We might be having a heatwave but for scarred, damaged and diseased skins the sun can be a nightmare, and the thought of unveiling bare flesh to the world can bring about a sudden terror. So if your skin is photosensitive, delicate and thus prone to sun damage, or as is the case for a lot of us, you just can’t face displaying pale flesh without a hint of colour, fake tan could be the answer.
However, this doesn’t come without its complexities. A question that comes up time and time again is, “Can I still use fake tan if I have Psoriasis, Eczema, Vitiligo, Rosacea?” or any one of the skin disorders that could contraindicate the use of fake tan. Unfortunately there isn’t a straight answer. It all depends on the severity of your skin disorder, whether the skin is broken or inflamed and how sensitive your skin is to the ingredients found in faux tan products, which could cause your skin to react. However, fake tan can be extremely effective in minimising any skin discoloration or imperfection; brighten sallow skins and give us that ‘post holiday’ confidence boost. So to help guide you through the bewildering topic of fake tan for problematic skins, I will offer you my thoughts; suggest some products to try and hopefully answer most of your questions, to leave you feeling more confident about how to tackle the summer months.
Firstly it is important to assess your skins condition. I would not recommend that you use tanning products during a psoriasis or eczema flare up, or if the skin is broken, as you could be at risk of infection and making your skin condition worse. Leave at least 2 weeks to allow your skin to heal and settle before application of any lotion or spray tan. If you are undertaking UV treatment from your photodermatology department, then having a fake tan might be contra-indicated to this treatment so seeking advice from a medical professional is always recommended.
So what’s better a spray tan or a lotion, and can it be as effective as Skin Camouflage? Spray tans can work very well to quickly cover large areas of skin, even out colour variations and give you a nice healthy summer glow. Normal camouflage products are too thick to pass through the airbrush gun but you can get special fluid foundations like Temptu or Airbase, which would work in the same way (look for those that are free from alcohol, perfumes and parabens).
Self-application of airbrushing is not recommended. You would be best to go to a beauty therapist or salon where they have experts on hand to talk through your concerns and adapt the coverage to your needs. St. Tropez have brought out a hypoallergenic sensitive range that has been dermatologically tested to be suitable for even the most delicate skin types, so ask your therapist what brands they use before application.
It is very important that a patch test is carried out 24 hours before tanning to confirm there is no allergic reaction and will also provide a good indication of the depth of colour and coverage that can be achieved. This is the same whether you are having your tan professionally done or doing it yourself.
Skin camouflage can be applied over the faux tan to areas which require more coverage, or to top up areas where plaques have desquamated from topical medication or scratching. If you use faux tan regularly I would advise that you see a professional Skin Camouflage Practitioner like myself to get re-colour matched once the tan has developed. Trying to match the colour yourself could prove tricky.
For those who prefer self-tanning, there are some great tanning lotions, sprays and creams on the market. I would advise that you look for those that have been dermatologically tested and where possible suitable for sensitive skins. Gradual tans or tinted moisturisers work best as they contain lower levels of tanning agents, natural oils and are extremely moisturising. This is extremely beneficial for psoriasis and eczema to smooth and hydrate the skin and prevent the tan from clinging to drier areas. I would recommend St. Tropez’s Sensitive and Naturals range; Sienna X which are free of alcohol and parabens; Cocoa Brown Gentle Bronze with skin sensitive vegetable DHA’s and no parabens; Skin smoothing L’Oreal Sublime Bronzing Gel and Asda Protect After Sun with Tan Enhancer to prevent peeling. There is a fake tan brand for everyone, but you may have to experiment with different brands and formulas before finding the best option for you.
Follow the manufacturers guidelines to apply, as brands will differ in their method of application. Some require you to massage the product on, others you spray on. I find it best to sweep and smooth the product on in up and down swipes. Circular motions and rubbing may result in an uneven finish. Pay particular attention to areas where product can collect, such as between the fingers, toes, elbows, hairline and any other dry areas. Remove any excess with a tan corrector wipe, to keep the effect as natural as possible. When applying to the face, blend the tanning product in with your usual moisturiser for a more sun kissed, natural glow. This is also good for dry scaly skin, which requires extra moisturisation for expert blending.
The colour takes about 8 hours to develop so always work in natural light and don’t apply too much at once. It’s far better to build up the layers gradually than risk applying too much. Allow the product to dry (approx. 5-10 mins), before buffing the product with a soft mitt or flannel. Some brands suggest washing off any excess product immediately, whilst others recommend that the tan is left to develop overnight before washing. You might find that you need several applications every 8 hours, to build the colour to an acceptable skin match. You will need to top up your faux tan every week as the skin desquamates and I would suggest that after 4-5 weeks you stop application and resume after 2-3 weeks, to prevent any excessive or unnatural build up of colour. A bath with a few drops of baby oil and gentle exfoliating will help to remove the tan easily.
Faux tans can be extremely effective for depigmented skin such as vitiligo (a client of mine swears by Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Legs to mask the discolouration on her limbs and provide some warmth to her hypopigmented skin). However please be aware that faux tans usually darken melasma or any hyperpigmentation, due to the over stimulation of melanin. You can however apply a barrier cream, such as petroleum jelly to the naturally pigmented skin (up to the border of hypopigmentation), to avoid staining the darker areas and prevent a dark halo where the two areas of skin meet.
Taking care of sensitive skin with daily moisturising and gentle exfoliating prior, during and after fake tanning should be top priority. After bathing pat yourself dry rather than rubbing, to prevent any patching or removal of any additional skin camouflage. Make sure that you shave or wax at least 24 hours before tanning to give the skin time to settle down before applying the product. Waxing in particular opens pores and so can leave a speckled effect if the tan is applied too soon. Also any IPL or laser treatment must be stopped before the use of tanning products.
Please be aware that although some products claim to contain SPF, you will still need to apply a high factor sun cream. Fake tan does not protect you from the damaging UVA and UVB rays and damaged skin is extremely delicate, so it is extremely important to keep reapplying SPF throughout the day to maintain full protection. If skin camouflage is being used, a non-oil SPF can be applied on top of the tan and under the camouflage.
If it is your first time at tanning you may need to do some experimenting to find the right product for you. If you find that faux tan doesn’t camouflage your skin concern adequately you may need additional skin camouflage. This is when it helps to see a Skin Camouflage Practitioner like myself who will be able to advise you on skin camouflage to complement or as an alternative to self tanning. Where using tanning products as well as skin camouflage make sure that you leave enough time for the tans colour to fully develop before booking a consultation, so a correct colour match can be found.