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The Beginner's Guide to Sunless Tanning for Your Wedding Day

Tips for getting a glow that looks natural... and not like Ross did in that one episode of Friends!

Contributing Writer
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Photography by: Mei Tao

If there is one word brides use most often to describe their ideal wedding-day look, it's "glowing." Whether they want to look sun-kissed or just naturally perky, a tan is never a bad idea for the big day—especially when you'll have many, many cameras pointed in your direction!

 

To get the lowdown on everything you need to know about your big-day-glow—from how to get it to when—we tapped founder of Hamptons Glow, Rachel Thompson, for a lesson in Tanning 101.

 

Steps for Getting a Glowing Complexion for Your Wedding Day

Know Your Options

 

First, you'll have to decide what type of glow you're going for. There are many at-home options: gradual tanners, creams, sprays, mousses, and oils. A gradual tanner, Thompson's preferred at-home option, is exactly what it sounds like—a lotion or cream that doesn't have too many tanning properties in it so that you can slowly achieve color after a few applications. The benefit of using a gradual tanner is that it gives you more control over your color, and allows you to smooth out any kinks or faux pas well before your wedding. You apply it just like you would a daily moisturizer.

 

"Gradual tanners are great for brides since they will not develop too much color too fast resulting in a beauty emergency!" Thompson says. "Usually for a bride one or two coats of a gradual tanning lotion is great because you get glowing, evenly toned skin that is ideal for photos."

 

The other type of at-home technique Thompson recommends is a spray. "A spray is wonderful because it comes out as a fine mist and creates a beautiful, even glow. It is quick to apply, and can easily be touched up last minute," she explains. Always spray in a well-ventilated area, and keep the canister about 6-8 inches away from your skin. Thompson advises starting with your feet so that you don't have to bend over and potentially ruin your torso's tan before it dries.

 

You may prefer to go to a salon. "A professional technician can look at your skin and discuss options, make recommendations and adjust color and intensity as needed," she adds. "When calling to make the appointment, discuss your wedding date and location [inside or outside for lighting adjustments], your skin tone, and if the salon regularly tans brides and wedding parties."
 

 

Practice Makes Perfect

 

Just like any other skill, practice makes perfect—especially if you've never used sunless tanner before. "Always do a practice tan a month before your big day," Thompson emphasizes. "Once the color of your practice tan has developed and you've rinsed, hold a towel or cloth up to your chest that is a similar color to your dress, and have a friend take your photo in natural light so you can get an idea of tone."

 

The same goes for a salon tan—get one a month before as a practice run.

 

For the wedding itself, tan two days beforehand, so the color has time to properly set in and you have the opportunity to fix any uneven spots. If you find a spot that's too light, apply a small amount of self-tanning cream or gradual tanner and blend, blend, blend! For a spot that's too dark, Thompson recommends mixing one part baking soda to four parts water and lightly exfoliating the area.

 

Don't be afraid to use a substantial amount of product, and again, blend! "Use enough product to cover that section evenly, then move on to the next—creating sections makes application so much easier and less overwhelming," Thompson says. "Be certain to blend around the ankles, wrists, and hairline. Extra blending is required for these areas because of the crevices and bends. Blend well on the hands and feet too. The tanning mitt is great for this. Be sure to bend knuckles during application so you don't have white creases where tanner has not reached."

"Remember, layer the tanner—especially as a beginner don't try to do it all in one coat," Thompson says. "You can gradually build your color over a couple of days. This way if you do see a patch or mistake you can correct it on the second round."

 

 

Take Proper Care

 

The most important thing when it comes to getting the most gorgeous tan possible is moisturizing every day and exfoliating beforehand. "Exfoliating your skin before your tan will give you a smooth, even canvas," Thompson says. "It is best to have skin free of moisturizers, makeup, perfume, oils and deodorant [when you apply your tan]."

 

Also take care of your other beauty needs before going for your glow. "Always get a manicure, pedicure, and facial and waxing treatments done before you use a sunless tanner or get a spray tan," Thompson says. "Soaking, scrubbing, and pulling wax from the skin exfoliates the top layer of skin and can fade your tan prematurely."
 

Do avoid retinols or any moisturizers with alcohol in them, because they will make your tan fade. "Avoid long, hot showers and baths," Thompson also advises. "Use mild soap and pat dry with your towel rather than rubbing vigorously."

 

 

Make It Last

 

Do you want your tan to last through your honeymoon? Of course you do! Touch-ups are never a bad idea, says Thompson. "Be sure to bring your gradual tanner, self-tanning cream, or mist with you. This way you can touch up or deepen your tan at night and it will develop overnight while you are sleeping." If you got your tan done at a salon, buy a self-tanner to bring with you.

 

 

Things to Avoid

 

"Be sure not to rush your application either at home or in the salon. You or your spray technician will want to be thorough to ensure even coverage," Thompson warns. "Wait at least five minutes to get dressed. Ideally wear something loose and dark after application."

 

Also avoid heavy fabrics. They could soak up all of your gorgeous color! Yoga pants, leggings, or a dress are the ideal post-tan wear.

 

"Subtle color is what you want... really!" Thompson says. "I cannot stress this enough with brides. You will look so much darker in photos and dress than you realize and the focus should be on you and how gorgeous you look." Amen to that!

 

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