the faux-glow

{ The Rub sugar scrub by Splurge | Clinique Self Sun in Light/Medium | Simone France Body Glow }

My collection of sunless tanning horror stories is almost as large as the volume of kitchen beautician nightmares involving drugstore boxed hair color and self-cut bangs. I’m naturally fair-skinned, and I spent my teenage years and most of my 20’s doing everything I could to bronze up. Including a longterm affair with tanning beds, for which I’m deeply regretful and pray I don’t have to pay for later (both figuratively and literally) in the dermatologist’s office.

A few years ago, I decided to just embrace the pale and work with what the good Lord gave me. But, when an occasion calls for bathing suits or short-shorts I’ll take all the help I can get; and a little glow goes a long way in cooling my burning hatred for bikinis.

If you’ve used self-tanners before, you know the “dark side” of getting, well, dark. No one wants to look like an oompa loompa — except, evidently, Snooki Polizzi circa 2009 — and we’ve all woken up with stained palms or feet the morning after application. I’m all too familiar with the disappointment of going to sleep looking awesome, and waking up to an overnight fake bake disaster.

A few weeks ago, in preparation for a beach trip, I picked up a bottle of my favorite tanning product, Clinique Self Sun in Light/Medium and went to work on my faux-glow. Clinique Self Sun Pros: It gives my fair skin a natural touch of color, it’s buildable so I can control the level of my tan, it doesn’t stain my clothes or sheets after it dries, it fades evenly, and the tell-tale “self-tan smell” is really minimal compared to other products I’ve tried.

I think the trick to getting the most out of any self-tanning product lies in the prep. I like to apply the product in the evening so it can fully develop while I’m sleeping, and then I wash it off the next morning. I apply it every night until I reach the color I’m happy with, and then reapply every few days for maintenance as long as I want my “tan” to last. 

Here’s my (slightly obsessive) self-tanning ritual in three steps: 

1. Scrub-a-dub-dub. Exfoliation is key numero uno in getting the best, most even results and avoiding stained knees, ankles, and elbows. I like to soak in the bath for a bit (bonus: relaxation time!) and then scrub down with a natural sugar scrub. The good folks at Splurge skincare sent me their sugar scrub, The Rub, and I’m in love. It sloughs off all dry skin, and moisturizes at the same time with natural oils. I’ve already gone through one jar! I follow that up by shaving my legs, and finish by gently pumicing my feet, ankles, knees, and elbows.

2. Moisturize. Dry areas — like knees, ankles, feet, and elbows — tend to soak up more of the tanning product, which cause dark stains. While exfoliating goes a long way in preventing this, adding a light moisturizer is an extra insurance policy. Rub a little lotion into these areas and let it fully absorb before moving on.

3. Apply. My friend, Terra, wrote an excellent step-by-step application post using the same product on her blog, Stylish White Female a while ago. I follow it to the letter, but add in a few extra hand-washings between sections for good measure. I love that the Clinique product has a built-in bronzer so you can see where it’s going. Self-tanning is not one of those things that’s made more fun by surprises. {Hello, tiger stripes!}

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  1. 5.13.15

    I’d love to try Splurge Skincare The Rub!

  2. 4.29.13

    My legs never seem to be able to tan, so I’m absolutely going to try this. There are so many self-tanners, I wasn’t sure where to start. Thanks for the tip!

  3. 4.27.13

    I love this product! Im also a fan of the neutrogena natural glow- It builds the same way and they fixed the smell! I always have one or the other on hand for my pale, freckled complexion and I LOVE when other pale people talk about this- what works for us is certainly not the same as what works for darker complexions!

  4. 4.24.13
    SWFTerra said:

    Hey, thanks for the shout! I saw the Clinique and thought, I’ve GOT to tell Keira I use it too and love it. #mindmeld

    • 4.24.13

      Sisters from another mister. Can you and the fam just move to Florida already?

  5. 4.24.13

    Muy buen post! Yo me suelo poner morena pero tardo bastante en hacerlo y no sin antes haberme quemado todo el cuerpo!

    Si te gusta la moda pásate por mi blog

  6. 4.24.13

    I shall be giving this product a try! I too have really pale skin thanks to my Irish mammy and as yet I have never been successful in finding a good product which doesn’t make me look ridiculous. The limited success I’ve had is with a Fake Bake wash off product called Faux Glo, but it’s messy, obviously doesn’t last and can work out pricy if you want maintain that colour throughout the summer.

    • 4.24.13

      I’ll tell you, the Clinique Self Sun is not the cheapest option out there (it’s about $23 for a 4.2 ounce tube) but it’s been so wonderful for me. I’ve done about 4-5 applications, and I still have a lot of the product left. I figure it’s cheaper over time than a spray tan, which can run about $20-30 per session and lasts the same amount of time. If you try it out, let me know what you think!

  7. 4.24.13
    boblist said:

    Great tip! I always look like a oompa loompa After Self tan but maybe I ll try this one! Actually I think I am the whitest Person living in Milan :/ xD greats, b.

    • 4.24.13

      This one is definitely more bronze than orange :)

  8. 4.24.13

    This is a great post. I’m always the streaking, orange oompa loompa type of person who never fails to apply it in the wrong way. I blame it on always being so pale and ghost like!

    • 4.24.13

      That’s why I love products with a built-in bronzer so you can tell where it’s going! It makes all the difference.

  9. 4.24.13

    Thanks for the tips, I’m also thinking about the same thing these days, I’ll give the Clinique product a try! xx

  10. 4.23.13

    love this!

  11. 4.23.13

    I’ve only self-tanned once (circa 1990), and it yielded orange, streaky results! I will have to visit the Clinique self-tanner – thanks for making it seem doable! I’ve worn nothing but long pants for about five months straight, so I am a little stir-crazy for summery clothes (…there is still snow on the ground here in CO!).

    • 4.24.13

      Totally doable, Jayme! Don’t let that bad experience scare you off ;-) Self-tanning products have come a long way over the years. I think you’ll really love this one. Let me know if you try it out!

  12. 4.23.13
    Katie said:

    Thanks for the great tips! It’s been a while since I’ve self tanned but I want to get a bit of glow for my wedding. I am a Clinique ADDICT, so I am going to pick up some Self Sun asap!

    • 4.23.13

      I think you’ll love it! It’s really subtle, and perfect for a wedding. Let me know what you think!