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No More Streaks - Prepping for Sunless Tanning

In the last 20 years I’ve experimented with various ways of exfoliating the skin prior to sunless tanning and found that depending on the type of exfoliation it can be detrimental to the overall outcome. I have determined that sunless tans are extremely temperamental when it comes to exfoliation. Too much or too little exfoliation will cause a “lizardy” appearance. Sunless tans do best with a mild, surface exfoliation. Anything too harsh will create valleys in the surface of the skin, which will leave you with an uneven looking sunless tan.
I’ve learned this through my personal escapades.

Twenty years ago when I was eighteen, and before I was in the beauty industry I was mainly a drugstore shopper for my beauty items due to the fact that beauty supply stores did not carry body products at that time. I purchased a popular drugstore brand of scrub. After using the product I was relaxing in my bathtub and decided to read the ingredient deck. I saw something odd. It said, “cow hooves”. I said to myself: “What is a cow hoof?” As reality began to sink in I was mortified that I had just rubbed cow hooves all over my body, including my face. Needless to say, that was the last time I used that product. I then began a search for a product that did not involve animals.
I then bought an apricot kernel scrub. This product was more painful to use than I would have expected. The kernel shells in the product were not ground up evenly. It felt very sharp on my skin. Although it did exfoliate a lot, the abrasiveness left my skin red and irritated. After applying my sunless tan and showering it off the next morning I was left with a very blotchy and scaly looking tan. After this discovery I decided to venture to the department store.
Like many people, I had already been buying a major department store brand of sunless tan. It was much more costly than drugstore brands, but I felt that the quality was worth it. My view at the time was: “a scrub is a scrub”. I did not want to spend the extra money on a department store scrub because I thought I could get the same results from a drugstore scrub. Obviously I did not get the best results, so I went back to the department store for the scrub that I thought would be a waste of money. This one was very different from the first two that I tried. It had the consistency of sand, felt very soft and smooth, and was not harsh in any way. This product was made with polyethylene beads, which are round beads that are all uniform in size. The results of my sunless tan were the best that I had seen.
There was also the loofah phase, when everyone was “loofahing” themselves to death. At first glance using a loofah does not sound like a bad idea. It wasn’t until I received numerous complaints from people with streaked tans that I became aware that they were all using loofahs. So, I began to experiment with loofahs on myself to see how a loofah was able to cause so much streaking. I then realized that the loofah sponge did not conform to the curves of my body the way a washcloth would have. Rather, it tended to only exfoliate the bony areas (like the shin bone) and the larger flat areas (like the front part of the thigh). After I applied a sunless tanner I realized why I had been getting so many complaints. My body was left with stripes, and all the bony areas were the darkest. At that point I began to tell people how detrimental loofahs are to sunless tanning.
Spas frequently offer salt glow treatments in conjunction with body bronzing. One drawback to this treatment is that most salt scrub products are mixed with an oil base. The oil base creates a problem for the sunless tanner. Sunless tans will not penetrate through any oil that may be left on the skin. Therefore you must remove any oil from the skin prior to applying any sunless tanner. You may also find that some people have a sensitivity to salt. If you find that your customer has a reaction to the salt glow treatment, I would recommend that you wait a day or so before applying a sunless tanner.
An alternative to salt glow would be scrubs with sugar in them. They are much milder than salt, which is better for sunless tan products. But be aware that many of the sugar scrubs also have oil bases. Again, oil does not allow a sunless tanner to penetrate the skin. While I believe that both sugar and salt scrubs are great at exfoliating and do a wonderful job on their own as a treatment, they do not mix well with sunless tanners because of the oils.
I’ve seen how important exfoliating is to sunless tanning. For my clients I prefer to use an oil-free polyethylene beaded scrub. I have never seen a polyethylene bead scrub irritate or cause discomfort to anyone. First, I cover my massage table with a heated table cover. Then I put a regular terry cloth table cover on to protect the heated pad underneath. Next I place a large bath towel on the table for the client to lay on. I also cover my client with a large bath towel for warmth and privacy. Having continuous heat on one side of the body will keep the client comfortable during the treatment. Another way to keep the client comfortable is to only expose one body part at a time so that the client will remain as warm and dry as possible. I begin by applying a scrub with my hands, rubbing in circular motions. I like to add a few drops of water to my hand to help it spread. The only thing you have to watch out for with a beaded scrub is that you must remove all beads from the client’s skin prior to the sunless tanner application. This will require thoroughly rinsing off the scrub. To remove most of the beads, I use dry toweling mitts on both hands to wipe the scrub off the body. This feels very unique. I then use two damp round facial sponges with a bowl of hot water to sponge off any excess scrub that has been left behind. I concentrate on creases or folds in the skin, such as behind the knees, around the toes, etc. This feels extremely pampering to the client. You can use a washcloth, but it is not nearly as luxurious. I like my clients to feel that they are getting something extra, not something that they would normally do themselves. After rinsing my client, I thoroughly dry them with a towel and pull out the extra towel from underneath them to remove any excess beads and water. This leaves my client on a dry table cover, ready for sunless tanning. This is crucial because sunless tanners do not like water.
Exfoliating prior to sunless tanning is necessary whether you are tanning yourself at home or you are doing a sunless tanning treatment on a client. To maintain a sunless tan, most people only need to exfoliate once a week; and twice a week if they are extremely dry. This will refine and renew the skin to create an even and longer-lasting sunless tan, while leaving the body feeling polished all over.

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