I went to a tanning salon. This was 3 days before the wedding.

All I succeeded in doing was to turn the tan areas darker and get an awful sunburn in the white areas. And red skin shows up against a white dress so much more than white skin does. So as the voice of failed experience, either do the spray tan/lotion thing or follow the suggestion of elizardbits about SPF lotion. You've got time to fix this/experiment so try something now; and remember 3.5 weeks is enough time for part of your other tan to start fading if you're super conscientious about it.

(You could also embrace your tan lines as part of who you are, and not worry too much about it (it had never dawned on me to think about my tan and my strapless dress, and now it's a funny story/part of the lore about the wedding).)
posted by barchan at 1:50 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Spend 2 afternoons a week outside in the sun for the next two weeks (none the week before the wedding, for risk of burning). Wear SPF 60+on your arms up to the tan line, and 15 on your chest and shoulders (or 15 everywhere? depends how well you tan). Reapply the 15 frequently.

Not applicable if you are the super freckly pale type.
posted by amaire at 1:52 PM on August 12, 2014

Sounds like a good excuse to walk the length of park point a few times. We really have had the perfect weather to tan nicely these past few weeks.
Grats on the wedding.
posted by edgeways at 1:56 PM on August 12, 2014

I tried the Jergens lotion stuff quite a few years ago and it always seemed to rub off. I'd take a shower and exfoliate then lotion and go to bed two hours later and I'd wake up with sheet creases in the "tan" parts. :(
I would recommend naturally trying to even the tanlines out and to embrace your personal chameleon tendencies. It is a part of who you are and more than likely won't be noticeable to your friends or family or photos. (Or your friends and family will already know it happens and not care because it is YOU.)

I bruise super easily, too. Luckily, it usually happens on my legs and not on parts shown off by wedding dresses. I think bruising may be inevitable, but usually they don't get super dark and purpley until a few days after they happen (for me at least). So maybe your wedding will hit the sweet spot? And post-production on the photos can take care of the rest.

It is only one day of your life. It'll be over before you know it. Make the conscious decision to enjoy it regardless of any minor stressors, if you can. (I hated my wrong-color flowers, the reception site didn't use our personalized napkins, the topper fell off the cake and broke before we even got there, the DJ didn't have our first dance so my husband had to drive home to get the CD, a major mayfly hatching happened the day of the wedding and swarmed over us and guests - but the day was AMAZING and I was surrounded by my favorite people in the world who were there to see me marry the man I loved and I was wearing a beautiful dress. I woke up the day of the wedding and just decided to enjoy it. And I did.)
posted by jillithd at 2:07 PM on August 12, 2014

Response by poster: And it seems like it would do wonders for your anxiety about this one issue, so have at it.

WHAT??? ANXIETY???? WHAT DO YOU MEEEEEAN????? Can you tell?

My skin is pale and I am prone to freckles. I like my freckles so that's not an issue. I am not getting a makeup artist. I wear very little makeup as it is, and my sister is helping me out. She loves makeup and looks great, and she also knows me well enough that I'm confident I will not look like a clown.

I'm leaning towards the Jurgens moisturizer that helps me to look tan. I have a really good exfoliating mitt (bought for me by that same wonderful sister, who apparently got all of the Grooming Smarts in the family) and I use moisturizer every day already. I would go and just hang out outside, but I would not feel comfortable walking around in a tube top,which would be required to help get rid of the farmer's tan.

Thanks, everyone. I think I'll give the Jurgens stuff a try and, if after a week it doesn't look right, I'll move on to more drastic measures.
posted by Elly Vortex at 2:12 PM on August 12, 2014

Don't go to the tanning booth, or try using different spf lotions to fix the tan. I speak from experience - the old and new tan colors will not match, and the border will not blend smoothly.

I would try a different spray tan place. I have never had a spray tan done, but I am pretty sure they aren't so fragile as the all-natural one you used before, or people wouldn't use them.
posted by Joh at 2:17 PM on August 12, 2014

Definitely try the Jergens stuff. I love that stuff. Have someone help you get it evenly across your back, like you would for sunblock. Don't forget the backs of your arms, the back of your neck, and your underarms!
posted by erst at 2:21 PM on August 12, 2014

If you're really pale then most fake tans are going to look....well, fake. The Jergens one is the best of the bunch, but its still a bit orange on my pale skin. Fake tanner is not going to match the color of your tanned skin. The Jergens won't turn you into an oompa loompa. However, if you're counting on it to deliver for a flawless blend, then it simply will not happen.

My dress was strapless and we spent the week in Hawaii before the wedding, so yeah I had tan lines. The makeup artist used spray foundation to soften them and you cannot see them at all in the photos.

Ask your sister to practice putting foundation on your tan lines and then take test photos.
posted by 26.2 at 2:30 PM on August 12, 2014

Suave makes a version of the Jergens stuff that smells better, IMO; YMMV. Either would be great for this purpose.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:31 PM on August 12, 2014

LovingTan from Australia makes an amazing self tanning mousse with less orange undertones. It takes 6 hours to develop but it's easy to apply and if you get the medium toned version you can apply it again to get a deeper tan. You'd have to order the mousse now though in order for it to arrive ASAP. I cannot recommend it enough. It was about 45 with shipping and I think I was able to get the tanning mit for free. Have your sister help you apply it if you can.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:59 PM on August 12, 2014

OK. Spray on leg makeup. I use some by Sally Hansen. You will need to experiment a bit and probably will need someone to help apply. It will give your skin a very slight attractive sheen. It's waterproof, sweat proof and should do the trick. Use the lightest shade you can to get everything evened out. It washes off with soap and water. It would be worth experimenting with a cheap strapless white top to see how it looks, and how layerable the color can be over your chest. Disclaimer-I only use this on my legs, but have covered up some pretty horrendous bruises. And remember, less is more. Just enough to get a good effect.
Congratulations and good luck!
posted by LaBellaStella at 3:10 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have never done this before, but I think what you want is a spray tan done by a person (not a spray booth), use Yelp (or whatever) to find someone good, they should very easily be able to blend your tanned and non-tanned areas. Do a test run right now, and then before wedding.

For bruising, splotchiness, you can easily cover that with make-up. I use foundation everyday on my chest, for this very reason (Revlon Colorstay, a cheaper version of Makeup Forever). This is also somthing though that I would get a pro to do for a wedding, because it is surprisingly hard to match skin well, and they can find something that will be long lasting/waterproof. These are all very fixable problems, you just need to get someone who is well versed to help you. How do you think the red carpet folks look so perfectly skinned?
posted by nanook at 3:15 PM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing get a professionally-applied, all-chemical DHA spray tan, done by hand, not by spray booth. I am uber pale and get spray tans regularly during the summer. They look convincingly real, so much so, that my friend who is a dermatologist lovingly admonished me at a party a few weeks ago for having allowed the sun to damage my fair skin - ha! Best wishes on your wedding!
posted by hush at 3:49 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

You could see if you can start letting your tan fade. Do a salt scrub spa treatment to exfoliate. From now on, you go out in a beekeepeer's outfit.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:54 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can also use a very high SPF sunblock on the areas that are already tanned and a low one on the untanned areas to try and even things out.

A word of caution about this... on the weekend my husband tried to even out his t-shirt tan this way and it failed miserably. He now has a pasty white stripes on the back of his neck and around his biceps where he overlapped too much with the sunscreen, and a burn in the shape of a t-shirt.

My friend went to tanning booths before her wedding and ended up with tanning booth goggle tan. So make sure you go slow, and don't necessarily trust the advice of the woman behind the counter, especially not when she is a radioactive shade of burnt orange.

Seconding the advice to get a professional all-chemical DHA spray tan done by hand. Try it out now so you can see if you like it, and how it wears. Get it redone right before the wedding.
posted by keep it under cover at 3:59 PM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I use MAC Pro Longwear foundation, and I've never noticed any rub-off on my clothes. I also have very oily skin and this foundation stays on. I find it stays on longer and better than any concealers I've tried, so I use it on spots as well. I suggest that you get a sample from a MAC store or counter and try it. For the face, I mix it with something -- moisturizer, serum, or illuminating liquid -- because by itself it dries fast and can go on unevenly if you're not great at applying it.
posted by wryly at 5:30 PM on August 12, 2014

Get a spray tan applied by a human being in a place with great Yelp! reviews. No booths. Do a test run now, but you should be good to get sprayed two days before your wedding. If everything's perfect, you will still have a fresh new spray tan on your wedding day. If not, you've got an interim day to get another spray to even things out or darken things up.

Is it possible you were seeing an instant bronzer come off on your bra and legs when you started sweating during the hike? If you don't scrub your breasts and calves (I don't ferociously scrub these parts like I do, say, my armpits), it might have lingered from the initial application.

I'm not familiar with the beet juice tans, but typical spray tans (including the ones applied at home) don't stain clothing after the initial "curing" period (6-24 hours, usually).
posted by nobejen at 5:38 PM on August 12, 2014

Have you considered just adding a pretty shawl or bolero jacket or something similar, to cover up your skin? You've got just enough time to get one custom made to match the dress, and then you have zero worries about streaking, staining, blotching, etc. I'm thinking something sheer, so the beauty of the dress shows through, but the skin tone is evened out.

Congrats, and have a wonderful time.
posted by Capri at 7:16 PM on August 12, 2014

Are you able to go out into the sun in small, short doses?

One tan isn't gonna hurt ya
posted by christiehawk at 10:00 PM on August 12, 2014

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