The Self-Tanning Roundtable


At Glossier HQ, all beauty-related conversation topics are fair game. But there are a few themes that seem to gain more traction than just your average "What's the best lipstick?" straw poll. (The answer is Charlotte Tilbury* Red Carpet Red *btw.) Hair removal discussions always draw a crowd, but nothing gets us quite as hyped up as a good self-tan roundtable. The tips and horror stories are too good not to share. So without further ado, welcome to the Self-Tan Roundtable:

Emily Ferber, Senior Editor: So tell me, why do you fake tan?

Jessica Sheft-Ason, Senior Digital Product Manager: I just think I look better when I’m a few shades tanner than my current complexion.

Kim Johnson, Community Manager: I love the way I look when I’m tan.

Melissa Souto, Senior Product Development Manager: I feel like I look sickly if I’m pale. I look less alive. My red undertones also show through more, and it looks like I have rosacea when I’m not tan.

Trish Gillis, Senior Global Supply Chain Manager: When I'm tan I don’t hurt people’s eyes at the beach. But I also don’t wear as much makeup, it’s almost like long-term make-up.

Melissa: I also feel like my body looks really good when I tan.

Trish: If you can’t tone it, tan it.

Melissa: I like that one!

Emily: When I tan, I feel like I can wear more colors. I have a hard time wearing white when I’m pale.

Melissa: Who doesn’t want to be the girl who looks good wearing a white tee?

Jessica: I definitely photograph better tan. So even when I self-tan, I might look a little too tan in person, but in the photos, I actually look regular.

Melissa: That’s why we all went tanning for prom.

Jessica: Exactly. [Ed note: Melissa and Jessica went to high school together.]

Emily: When was your first tanning experience?

Jessica: I think I got my first spray tan with you Melissa, right? In Union Square, that summer.

Melissa: So expensive. We did the booth.

Jessica: At first we thought we looked so pale, waste of money.

Melissa: It was because we got between the light-medium. It was not a natural glow right away...until the next morning. It developed very dark.Which makes me think we need to discuss the idea of guide colors.

Emily: The thing that I think a lot of people don’t know is that when you get a spray tan, they also spray on a color that isn’t the actual tan. It acts as a guide for color but also where you’ve already been sprayed. You do look tan immediately, but then the chemicals develop over the course of eight hours or whatever it is, and then you have to essentially shower off the guide color.

Trish: I always choose not to do the guide color when I get sprayed.

Melissa: I didn’t know that was an option!

Trish: Where I used to go when I was in college—it was a booth—it was actually a bit more money to include it so you could get the immediate look. But it felt like that had a lot more transfer. You could be wearing the loosest T-shirt and still make a ring around it with the guide color. I never got the tan, I just let it develop.

Emily: So I’ve only gotten a spray tan by a person. I’ve never done the booth.

Melissa: The booth you have to pay attention. You have to be sure you are listening to the instructions beforehand, you ask the person to repeat them, then you get in the booth, and your ears are wide open.

Jessica: It’s a struggle. I just do it at home by myself now.

Emily: How often are any of you self-tanning at home?

Jessica: Every one and a half weeks, I would say.

Trish: Depends on the season for me. I would say in the summer, probably minimum two times a week.

Melissa: Are we talking about face or body? I differentiate. I do my face in the summer, if I don’t have a natural tan already. I swear by the Biotherm Aqua-Gelee that I have to get in Europe. It’s a serum consistency and one pump applied everywhere like moisturizer looks so natural.

[Kim begins taking notes]

Melissa: It’s amazing, and it doesn’t smell strongly of DHA. I also notice the smell of DHA in the middle of the night; for some reason I always sweat when I’m wearing self-tanner and DHA stuff really smells.

Jessica: I used to think self-tanner was embarrassing. Especially if you get caught with the smell.

Kim: I mean, for me, I’m the Black girl who self-tans. So it is a little embarrassing! It feels weird!

Trish: My first time exploring self-tanner, I was in the fifth grade. It was before Jergens, it was the L’Oréal Sublime Glow and it was horrific. And then I probably didn’t do it again until middle school or freshman year of high school.

Emily: Do you do your whole body when you self-tan?

Melissa: I do my entire body right before bed and then I shower in the morning.

Emily: I usually only do my legs.

Kim: Oh, I do my full body. This is like sexy time, you know? Not like personal sexy time...just my time to get sexy.

Melissa: If I’m going for it, I do the whole thing—or just my face.

Jessica: And I will say, St. Tropez is just so forgiving, that mousse! I don’t have anyone doing my back, but I can get enough and I never see splotches. St. Tropez mousse is my favorite.

Kim: St. Tropez mousse is better than anything. I need to get a new mitt though.

Trish: It’s not exactly my favorite pay-off or my favorite product to use, but what I use most often is Tan Towels.

Emily: How are you using Tan Towels? I fucked up so bad with Tan Towels.

Melissa: Oh, I use those on my face.

Trish: How did you fuck up? I buy the beauty salon size off eBay. Nothing is easier.

Melissa: Do you have it on right now?

Trish: Yeah!

Melissa: Because you don’t look tan.

Trish: But you don’t know how pale I am. I do it all year 'round. But in the winter, I won’t do it as frequently so I can fully pale out. It builds, and what I like about it is that it dries immediately. I hate that DHA smell; I hate getting it on my sheets, and I feel even with the mousse, I still have transfer. [With wipes] there’s no transfer, and it slowly develops if I do it twice in row, it’s enough so that it looks like I did St. Tropez one and a half times. It’s like a moist towelette and you just swirl it and go up and down. I’ll go up, I’ll go down; not always in a swirly motion. But, I’ll start in a swirly and cover my bases. I’ll probably use one side for one leg and then switch to the other side, so I just move it around.

Emily: Hm, I had the worst experience with Tan Towels but I want to try it again now.

Jessica: What happened?

Emily: I was just so streaky! It was blotchy.

Kim: I was looking my best last summer with those Tan Towels.

Trish: And you can travel with them! If I go on vacation, I’ve probably prepped with a few days of self-tanning. And if I come back from my vacation, I’m paler than when I left. So I bring the Tan Towels with me so I can do a few sessions when I’m out there.

Emily: What’s anybody else’s favorite?

Jessica: St. Tropez Mousse is the best if you want to get it everywhere on your body.

Trish: Doesn’t the Tan Towel get your skin dry though?

Kim: It does make my skin dry.

Trish: I always have to double moisturize—I moisturize before tan towel and then I put moisturizer on afterwards every time.

Emily: I’m all about the Josie Maran Oil. It’s a got a really good guide color so you can see where you’ve put it. They make a complementary face one, but I don’t use it. I really am about tanning the lower half of my body and not the upper half of my body. That I’ll just do with bronzer.

Kim: Yeah, but I want to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and be like, “Ooh, go girl.” And I feel that way when I’m tan everywhere.

Trish: Has anyone used Fake Bake before? It’s my favorite cheap product. It has a nice smell to it and it’s $12 on Amazon for something that’ll probably last you four months. They actually send you latex gloves and the mitt. It has a little bit of a guide color but it’s pretty faint.

Melissa: Is that Australian? Australia always has the best self-tanners and I always see it on YouTubers. I really want to try Loving Tan–I recommend it to everyone and I haven’t even used it.

Jessica: Vita Liberata is Irish–also highly recommended by YouTubers.

Trish: Do all of you use mitts?

Emily: I didn’t initially and then when I got the mousse and saw that it came with a mitt, my life changed.

Kim: I won’t use it without a mitt.

Jessica: A naked hand though can apply a little bit better than a mitt–a mitt is a little bit more crude, but I will have to wash my hands after every single body part as to avoid stain, and then I also scrub my palms. I’m always happier with the result if I’ve actually spent time significant time doing it.

Emily: Maybe I don’t do a really good job. I’m just too lazy and I’m like, “It’s done, I’m done.” How long does it take you? Because I would say I probably spend about five minutes doing it.

Kim: 10 minutes.

Trish: With the Tan Towels, maybe 10-15 minutes. But with Fake Bake I’ll spend 25-30 minutes doing it.

Emily: This is the reason I’m not as good at it as you guys.

Kim: When I lived with roommates, I used to have my roommates do my back.

Melissa: Yea, I have my roommate do my back too.

Emily: Are you wearing any clothes, or are you just like, “Come in!”

Kim: I’m wearing a little thong, and I’m like, “Girl, get to it!” But you know, I learned.

Jessica: If I really am going to a wedding and wearing a backless dress, I'll pay for a top-of-line New York spray tanner extraordinaire, and that’s that. Well, the one time Emily Ferber did it, it was amazing and that is what I plan on doing.

Trish: I went to one place and I could have done a better job. My ankles were bad, my toes were bad, it was all bad.

Melissa: It does sound like you’re a professional…

Trish: I’ve been doing this a while.

Jessica: You should consider getting a career in this.

Emily: I want to watch you do it, and then I want you to do it to me.

Kim: But not in a creepy way.

Jessica: Trish Gillis Self-Tanning Consultancy.

Kim: The paranoia that I have with getting a spray tan is the same paranoia I have when I’m trying a new hairdresser, I’m like, “You’re just going to screw it up–why don’t I do it myself?”

Trish: But a real spay tan lasts so much longer. And especially if I’m at the beach–with Tan Towels–if I put my feet in the pool for an hour, my ankle below is going to be white. If I can get the professional person to spray me, I can frolic in the ocean and not be afraid of the sand and saltwater.

Melissa: It’s just when it start coming off, and it ends up being splotchy, that it's the worst.

Emily: It makes it look like you have a skin disease.

Jessica: I saw on The Only Way Is Essex that if you want to take a spray tan off, you take a bath. Soaking in water takes the spray tan off.

Melissa: And lemon, right? I’m just getting that from Bride Wars. I think that’s what Anne Hathaway did.

Trish: The bath thing is definitely true. I got a spray tan before visiting a friend in college and ended up using the bath. When the water drained, there was this brown thing around the entire tub. My friend saw it and was like “What’s this?” And that’s when it hit me.

Jessica: [Cackles]

Trish: I came out pale.

Jessica: This is by far the most embarrassing self-tanner story I have ever heard, and I thought mine were bad. Like the one time I used the St. Tropez Express Tan. The Express one—which you have to read—is light, medium, and then dark, all in one formula. It just depends on how long you keep it on for. Light, you keep it on for an hour and wash it off and then it continues to develop. I can do a few hours overnight and wash it off in the morning and it’s fine. But this one time, I missed my flight, so I didn’t have time to take the shower, so it kept developing. On a flight to Utah—a very long flight. It was on for 12 hours.

Kim: Was it as bad as when Brennan and Emily got tanned in the middle of the day last year?

Jessica: Oh! This is when we talk about the time when the Beauty Editors of ITG went last summer—during lunch—to get spray tans. You know, it was a quiet summer day, the rest of us were toiling away. They leave pale.

Melissa: And let’s just say for the record that Brennan and Emily are naturally pale people. When we were considering making a lighter shade of Stretch Concealer, my two trial users were Brennan and Emily.

Jessica: Brennan came back looking like Tom Hanks in Castaway. I’ll never forget.

[She shows everyone this picture]

Emily: In my defense, the only other time I’d done it, I’d done it at night and showered in the morning so didn’t really realize how dark you could get before showering.

Trish: It doesn’t look that bad…

Kim: It was that bad.

Emily: So anyway, I learned—you do it at night, you sleep on a towel, you wake up, and then you shower before anyone notices. Tried and true.

Jessica: Yeah, there should be no innovation in self-tanning. The innovation has been made, and you just have to do what works. I bought an in-shower tanning lotion off eBay once…

Emily and Melissa simultaneously: DOES NOT WORK.

Jessica: No, it does not work. Just do one thing well—don’t be easier, don’t do other things. Just be solid self-tanner.

Emily: And you know there’s now a tanning sheet mask?

Melissa: Sounds like it would be streaky.

Kim: Wait a minute, so should I go to Sweetheart Tan, where you got your first one done, Emily?

Jessica: I’m definitely going to go before a bachelorette party in Cabo.

Emily: Sweetheart is amazing, get the one with violet undertones. It’s called the Supermodel.

Kim: Alright, it’s happening.

End scene.

You know what your fresh new fake tan would look good in? A one-piece. Pick one out here.