Trend Alert: How Black Women Are Taking Their Skin From Dull To Bronze

The internet has spoken. It’s a tan girl summer. Scrolling through Tik Tok, there has been an influx of videos of Black women testing out at home tanner. The results—golden brown skin that glows. You may be thinking, why would a Black woman tan? Well, during the winter months, when we aren’t laid out catching rays, our skin complexion can become dull and less vibrant. So applying a self-tanner or going to a tanning salon specializing in spray tanning, not to be confused with a tanning bed, can help revitalize the skin again.

Self-tanning and getting spray-tanned does more than just bronze up the skin. It can be described as makeup for the body. It conceals discoloration and evens out the complexion, and it can give the illusion of shape and dimension by contouring your face and body. Tanning should be seen as another form of self-care or another way to enhance your features. Think of it as getting your nails or hair done—just another way to make you feel confident in your skin. And if you are scared that self-tanning will make you look like an Oompa Loompa, I can safely assure you that for Black women, self-tanner doesn’t get dark enough on our skin to give us an orange tint.

If you are still skeptical, know many of your fav celebrities tan to get that red-carpet-ready skin. We caught up with spray-tan stylist Sabrina Johnson, founder of Gold Trim Tans, on her viral Tik Tok and how Black women can introduce at home and service spray-tanning into their beauty routine.

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ESSENCE: What are the different forms of tanning, i.e., spray-tanning, going to a tanning bed, or at-home self-tanner, and which is the best tanning method for Black women?

JOHNSON:Yes, I would avoid UV tanning altogether. They have UVA and UVB rays, which cause cancer and drastic skin aging. I do not recommend tanning beds at all. Spray tanning is when you go into a salon, and a stylist will style you full 360. You do the appointment nude or as you’re comfortable. We do offer underwear and pasties if you need them. And then, we guide you through a series of poses so we can access various areas of the body for an all-over tan. Lastly, self-tanning you do at home. You can buy self-tanning products online or at your local drug store, and you apply the product with gloves or a mitt all over the body.

Which would you say is the best method?

I recommend seeing a spray tanning stylist because you get a more even tan that way, but I know it can be challenging to find a POC stylist. It is something you should factor in when looking for a shop. The issue with at-home tanner is there’s a lot of room for error because you’re doing it yourself. It can be difficult to reach the back of the body and see if it’s rubbed in, which can leave streaks. But there are many really good at-home tanning options, and if you mess up, it fades in a few days anyway. Between the two, they are both great options; it just depends on your personal preference

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Can you talk about the importance of having a Black or POC spray tanning stylist? Are there different tanning levels that a non-POC might not know about when tanning someone with a darker complexion?

Yeah, the active ingredient in spray tanning is DHA, dihydroxyacetone, and the tanning solution comes in different percentages of DHA. Think of the paper bag test. Anything deeper than the paper bag, you will need a DHA percentage over 12% to even be able to see a difference. If you want that bronzy look, the DHA level must be higher than 12%.

So, depending on the demographic in your area, the salons near you might not have tanning solutions that have a higher degree of DHA because their clientele doesn’t need that. I’m not going to buy a solution that I know I’m never going to use based on the clientele in my area. So when you call the salon, you have to ask the right questions. Which is, have you tanned POC before? And do you have a solution that’s over 12%? The at-home tanner doesn’t usually get that high, so it will just even out your complexion. They formulate them so that you won’t get super dark if you make a mistake. It leaves room for error.

How should you prep for a salon spray-tanning session?

Prep is an essential part of the process. You want to be drinking water leading up to the appointment to ensure that your skin is hydrated enough to absorb the tan and sustain it. Twenty-four hours before, you should shave and exfoliate. We are body-positive, though, so if you don’t want to shave, that’s okay too. I also recommend no later than two hours before, you should do another shower where you rinse off all products. Make sure there’s no deodorant, lotion, perfume, or makeup on the skin. Deodorant is probably the most important thing. The aluminum in the deodorant reacts with the DHA and will turn your tan green.

tag me in yalls prom pictures if you do it!

What should you expect during your spray-tanning appointment?

When you come into the salon, you want to be wearing baggy clothes and flip-flops. You’ll undress as much as you’re comfortable. You could be completely nude similar to your waxing sessions. We don’t care and have seen it all. Or undress as much as you are comfortable. We usually have disposable underwear or pasties. Then we’ll start spraying you and guiding you through poses to get all the cracks and creases. It feels a lot like yoga. We’ll let you check in the mirror to see if you are happy with the color. Often, people want their legs darker to cover the cellulite. We dry and powder at the end of the service because the tanning solution tends to feel a little sticky.

How should you go about maintaining your tan?

Avoid water during the development stage—no sweating, crying, dog licks, sex, baby drool, breastfeeding, etc. This can lead to your tan streaking and patching. Avoid anything that will exfoliate the tan off, like body scrubs, shaving, retinol or chemical exfoliants, or abrasive exfoliating cloths.

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How long would you say at-home tanner versus spraying tanning lasts?

Spray tanning solutions last about 7-10 days, depending on what you are doing and how you take care of it. Self-tanner, I would say, lasts about 5-7 days, but again it depends on how you take care of your tan.

I think many women are concerned about transferring onto bedding or furniture. How do you go about preventing that?

It’s going to be the same for both. So during development time is when you would have issues with transferring. There is a rinse time and development time. So during the development time, you would need to wear dark baggy clothes and chill because there’s a lot of room for error during this stage. Many of my clients designate sheets or clothes for tanning. Because if you’re sitting down, there will be transfer. Try not to sit with your legs crossed because at the place where there’s skin-to-skin contact. It can cause your tan to develop unevenly. I usually recommend a rapid rinse for first-timers, so they don’t have to sleep in it. You have to be extremely careful. This is a very delicate chemical process. Everything from your seatbelt in your car to putting your bag on your shoulder could ruin your tan and cause transferring.

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What would you like Black women on the fence about tanning to know?

This is just another form of self-care, just like we use our makeup and hair to express ourselves. You can use tanning to body contour, express yourself, and enhance your features. Release the colorism from your mind when it comes to the stigma of appearing darker. Just have fun with it.

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