Thursday, August 4, 2011

How NOT to Mess Up Your Tan

For the first time, on my 10th show, I finally got my tan to remain perfect for the show. Not messing up a tan is quite an accomplishment and no small feat! Here's some helpful information to help you get the perfect tan for your show.

Skin Prep

Before getting tanned (regardless of the application method), you need to prep your skin. The week before the show, start using the exfoliating and pH balancing soap provided by your tanning product company. Jan Tana, ProTan, and Liquid Sunrays all have their own products, and for best results, I strongly recommend using the company's own products!

Jan Tana works best for me
A day or two before the show, start the hair removal process. YES, you need to remove ALL the hair from your entire body. This includes the peach fuzz on your arms, back, butt, shoulders, chest, and tummy - in addition to the areas you usually shave. No, it's not weird to ask your significant other to shave your back. Or your chest. Ha!

I recommend waxing for your underarms and a full Brazilian for your bikini line. I do NOT recommend using a depilatory cream (like Nair), for the simple reason that it BURNS YOUR SKIN. Many thanks to Katie for running to the drugstore to pick up some aloe lidocaine gel for the burns on my arms and back the night before a show.

Once you're all shaved and polished, it's time to apply the tan!

Airbrushing vs Painting

Painting the tan on yourself (usually with the assistance of someone else) requires a buff, latex gloves, a drop cloth, and lots of patience! The number of coats of tan depends on how pale or dark your skin is. If you're Casper pale like J, you'll need 3 to 5 coats. Each coat needs to be even and blended. The process gets really old really fast. Thank you to my good friends, Melanie and Katie, who have seen more of me than they'd ever wanted to see when they painted me for shows.

Airbrushing, on the other hand, goes on evenly, and the artist can apply the color thin or thick, depending on your skin color. The main drawback of getting airbrushed is that the whole process is FREEZING!! In order for the tan to dry, it needs to "freeze" on the skin, so anything that raises your body temperature will make the tan melt and streak. After getting sprayed, I stand directly in front of an air vent, crank the AC and literally shiver non-stop for 5 hours until the tan is completely dried on my skin.

What about water?

Once the tan is applied, you can NOT get ANY water on your skin! Water immediately removes the tan, leaving a mark. Wiping the water away will only make the streak bigger, so dab water very gently to prevent further streaks. Jan Tana lotion can be used to blend the tan around the water spot. Keep in mind that it won't be perfect by any means, but you can blend so the mark won't be seen on stage.

Before I learned that heat melt the tan and lotion can blend water marks, I had my friend Katie help me out. While she tried desperately to blend the tan using more paint, I aimed a blow dryer at the area trying to dry the new paint. Needless it say, it was a complete disaster, and Katie, I'm still indebted to you for your patience that whole trip!

Once the tan is on, I don't wash my face or my hands. It sounds kinda gross, but I don't want to take the chance of getting any water on me. I use facial wipes for my face and Wet Ones wipes for my hands. When brushing my teeth, I stand as far back from the sink as possible to avoid any water splashes, and I always make sure I've got a shirt on when near any water.

But how do you NOT pee on yourself?

This only applies to the ladies. Men, you wouldn't understand how difficult it is NOT to get any pee spatter on your legs. "Water spots" (which is the nice way of referring to drops of pee on your legs) are the fastest, easiest way to mess up an even, beautiful tan.

Here are a few methods that seem to work:

  • Put a couple toilet seat covers in the toilet to avoid any splashing.
  • Hold a Dixie cup against your body to avoid spatter.
  • Wrap towels around your legs before you sit down (note: your tan must be dry before trying this method).
  • "Hover" above the toilet seat; don't sit on it.

Take it from me - you do NOT want to have your significant other trot back down to the tanning room 10 minutes after you got sprayed and announce to everyone in the room that his girlfriend "peed all over herself," and then have to enter the room (in tears, natch) and have Ms. Jan Tana herself take you aside to fix the so-called "water spots" all over your legs. Get my point?

What should you wear after getting tanned?

Since the tan stains clothing, most competitors wear black clothes after they're tanned. I've seen quite a few track suits with team names on them. I prefer an oversize t-shirt because it touches the least amount of skin (and therefore decreases chances of streaking or smearing the tan). My trusty Geek Squad shirt has gone with me to many, many shows.

I substituted my Geek Squad shirt for my new Team Keenan shirt this year.
If you put clothes on before the tan is dry enough, the clothes will leave marks. You do not want to have to blend in elastic waist band marks around your waist (again, thank you, Katie!).

Sleeping with the tan on

I recommend bringing your own sheets, pillowcases, and towels to every show (if you don't have to travel, use old sheets on your own bed) because the tan WILL come off on fabric and the hotel WILL charge you for ruining their sheets and towels. I have a large flat sheet that I fold in half like a sleeping bag and put on top of the hotel sheets.

Keep in mind that just because you think the tan is dry doesn't mean that it actually is. Remember when I said it has to freeze on you? Well, even after it's dry, if you get warm, the tan will streak. That means, if you sleep with your arms bent, you'll have streaks in the crook of your arm. If your hands somehow end up on your stomach in the middle of the night, you'll have hand prints on your stomach in the morning. Hand prints aren't very easy to blend (thank you, Melanie!). Trust me on this one.

I've learned (from past experiences) to sleep on my back with my arms straight by my sides outside of the sheet. No streaks on my arms or hand prints on my stomach anymore!

If you've never competed or are preparing for your first show, all this information may seem overwhelming. Oddly enough, for all the time we spend in the gym preparing for the show, the week of the show, the tan is one of the most important things. Hopefully this is helpful for you to keep your tan perfect too!

If you have any additional tips or tanning horror stories you'd like to share, please do so! We can all learn from each other's experiences.


  1. Great GREAT tips Kari! I wasn't sure about the hair removal on the whole body so that is awesome that you share. :)

  2. YES! Where was all this information when I was freaking out about tanning the first time. haha! Great post!

  3. wow, that is really....involved!!! crazy!

  4. This was a really really good break down of does and donts!
    I ended up sleeping with a scoop neck t-shirt after the tanning process and ended up with finger marks on my chest because who knew (I slept with my hand on my chest!) you could end up looking diseased!

  5. I stand F-A-R away from the sink...I have a tendency of splashing after I've been tanned & ruining all of my hubby's hard!!


  6. I wear cotton gloves to bed .and yes i've made a mess on my legs after peeing also .Great post

  7. I laughed so hard when I read this. Found out through trial and error about towels around the legs but the dixie cup might be a good way to go :-) I woke up the morning of my last (and also my very first) show with a handprint on my stomach. I found it very weird. My sister said she thought that because I was hungry, I had been holding my stomach. Who knows but I thought that could only happen to me. Thanks for letting me know that's NOT the case.

  8. There some very impressive points in your blog. I must appreciate your excellent work. I find the blog post very interesting and moreover very informative

  9. I so LOVED this post, you made me laugh at loud and gave some awesome tips! I'm competing in my first competition on Saturday and got the Jan Tana product, my dear best friend will be painting me, I'm sure it will be an adventure and I truly appreciate the advice you gave here!