Sexy, sun-kissed skin is always in style (and it looks fabulous against a white gown) — unfortunately, we all know that getting it the old-fashioned way is a serious health hazard. Luckily, achieving a totally natural-looking faux glow has never been easier. You won’t turn orange, stain your clothes (or your hands), or get burned — we promise.
Tanning at Home
The Good: It’s inexpensive (one bottle or tube will last you several applications) and convenient (slather it on in the privacy of your own home, whenever). Choose a tanner that’s a little lighter than you want to turn out and reapply every couple of days — building your color gradually keeps you in control and prevents any surprises (although you really should have known what you were getting into when you picked up that bottle of extra-super-mega-dark formula!).
The Bad: Even though self-tanners have improved 110% in the last few years, human error is still obstacle #1 when it comes to tanning at home. To prevent streaks, blotches, or missed spots, it doesn’t hurt to have your fiance or a friend give you a once-over before you declare yourself done or even have them help you with hard-to-reach spots. Be sure to follow the instructions when it comes to how long you need to hang out in the buff before you get dressed, too — you don’t want any tanner to rub off on your clothes.
When to Do It: Start building your tan about two weeks before your wedding date. You’ll need the extra time to fine-tune your technique and find the right hue for you.
Tanning Tips: Use a gentle body scrub in the shower first. Apply moisturizing lotion around the edges of your feet and between your toes, as well as on your elbows, knees, and hands (or wear rubber gloves to apply the tanner). It will provide a little bit of a barrier and keep these areas from soaking up too much of the formula. If you’re applying tanner to your face, the same principle applies: Carefully apply extra moisturizer in the corners of your nose, around your eyes, and at your hairline.
The Good: Quick and easy! You simply strip down, apply some lotion (just as described above for at-home tanning), step into a booth, and voila! One or two minutes later, you’re done. If you choose a spray with bronzer, you should be glowing already. If you picked the regular spray, in 4 to 12 hours you’ll look like you’re just back from a beach getaway.
The Bad: Anyone who’s seen the Friends episode with Ross’s tanning trauma might feel a little trepidation about spray tanning (and yes, the experience can be a little sci-fi). If you’ve never gone before, get to the salon at least 10 minutes before your appointment time so you can ask the technicians any questions you might have about what to do. Also, though you will be tan after one session, you’ll need to go back to deepen and maintain your color.
When to Do It: Start about a month before your wedding. You’ll need multiple visits to get the color you want, but you’ll want to wait a while between each one to see how well you like it and decide whether to go darker.
Tanning Tips: Before you step into the booth, apply lotion to body parts that shouldn’t get too dark just as you would at home (salons usually provide moisturizer). It’s especially important to rub it into your cuticles and on your fingertips to keep your nail beds from changing color. If you opt for a formula that includes a temporary bronzer, get the gym out of the way (sweat may make the color rub off onto clothing). To get the most out of your tan and let it fully develop, don’t shower or swim for at least 12 to 24 hours after your tanning session (if you can wait even longer, that’s better still).
The Good: A salon or spa technician sprays you with a fine mist of UV-free tanning solution. The color is custom-calibrated, so the technician can fine-tune your hue and even contour your muscles to give you a more defined look. This is also the best method for concealing stretch marks, scars, and cellulite. Getting an airbrush tan usually takes about 30 minutes and lasts 5 to 10 days.
The Bad: It’s not for the super-self-conscious (though it’s no more invasive than your average bikini wax). The technician has to get up close and personal, and you’ll have to strike several poses to make sure you’re covered. It’s also the most expensive method. While at-home airbrush tanners have started to hit the market, if you truly want a seamless glow you should still go to a pro.
When to Do It: Book your appointment for a few days before your wedding, or, if you think you’ll be too busy, one week before (then follow up with self-tanner to maintain your color). Since you’re paying big bucks for flawless application, you want to get it done when you can flaunt it.
Tanning Tips: If you’re headed for a spa, consider scheduling a body scrub before you tan. This mega-exfoliation makes your skin feel amazing, and it will help your tan last and last. Afterward, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Skin that’s fully hydrated will keep your tan intact.