How do I fake tan?
July 27, 2016 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I never fake tan because I am lazy and I never do it right and I hate the smell. But I'm going out on Friday and wearing a short skirt for the first time in literally years and my legs are blindingly white. Tips on not looking like I'm entering a Trump/Oompa Loompa fancy dress contest please?

Normally I don't care about being so pale, but we actually had some sun this summer and walking around in strappy t shirts, jeans and sandals means I have (relatively) brown arms and feet which are making my legs stand out even more than usual. Just for added pain in the arseness, I have really dark hair on my legs and when I shave them (which is the only way I remove hair when I bother at all because all creams and waxes irritate my skin) they are stubbly again by the next day.

So what order do I do things in? If I shave on Thursday evening they won't be smooth by Friday evening. If I tan over the existing hair - and, uh, there's quite a bit right now - will it go streaky? If I tan on Thursday night and then shave on Friday evening will it not take off a layer of skin/tan and then they'll also be streaky or will it be ok? But I can't do the tan on Friday as I won't have much time between getting home from work and going back out, and also that would mean I would have that gross smell hanging around me all night. When do I do the showering/exfoliating/moisturising part? Would I be better using a wash-off tan rather than a proper developing one? If so, do I shave and then moisturise and then apply it or would I skip the moisturising part? And can anyone recommend either a wash-off or developing tan that isn't a fortune, is ok for sensitive skin, has worked really well for you and won't make me really orange? I'm in the UK and will have to buy it today or tomorrow so available in actual shops not online please. Or if in your experience the entire thing is going to be a nightmare and your advice is I'd be better off abandoning the whole plan I'm open to that also. Thanks!
posted by billiebee to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total)
Best answer: You can shave after a fake tan. It's just good to do it right before as well (and exfoliate) so that, afterward, you're not rubbing the tan off quite as hard. But it won't just all wash off immediately.

Since you don't really ever use fake tanning stuff, I would actually highly recommend that you go get a spray tan. You just don't know how to do this without making it all streaky, especially the backs of your legs which you can't see well. And a decent place can try to match the color to your arms.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:33 AM on July 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

Exfoliate and shave before. Get a spray tan. Shave and moisturize after.
posted by quince at 7:40 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Alternately, you can find some open weave/fishnet tights in a close to your skin tone color (dance stores usually have 3-4 tones and pink) or a fun pastel. Generally not too hot and good for making you forget how pale your legs are.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:52 AM on July 27, 2016

Developing tans tend to be orangey and smell bad/distinctive, that's just the nature of the chemical reaction that is the core concept of the creams. Admittedly, they've been modernizing and working to improve the products since I was young enough to strive to be fashionable, but still, orangey is the default. If you want the color (not the darkness, necessarily, but the hue) to match your arms, I'd go to a spray tan place.

If you do go the self-applied cream route, then apply a really light coat every day (or possibly every morning and evening) between now and Friday and shave/moisturize/exfoliate normally. The more different coats you have, the less streaky it will be, and if you can get it in place before Friday then you won't have to apply a stinky fresh coat Friday morning.
posted by aimedwander at 7:57 AM on July 27, 2016

St Tropez mousse really is the best for at home applications!
posted by doctordrey at 8:17 AM on July 27, 2016

Honestly I would find a decent pair of tights and go with that, given your timescale. Second option would be going to a well - recommended spray tan place. Under no circumstances would I encourage a home spray tan two days before going out especially if youve never done it before.
posted by threetwentytwo at 8:35 AM on July 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

(Also, M&S do toeless tights, should that be helpful with shoes)
posted by threetwentytwo at 8:42 AM on July 27, 2016

Alternate option -- long sleeves, + leg make-up if fussed by imperfections?
posted by kmennie at 8:46 AM on July 27, 2016

I'm pale and recently used Paula's Choice fake tanner. It doesn't smell somehow and isn't orangey on me. The first couple times I applied it, it looked great, but I really botched some stuff on the third time. It still looked okay enough that no one but me noticed. (Really, just skip your knees and ankles entirely.)

I guess you could call them and see if they could seriously expedite the shipping for you.
posted by purple_bird at 9:04 AM on July 27, 2016

Best answer: I'm super pale, almost blue-white - and I live in Essex, fake tan capital of the UK. I've had good results with Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs. It's an instant colour that washes off. It comes in a lotion or a spray. You can buy it in Boots or Superdrug.

Today, and for the next two days, exfoliate (use a salt-based or sugar-based scrub rather than microbeads, which are horrendous for the environment) and shave, then moisturise with a light lotion, so your legs will be as smooth as possible.

When you come to use the Airbrush Legs, give yourself plenty of time, as you'll need to make sure it dries thoroughly. Instead of spraying it directly onto my legs, I spray it into my hands and rub it in from there because it's easier to distribute evenly over the skin.

Leave it to dry completely, then decide if you need a second coat. I use Medium Glow, and I find that, even on my super-pale legs, I can use a second coat without it looking fake. It gives a really nice, natural glow.
posted by essexjan at 11:08 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and because Sally Hansen washes off, you can have a practice run tomorrow before deciding if you like it, or if you'd rather go with a pair of tights instead.
posted by essexjan at 11:11 AM on July 27, 2016

1. Shave.
2. Exfoliate the heck out of your legs with a washcloth.
3. Apply a teeeeny dab of lotion to your kneecaps. This prevents dry skin from sucking up a ton of the fake tan.
4. Get a clean wet kitchen sponge and apply this knock off St.tropez mousse. The sponge makes application pretty dummy proof.
5. Let your legs dry for at least a couple hours.
posted by pintapicasso at 11:13 AM on July 27, 2016

Seconding the Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs. I would either do that or get a professional spray tan, but I wouldn't mess around with at-home tanners that develop. The nice thing about Airbrush Legs is that you can get a bottle tonight and practice to see if you like it and see how easy it is for you to apply evenly, and if for whatever reason you don't like it, you still have time to get a professional spray tan tomorrow.

A few other notes about Airbrush Legs--make sure you get into whatever stance is comfortable for you to apply to the back of your knee as it's fully extended; that's one area where you really need to make sure you're rubbing it into your calf and thigh back so you don't get any white spots. And go a bit easy around your ankles/toes, it tends to settle pretty darkly in those areas for me (exfoliating would probably help). Finally, I do not recommend this product if you're anticipating getting wet; a few sprinkles between the car and a restaurant/bar won't hurt but it definitely rinses right off without any effort in the shower so make sure you look at the weather!
posted by stellaluna at 11:32 AM on July 27, 2016

I second the M&S Cooling Toeless tights, 7 denier, they look like skin (but better)
posted by KateViolet at 2:28 PM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all! It literally never occurred to me to get a spray tan for just one part of me. Have booked in for later today so it will save me a ton of hassle. She told me to shave beforehand and that I am absolutely not allowed to shave afterwards - she answered the shaving question in the tone of someone speaking to a person of limited understanding - so they might be brown but a tad stubbly but hey ho. I'll definitely try the Airbrush myself sometime though so thanks for the recommendation.

(I got a spray tan once about ten years ago for a wedding. The full shower cap, paper knickers, glamorous lady spraying my cellulite with cold stinky wetness shebang. She left me to get dressed and after I walked back through the - thankfully empty - to the reception desk she looked at me, looked up at my head, looked back at me and said "'re still wearing the hat." Which led to the unique experience of me pissing myself laughing while simultaneously praying for death. Maybe that's why spray tans were wiped from my consciousness.)
posted by billiebee at 4:44 AM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

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