If you’re just back from a delightful break to a sunny region, you may be sporting a sunkissed glow (even though you were wearing sunscreen everyday, of course). Around this time of year, we see articles, videos and infographics about making your natural summer tan last longer and I have gotten questions to this extent in through social media. So, can you prolong a tan? And more importantly, should you be trying to?
What is a tan?
This will go down like a lead balloon but when your skin browns, it is its way of telling you that it has gotten too much UV exposure. The pigment-producing cells in the skin (aka melanocytes) send out more pigment (melanin) towards the surface of the skin as an attempt to protect itself from any additional damage on a cellular level. When this pigment accumulates, we see a tan and the darker the tan, the more your skin feels the threat of UV exposure.
Sorry – this probably isn’t what you wanted to hear at all but a tan is a scar, whether it’s from the sun or from sunbeds.
Why do tans fade?
As you may nerdily know, the average skin cycle is only 28 days long. Note: as we age, the skin cycle may get longer, whereas kids have a shorter one. When we stop being exposed to an excessive level of UV rays (such as when we’re on holidays with unyieldingly hot sun all day long), pigment isn’t being created to the same extent as it was before.
Our skin cycle is a bit like a conveyor belt. New skin cells are created and go through a number of processes, moving up through the different layers and stratifying to form the uppermost protective layer of the skin only to slough itself off after those hypothetical 28 days. This is why most of your tan is gone within the month.
How to prolong a tan
Logically, skipping exfoliating your body will help to prolong a tan. However, I don’t condone trying to keep a tan going for longer. If you have a longer lasting natural tan, it means that more damage was done.
To be fair, I don’t condone actively trying to tan in the first place. You’ll catch me at the beach under a big umbrella with a mahoosive hat, sunscreened to the gills.
Using a fake tan means that you get the same aesthetic effect without damaging your skin’s DNA, which leads to accelerated skin ageing and can lead to skin cancer. To me, it is clear which one is preferable.
For those who love how a “real” tan looks, I would say that Tan Organic’s Self Tan Oil (€24.99) would suit you well. It isn’t streaky looking, it’s easy to apply and it’s light and buildable. Best of all, as it fades, it fades quite evenly, not in patches.
How to prolong a fake tan
The same rules apply for prolonging a fake tan as goes for prolonging a tan that has come from UV radiation.
Exfoliating will shorten its life and keeping your skin hydrated will help to maintain it for as long as possible and aid in the natural-looking fade.
There are some fabulous dry oils out there that will give you a bit of a sheen over your tan too – in fact, Tan Organic have their own Multi Use Dry Oil (€24.99) that is full of nourishing natural oils like argan oil and jojoba seed oil.
It helps if you exfoliate prior to popping on your fake tan. I love IMAGE Body Spa’s Rejuvenating Lotion (€42.00) the night before applying my fake tan as it contains glycolic acid to help dead skin cells to slough off on their own.
How to remove a fake tan quicker
The old trick is to bathe in baking soda to get rid of fake tan quicker but this isn’t formulated for the skin so I wouldn’t recommend it… Keep it for cakes, people. Instead, opt for putting some of Urban Veda’s Purifying Body Wash into a lukewarm bath with you and gently rubbing your skin.
As mentioned previously, exfoliating will help you to remove a fake tan quicker too!
Jennifer Rock is the founder of The Skin Nerd online skin consultancy and online cosmeceutical skincare store. If you’re interested in having a consultation with one of her expert Nerdettes, click here for more information.