I've always been pale. I haven't had any sort of tan since my age was in the single digits, and I haven't even had a sunburn since I was 15. I diligently apply SPF 30 everyday and besides a few here-and-there dabblings with gradual self tanners applied to my legs only, my skin tone has stayed the same shade of milky white for a good portion of my life.
In the fifth grade, my nickname was Casper. I've been told I should get a job at Disneyland as Snow White. I've been told by elderly women that I look like a porcelain doll. Being pale has its positives and negatives, that's for sure.
I've always liked it though. My only issue was that bumps, scrapes, scars and bruises on my legs (I have a major issue with my legs, let it be known to all!) showed up that much more. But wearing tights, or pants, or dutifully applying Bio-Oil every night seemed to kind of, sort of help and I moved along. I got used to being every beach's imperfectly blinding beacon of whiteness.
Of course, I work for xoJane and we love to experiment around here. So I offered myself up to take on a tan for awhile and see how it went. I wasn't completely repulsed by the idea, either. I didn't see myself turning Jersey Shore orange, and obviously I wasn't going to go out and fry in the sun or in the glow of a tanning bed. For one, I'd be using at-home tanning products (I'm a beauty writer, after all!) in the safety of my home, with guaranteed (and possibly ridiculous) results.
And besides, the image of tanned me I had in my head was inspired by Slim Aarons' photos of the rich and leisurely on vacation in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Take this image of sunbathers on the beach in St. Tropez c. 1977 for instance.
There's something very refined and healthy looking to me about a tan done right. Something very Katharine Hepburn, all bare-faced and sun-kissed freckles save for a mouth painted with red lipstick. Sigh. A few years ago in Quebec City, I encountered a salesgirl at the Longchamp boutique. She had a gorgeous head of dark curls, this glowy-healthy tan, a noseful of freckles and no make-up except for her mouth which was covered with bright, matte fuchsia lipstick. I have carried a beauty-crush torch for this girl for years, and I figure it's my turn to try to take on that look.
So a few nights ago, I got to work. I enlisted the help of a variety of different products to achieve my desired tanness, seen below.
Step 1 - Caudalie Crushed Cabernet Scrub ($29, sephora.com)
A delicious smelling scrub used to get rid of my skin's dry and rough spots. I really focused on my feet, ankles, fronts and backs of my knees, and my elbows.
Step 2 - Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Beauty To Glow Face & Body Sample Set ($14 for 2 applications each for face and body, sephora.com)
These wipes are pretty fantastic. Cruelty-free, vegan, paraben-free, safe enough for sensitive skin (I used 'em), and exfoliating. The results aren't too crazy strong, though you can deepen the colour by increasing the amount of times you run the towelette over your skin. All-around wonder product. Oh, and they don't stink.
Step 3 - John Masters Organics Bare Unscented Body Lotion ($16.50, johnmasters.com)
The Dennis Gross towelettes recommended following with a lotion so I picked this all-natural one because I figured it wouldn't have any wacky chemicals inside to mess with the tanner's formula. It's super-creamy and moisturizing without being greasy, and it's also gentle enough for my sensitive skin.
Step 4 - Josie Maran Argan Self Tanning Cream ($32, sephora.com)
I was growing impatient after two hours because the colour wasn't developing fast enough (wah, wah) so I went over my body with a few small dollops of this stuff, then washed my hands really, really well. This tanner is also caffeine-infused, apparently to diminish the appearance of cellulite and give an overall more "toned" appearance.
After everything had been applied, I hung out in front of my fan for a bit to dry off and then threw down an old towel at my desk chair while I waited, and waited.
* * *
The next-day results?
When I went to school, no one really said anything. Probably because they were too embarrassed by my weird streaky left arm (be sure to go over your entire body very diligently with these wipes guys, or you'll turn into me).
BUT after I broached the subject with a few of my friends, they mentioned that they had noticed but that it didn't look unnatural or gross. So, yay for that. I'm definitely digging the change in tone and I think I'll keep it up a bit longer, but I'll probably avoid self-tanning my face any further. My natural freckles that crop up every Summer despite my constant sunscreen-ing, plus a bit of Dior powder bronzer, are enough for me.
Now don't go and tell me you don't see a difference, because there clearly is one! Look how pale I used to be! And if I'd gone any darker I'd look like Tanning Bed Mom or at the very least, a tangerine, so relax now. I also plan on keeping this tan up for awhile, and I've found an awesome product (completely free of that "self tanner smell") to assist me in doing so. I'll be writing about that next week, so stay tuned.
Now I want to hear you weigh in: team pale or team tan? Not just for me, but for yourselves. Do you prefer skin that looks like a saucer of cream or are you all about a healthy lookin' tan?
Twitter and such: @hannahejo