I’m Going Pro
Love the beach? Or do you just love looking like you’ve been there? Whichever, getting a tan is probably one of the top leisure activities in the country. And, yes, I know it isn’t necessarily a burning issue - although for the uninformed, it sure is (pardon the pun). Nonetheless, I am going to share my secrets of being a professional tanner. And you are wrong, wrong, wrong if you think you “have to burn first” before you tan. But more on that later.
I call myself a professional tanner not only because I’ve been doing it for so long (in long, arduous sessions on the beaches of NJ), but also because so many people are just so damn stupid when it comes to tanning that it seems they need a valuable resource like me to avoid losing layers of skin in an ugly peeling process. So, here I am!
First of all, know your own body. You have to gauge what SFPs to use depending on how your skin reacts to the sun. Just because it’s a SPF 70 doesn’t mean you can slather some on in the morning and make it through the day unscathed. Oh, you’ll be scathed alright, unless you’ve already got a good base tan.
So, how do you get that base? You start out slow. And I don’t mean in a tanning salon. Fake tan? Really? Bah! I can spot one a mile away. If you’re not going to put in the time, you don’t deserve a tan. It’s like getting a great role in a hit TV series because your dad is the star. Sure, it may feel good and you might actually be great in the part, but no one will give you credit; you’re just a star spud.
So, back to tanning. Do what I did in my 20s: as soon as it hit 70 degrees or so, I’d sit outside in the sun wearing as little as possible, shivering, to start my gradual progression to pigmentation heaven. Nothing good comes without sacrifice.
Of course, once it’s truly summer and you can sit on the beach without getting goosebumps, the real work begins. You will absolutely need at least 10-12 kinds of suntan lotion for the different parts of your body and based on the time you’ll spend in the sun. This is an investment, sister. Don’t scrimp. Oh, and remember beach sun is different than pool sun. It’s more intense, due to the salt and reflection from the sand, so plan accordingly.
For those of you whomI often see sizzling on the beach: no, baby oil is not an option, especially for your first trip to the shore. And don’t rely on whether or not you look like you’re burning. When you can see red or even pink, it’s way too late. Get ready for pain and suffering.
How do you know what to apply where? Here’s my rule of thumb: highest numbers go on your nose, knees and chest. Nose: this will definitely burn first. It’s closest to the sun. I actually usually wear a hat or visor to shade my face. You can always add makeup; it’s a lot harder to remove wrinkles.
But even so, I still put a 30 or more around my eyes - Chap Stick or some other lip balm. They’re always mild and never sting. And despite your fear of raccoon eyes, wear sunglasses, girl! Get special tiny ones for suntanning if you must, but wear something. Not only can the sun damage (and actually freckle) your eyes, you are setting yourself up for a wrinkly future.
If I’ve decided I’ll be out pretty long (for me that would be 2-3 hours), I’ll probably use an 8 on my body, but a 15 on my chest. And that’s why my chest isn’t as wrinkled as yours. It will tan, but it won’t look like leather. Your choice.
Knees are usually bent, so use a high number if you don’t want them too tan. Oh, and your ears! They will burn. . .
You know how lots of suntan lotions say “waterproof”? Doesn’t matter. Reapply each time you get out of the water and every half hour or so. It can’t hurt and it will keep you protected – and soft.
Do not fall asleep on your stomach. And, at the very least, get one of those “Do My Back” lotion application thingys so your back doesn’t look like a giant hot plate. Personally, I have a hard time spending time on my stomach at the beach, so I try to do it early, before the heat really sets in.
Don’t get fooled by cooler days. The sun burns just as easily at 80 degrees as it does at 105. You just don’t realize it as quickly. And do not tan if you’re taking antibiotics or aspirin. They will cause you to burn much more easily.
If you burn, you have sustained damage that will be there for a long, long time. Years, in fact. You’ve actually damaged your DNA when you burn. So thinking that burning is the road to tanning is simply ignorant. I actually have seen posts online asking “How can I turn a burn into a tan?” I’ll tell you how: the same way you turn dog turds into gold.