Back in the days when royalty avoided the sun like the plague and a deep tan meant you were a field-working peasant, pale porcelain-like skin was the ultimate standard of beauty. Unfortunately I was born a couple centuries too late, and nowadays my pasty white dermis only signals at long hours in the office and a possible Vitamin D deficiency. Especially come time for a vaca, it's no fun to be fluorescent amidst a crowd of perfectly-bronzed beach bodies.
Even with my fair skin I can achieve the most enviable golden tan around, but not without regret; the curse of naturally pink-hued, European skin tones, my gorgeous tan fades to leave behind a smattering of freckles. And as hot and "healthy" as a tan may look, we all know the long list of nasty side-effects from unprotected UV exposure. Thankfully most of us have gotten wise and now opt for the safe and easy spray-tan route. But if beauty fades, a spray-tan fades even faster (especially under the exfoliating effects of saltwater and sand) and it's not easy on your wallet either - one session in a spray booth will run $20-$30, and a good airbrush job can run up to $50.
So what's a girl to do? After spending the better part of my adult life trying to figure this one out, I finally found (in my opinion) the best route: start with a good pro spray session, and then continue with a self-tanner to maximize the life. By layering self-tanner over a pro spray, you can extend the life for days or even weeks. Or, with a really good self-tanner you can even skip the pro spray altogether and slowly build a deep shade yourself. Of course, the key word here is good. I took a shot at this (one of many) last year, using a self-tanning product that was supposed to have good reviews (it rhymes with "frew-trogena") and ended up with what can only be described as cheetah stripes, having to immediately haul my bright-orange ass to the nearest airbrushing pro for a fix.
On my recent beach vaca in Florida, I decided I'd give it one more try - this time trying another product I'd bought with high hopes but had been too scared to try: A Tan For All Seasons by Bliss. I'd already done a booth spray so I figured my base would at least minimize the risk for disaster, and having been happy with other Bliss products before I was optimistic...
The verdict: this stuff is AH-MAY-ZING! The 360' nozzle let me get a consistent spray while holding in any direction. It actually comes out bronze (not orange - bronze), and you rub it into your skin so you can be sure not to miss a single spot. The color builds very gradually, further minimizing the risk of streaks (even though you may have to do a few layers to get good color when starting without a base). For the most part it's fragrance-free and dries in under 5 minutes so you won't have to worry about stains to fabrics. Of course, you'll want to follow the same guidelines you would with any other tan in a can: make sure you're fairly well-exfoliated beforehand, go easy on naturally drier areas like elbows and knees, and wear gloves so your mocha palms won't be a dead giveaway.