Adventures in Faux-Tanning

A few of my fellow pale skinned brides have mentioned their exploits with getting their (lack of) tan on for the wedding. I know that being a pale bride is beautiful and all, but…I still yearn for that sun-kissed skin. I think it’s that whole “want what you can’t have” thing.

See, I have this perpetual fantasy that I can get to be this nice shade of golden tan, whether it be through the sun or lotions or sprays or what have you. The problem is, I usually just go from white as heck to red as heck. On occasion, that red eventually fades into a pale shade of tan.


Not cute.

Back in college, I used the Jergen’s Natural Glow for fair skin tones almost every day for two weeks.



That, up there? Is incredibly tan for me. I’m sure I also went to the beach a few times that summer, but I sure was rocking my version of a golden glow. On the flip side, though, I have very distinct memories of feeling gross and slimy and sticky every time I sweat or, you know, moved (which is a lot when you live in an apartment with no air conditioning in Philly in the middle of August). It just wasn’t an ideal scenario.

Regardless, I decided to try again with the tanning lotion back in March, this time using Jergen’s Natural Glow Express for fair skin tones – it’s supposed to give you the same amount of glow, just in less time. This is what happened after four days of using it.


That would be nothing, by the way. Especially not compared to Em’s fantastic glow up there. So while I oohed and aahed over her sun-kissed skin, she told me to stop messing around with the fair skin tones stuff and just use the lotion for medium to dark skin tones.


Well…ok then. So I did just that. Then this happened.



I was…very sad. I also didn’t see this part of it until halfway through the work day.

I hope you appreciate what you are seeing. That is a very distinctive tan line, where I clearly washed my hands (and wrists?) after applying. In my defense, that’s what the bottle told me to do! On the bright side, however, this was after only one application and, even though I was seemingly channeling my inner Michael Jackson, the color was pretty good and natural.

So I tried again the next day, in an attempt to even out the harsh lines and get some color on my hands (and feet…those were bad, too).


Uh-huh. #fail

For the life of me, I do not understand how you are supposed to apply/wash off the lotion on your hands and feet. But again, on the rest of my body? I looked pretty damn sun-kissed.


At this point, I’ve resigned to fact that I’ll just be pasty-pasty for the wedding. But I’m still turning to you for help, because I will forever hold out hope that I can be golden: how the heck do you get even coverage, without lines and splotches of orange, on your hands and feet when using tanning lotion? What have your experiences been?


Mrs. Fox

Washington DC/Havre de Grace, MD
Wedding Date:
June 2012
Pretty Maids All in a Row
Last Minute Details
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  1. Member
    Dandelion D 1607 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:53 am

    I cannot speak for how well it works yet but I’m planning on giving this a try:

    I’ve heard some fellow pasties rave about it so I think I’m going to give it a shot.

  2. Member
    jessica.dirr 576 posts, Busy bee @ 6:58 am

    Airbrush tan is the only thing I’ve found to not be orange and/or streaky… Not the mystic tan booth thing, I mean an actual person who essentially spray paints you. It’s incredibly uncomfortable being all… let’s say exposed… in front of a woman you just met armed with an airbrush gun… but the tan turned out looking great.

  3. Member
    elibas 245 posts, Helper bee @ 7:01 am

    Try putting regular lotion on the palms of your hands, elbows, kneecaps and any other place the tanner can build up.

  4. Member
    cdncinnamongirl 1613 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:02 am

    I can’t give any advice about applying self-tanner, as the stuff has a scent that drives me crazy so I embrace my natural colour (not that I’m happy about that though). But for the wedding I’m considering a professional spray tan. They must have trade secrets to deal with hands and feet so I will put my trust in a professional and hope it doesn’t come out disastrous a la Bride Wars.

  5. Member
    sweetbee29 525 posts, Busy bee @ 7:03 am

    I agree with Jessica. I would definitely do a trial or two though, because I got sprayed before e-pics and when I sweated the color got on my dress. It wasn’t a big deal, because it was only around the arms and it did come out. I’m having the same dilemma….

  6. castle Member
    castle 1191 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:04 am

    I did the Jergens natural glow express for the wedding and it worked ok enough. I was only worried about my upper body and arms lol. My Maid of honor did one session of mystic tan and she looked amazing! I was to nervous to try it for the first time right before the wedding but she looked amazing!

  7. Member
    BookishBelle 1629 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:08 am

    I plan on being pasty white. My mom gave me the advice early on in my life to make sure you look like yourself on your wedding day. My self is a pasty white girl who hardly ever has a tan (I actually tan easily, I’m just not outdoors a lot in the summer so it doesn’t happen) and doesn’t wear heavy makeup, so I will be striving to look as natural (but not, lol) as possible. Also then it makes the FI’s beautiful brown skin look even darker in comparison, and I admit, I love the contrast, hehe.

    Ps I also used to do the Jergens thing, and did the Express one once. I had no problems w/ hands/feet, but I had some weirdness going on near my armpits, haha

  8. prairiedog Member
    prairiedog 455 posts, Helper bee @ 7:09 am

    embrace the pale! fair skin looks amazing with your coloring– very emma stone, so i’m jealous.

  9. Member
    foreverblessed 748 posts, Busy bee @ 7:11 am

    I have the exact same hair color and skin tone as you! I have always tried getting tan, here I will link a photo to show you what I looked like at my senior prom. OH BOY, I have no idea what I was thinking. I thought I was “tan” at the time.. haha! However, lately I have been getting a professional spray tan. They no longer use the mystic tan, they have upgraded their machines to a different type of spray tan. The new machine is 100000x better. I have never one turned orange, and the tan lasts about a week and half. It’s truly amazing. My fiance is always in awe when I come home all tan. Haha

    Here is my high school prom:

  10. Member
    MsVoyageur 1384 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:16 am

    I agree with BookishBelle & Mrs. Prairie Dog – embrace the pale! Emma Stone always looks gorgeous!

  11. porcupine Member
    porcupine 633 posts, Busy bee @ 7:19 am

    I don’t know if you get the redhead flush, but I def. do and looked pretty red in a lot of pics. Not bad red (okay, some bad red ha), but mostly just glowy from all the excitement of the day. So in essence I didn’t look my usual shade of death-pale. However, I did a mystic pray tan for Hawaii in “light”, and it actually looked good! I did it before a friend’s wedding as well. I always swore I would never get a spray tan for fear of Lindsay Lohan orange-syndrome, but in “light” it works really well! Just make sure you exfoliate like crazy beforehand, because this last time I went my legs were so dry that as it wore off it left me speckled. Overall, looking back, I’m glad I didn’t do it for the wedding though. Honestly, I would say embrace the pale, like Mrs. P-dog said. Eventually when the tan craze wears off you’ll appreciate looking back at pictures that look very “you.”

  12. msfox Member
    msfox 1635 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:20 am

    @Dandelion D: I am very intrigued by this.. thanks for the rec!
    @jessica.dirr: I’m really tempted to get a pro tan.. I kind of have no shame and wouldn’t really mind the “exposed” part, I’m still just nervous of being streaky! This would definitely be the way to go though, I think..
    @elibas: Lotion before the tanner? Instead of the tanner?
    @cdncinnamongirl: I definitely think that’s the safest bet.. hope it works out for you!
    @Jamieg: Oh no!! Good point about the sweat thing.. I tend to sweat like a pig when I do, so maybe I should rethink that for the wedding..hrmmm..
    @Mrs. Castle: My MOH has tried Mystic and it looked great on her. Definitely made me think twice about it.
    @BookishBelle: I’ve sort of embraced my paleness.. and Foxy is just as or more pale than I am, so at least we’d match! 😉
    @Mrs. Prairie Dog: Emma Stone is my makeup inspiration! Have you seen her new Revlon ad? Love.
    @Caitlyn12: Aw girl, we all want to be tan.. so interesting to hear that they upgraded the machines – is that at all salons??

  13. Member
    Jshedrick84 114 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:27 am

    Let me preface this by saying I have never used this product- but I have a friend who has and claims that it works. They are called Tan Towels; they sell them at Ulta (there is one at the avenue in white marsh) They look like they got decent reviews on the website.′ defer=’defer

  14. Member
    dagret 166 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:27 am

    Get thee to a Mystic Tan for a spray tan in a booth. Problem solved.

    ONLY MAKE SURE YOU EXFOLIATE FIRST! (i took handfuls of baking soda and scrubbed a LOT at my hands, elbows, knees and feet.)

  15. Member
    rivendeler 1244 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:34 am

    I am sorry to all bees in advance.. i am pale and i tan easily, getting that nice, golden tan we here call “the Algarve tan”. My sister, on the other hand, should be called Snow White!! All white, green eyes, freckles!

    From a semi-brunette point of view..i really don’ get it, bees..why do you want to have that golden, fake tan at your wedding??? I truly, truly believe pale skin in a wedding gown (specially freckled!!) is sooooo romantic!!
    Then again, it’s just my opinion and i am sorry if i am offending anyone. I am wearing my winter-pale skin at my wedding and i am sure nobody would think i would look better in a tan.

  16. msfox Member
    msfox 1635 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:39 am

    @Mrs. Porcupine: Best argument yet. And yes, I *totally* get that devil red flush. Not always attractive though, hah!
    @Jshedrick84: I have a friend who uses and loves them as well.. maybe I’ll try them right after the wedding, before Mexico??
    @dagret: Number one rule that I always hear! Good tip about the baking soda.. I”ll try that!
    @Rivendeler: Jealous. 😉 I have to say, for me, I’m pretty sure it’s the whole “want what you can’t have” thing. I can’t tan, so I want one. I have straight hair, but I really want wavy hair. It’s a problem!

  17. Member
    Miss Tiger 25 posts, Newbee @ 7:44 am

    Versa Spa tans are wonderful! Takes 5 minutes, gets you all over, and pretty affordable (around $20 bucks), totally worth it! And yes, definitely exofoliate and do a trial run! They have several different levels (light, medium, dark) so find the one you like best. Also, probably get your tan done 1-2 days prior to the event.

  18. Member
    ashelliott99 19 posts, Newbee @ 7:46 am

    I share you tanning issue as well. Iam fair skinned and a red head. I have tried it all and ended up with the same results as well.

    BUT I found my solution! Just as Dandelion D mentioned spray tan is the way to go. A person not a machine. It works and I love it. I got it done for my engagement pictures, I plan to do it for the bachelorette party, and for my wedding.

    I would suggest trying it sometime that you don’t have anything important to go to in case the place you go accidental turns you orange. Always start with the lowest color and work your way up as you like.

    For my wedding on a Saturday I will do it on Tuesday evening so I will only have a small tint to me. My fiance does not like me tan because that is not me. So as BookishBelle said I will be me on my day!

  19. msfox Member
    msfox 1635 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:49 am

    @Miss Tiger: Never heard of Versa Spa.. will have to research them to see if they are around here!
    @ashelliott99: I’m worried I just don’t have enough time to do a trial run.. I’m in my friends wedding in just a few days, then am going to another wedding the week after.. then it’s our wedding! Slowly embracing the pale, as I think I must.. but I definitely want to try the spray tan this summer, I think!

  20. Member
    julis120 190 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:52 am

    If possible, could you have your make-up artists apply make-up to your body? I’ve never done that but I know others have. It’s just foundation/powder all over you so it comes right off at the end of the day and you will see exactly how it’s going to look.

    I also might be marginally insane to suggest make-up on your body on the wedding day. Eh, who care. :)

  21. Member
    Future Army Wife 2213 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:41 am

    I’ve just resigned myself to being pale on wedding day, haha.

  22. Member
    alove31 552 posts, Busy bee @ 8:55 am

    As a pale girl myself, I feel your pain. I usually like to apply the tanner in the evening so I can wake up, wash it off and cover up any areas I missed.

    That being said, you should also really check out the tanning glove/mitt Ulta sells. It’s the best $5 I ever spent. I put my L’Oreal Sublime directly onto the mitt and rub it in. Sublime is great because it’s tinted and you can see where you’ve put it (note- it also has glitter/shimmer in to, which is also why I apply at night and shower in the morning). The mitt is awesome, it saves your palms and hands and I’ve never had any streaks. When I’ve done my body, I remove the glove and use whatever is let on the mitt to do my wrists and hands.

    Good luck!

  23. Member
    almostmrsj 3604 posts, Sugar bee @ 9:15 am

    I’ve used the regular Jergens and it worked… ok for me. Put regular lotion on your hands and feet first, so the tan stuff doesn’t soak in. Then do a quick rinse after with soap just on your palms, rub them together, not around, if that makes sense.
    For the wedding, I’ll admit – I went tanning. I do get tan in the summer, but I’m pasty-pale now (or, I was). It’s going to look like summer in our pictures (ourdoor, garder, forecast for 90… ugh) so I should look like summer. Not to mention the rest of the wedding party is either Asian or from Texas, so I always look even whiter!
    I’m usually ms. sunscreen because I burn so bad but I was careful and managed to get a decent shade of ‘healthy glow’ over the course of 3-4 weeks.

  24. msdragon Member
    Mrs. Dragon 814 posts, Busy bee @ 9:25 am

    I had the same problem using the same stuff! I thought it was working great and then realized I was streaky. :( I’m sticking with my natural paleness.

  25. Member
    laaiinn 464 posts, Helper bee @ 9:59 am

    I would not recommend the mystic tan! Too much room for user error. My SIL is a natural redhead (read: pale skinned) and did an airbrush tan for her shower and wedding and it looked so great! Not orange at all, and not too dark. Just find someone who comes with excellent reviews. And do a test run. :)

  26. Guest Icon Guest
    FaeMao76, Guest @ 10:07 am

    I just recently tried those Tan Towels & I was pretty pleased with the results. I did have to go back and touch up some areas I apparently missed or didn’t go over thoroughly enough, but it all blended in quite well. I used the “Classic” rather than the “Plus” ones, because I am quite pale & didn’t want to get all drastic. I mean, I must be pleased with the results because I’m at work wearing a knee-length dress with no pantyhose! :O I bought a 10 pack and am going to do another application soon. I don’t recommend doing it before going to bed because I think that might have been part of the cause of the vitiligo look I was not going for. I’d do it in the morning after a shower & try to wear something light & loose for at least 2-3 hours. Just to be safe.

  27. Guest Icon Guest
    lolalovesjosh, Guest @ 10:13 am

    This is my trick for avoiding a tan line on my hands when using self tanner – after you are done applying the lotion:
    1. wash palms, between the fingers and around nail beds ONLY (not the back of your hands) with soap and water
    2. dry wet areas with a towel
    3. rub hands together as if you were putting lotion on them – this will blend the edges
    3. dry palms again with towel

    I follow these steps and I never end up with a drastic tan line or buildup of color.

  28. Member
    caitlyn1109 156 posts, Blushing bee @ 10:33 am

    I know someone who does airbrush tans. Have you ever thought of that? They stay on for a week and you could do a trial before hand. very natural as long as you dont try to over due it.

  29. Member
    dfontaine07 273 posts, Helper bee @ 10:43 am

    I am the same way with my skin tone, and have experienced the same problems with self tanning lotions and home spray bottles. I have done the Mystic Tan before at a local tanning salon and I really liked it. The next day was a little much but after I was able to shower it looked really nice and even. I am going to try out a spray tan that is done by a person this next time a few weeks before the wedding to see if I like it, I feel awkward about standing there having someone basically “paint” me but I know people that love it and always have great results. I would look into spray tanning, I think it’s worth the $25 I’ve paid. :)

  30. Member
    scottishmrs 3213 posts, Sugar bee @ 10:52 am

    I’d try lolalovesjosh’s advice with one thing added, I’ve heard that you should put vaseline on your fingernails so that the lotion doesn’t get all up in your cuticles and stuff and make them super tan and silly looking. Give it another shot and let us know how it works!

  31. parasol Member
    parasol 2955 posts, Sugar bee @ 10:57 am

    I loooove your pale skin, Miss Fox! It’s so lovely, and I think you should rock it! I’m a little darker than you, but I am by far the palest in my family. My little bro sports a year round tan that is akin to a leather suitcase. It’s really not fair!

  32. Member
    xlittlemissbridex 532 posts, Busy bee @ 11:01 am

    I did the spray tan for my sisters wedding (applied by an actual human being, not a machine). I was the MOH. I told her to do it light, and I thought it looked pretty good at the time but it definitely gave me more of a tan than just a “sun-kissed look”. Looking back at the pictures, I wish I had just stuck with my natural pasty skin because it doesn’t look like me standing next to my sister. For my own wedding, I think I will embrace my blinding whiteness. :)

  33. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 11:07 am

    I have no suggestions, but I think your skin looks gorgeous as is :)

  34. Member
    ashelliott99 19 posts, Newbee @ 11:44 am

    Try doing it next Monday. That will give it plenty of time to fade before you go to your friends wedding.
    In all honesty, if the last picture posted is your current look, you look gorgeous and I wouldn’t change your look!

  35. Member
    actingdarling 167 posts, Blushing bee @ 2:36 pm

    I’ve embraced my paleness all my life and I had no thoughts about tanning for the wedding, I picked out the dress to my skin color now. All though my wedding is in the fall anyways it doesn’t make sense to be tan when its colder out, and I mean the tanness that you do have from the jergens does look pretty good to me!

  36. Guest Icon Guest
    Libby, Guest @ 4:29 pm

    try sally hansens spray can. my sister is pallllle white with red hair as well and uses this and its amazing. cant even tell its fake what so ever!

  37. Member
    JessiTask 106 posts, Blushing bee @ 4:51 pm

    I think someone mentioned this…I am a darker skinned gal but still love using Jergens Natural Glow. I exfoliate in the shower, then apply the Jergens Lotion. On my hands, knees, ankles, and feet I mix the Jergens with a small amount of regular lotion. It seems to help!

  38. Guest Icon Guest
    wastrels, Guest @ 9:46 pm

    I just had an airbrush tan done for mother’s day because we were going to the beach. I am also very pale, and I have to tell you, it looked amazingly real. No streaks, no missed spots, just a nice sunkissed look.

    If you decide to go this route, I would do a trial run.

    Also of note, I couldn’t bathe for 16-24 hours after the woman airbrushed me. You want to make sure you don’t have any significant plans in that time frame because it does feel a little sticky after application.

  39. Member
    peachplum09 732 posts, Busy bee @ 10:09 pm

    Go to Fit To Be Tan in DC for a fab airbrushed tan! I just went this weekend and I looked like I had been tanning in the tropics, it was uh-mazing! There’s a deal on Yelp if you do decide to check it out.

  40. Member
    Snowflake343 112 posts, Blushing bee @ 5:27 am

    I’ve heard that exfoliating (ie. with a salt or body scrub) will help with the whole streaking thing, but I haven’t tried it yet because the smell of those lotions bugs me. I’m trying to train my skin to be tan and not red, but we’ll see how it goes. 😛 As far as the feet, I would think you could just apply the lotion to the tops and be fine. And for hands, maybe try a wipe or washcloth (that you made wet before lotioning up) instead of actually washing your hands so you only get your palms wet? (Use an old one in case it stains.) I don’t know if it would work or not, but if there was still a little leftover on your palms you could try a salt/sugar scrub on just your palms and see if that helps (my thinking is maybe it’ll get rid of the top layer of coloured skin?).

  41. msfox Member
    msfox 1635 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:19 am

    @julis120: Oh goodness, I would be *terrified* it was smudge all over my dress!
    @abby382: Ohh I haven’t heard of the glove/mitt thing.. I think between that and the tan towels, I have a lot of options to try!
    @almostmrsj: It seems like regular lotion before tanning lotion is the way to go.. thanks!
    @lolalovesjosh: Definitely trying this with the Express stuff to see what happens. Worst case, it fades within a week or so. Thank you!
    @YoungBride1414: Good call with the Vaseline!! I def had some cuticle issues last time. 😉
    @ashelliott99: Thanks! That was with the Express tanning lotion, which looked good everywhere but my hands and feet. :(
    @peachplum09: Girl, you’re seriously my life line with all things wedding related. That Yelp deal is fab.. totally think I’m trying this. Thanks!

  42. Member
    blonde17jess 1290 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:51 am

    I’ve never tried spray tan because I’ve always been leery about being orange. I do think it may be best to get a professional, however, I’m just too cheap so I do it myself.

    I use the Jergens natural glow lotion (actually I use Target brand now because it saves me about $2) and just slather it on pretty thick. I also supplement with Neutrogena fine mist tanning spray (it may be the best thing ever). I can’t say that I’ve never been streaky, because sometimes I just mess up, but alternating the lotion with the spray helps me avoid 95% of streak-age. If I want to be tan in a jiffy, I do two heavy coats of the lotion and a coat of spray, leaving about 5 minutes in between to dry. Usually in a few hours I’m looking pretty tan, and if I repeat for 2-3 days, I’m about as tan as I ever get!

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