A tan is the result of UV waves stimulating the skin's production of the dark pigment called melanin, one of the body's defense mechanisms against radiation. But having a tanned face and body has only become fashionable relatively recently. It is Coco Chanel who is credited with popularizing sun exposure in the '20s, when a sun-kissed glow was attributed to travel, leisure and therefore wealth and class. A tan is also associated with an active, outdoorsy lifestyle and, in turn, health and fitness.
That's the psychology at least! Most people would say they simply think they look better and healthier with a tan. The downside is that when we return home to gray skies, our skin stops producing the same levels of melanin as it did in the sunshine, and the tan fades. The reason: the skin's natural process of shedding cells and replacing them with new ones in their original coloring. So, in order to preserve a tan for as long as possible, the trick is to keep your skin's upper layer (epidermis) healthy and hydrated so that it sheds those melanin-infused cells more slowly.
Don't let your tan shed the moment you step off the plane, follow our 4 simple tips for maintaining a golden glow, long after the end of your summer vacation:
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
Alongside the aftersun you should be applying every evening (you are, right?), there are other items from your beauty bag that can help the skin stay golden. A thirst-quenching face mask followed by a serum can help restore lost moisture to your skin. The concentrated, fluid texture of a serum means it is absorbed further into the epidermis than a regular moisturizer, which is formulated to protect and hydrate the upper layers. As far as exfoliating is concerned, be careful not to use anything too abrasive, as you could end off scrubbing away the tan yourself!
You Are What You Eat
There's more to it than simply eating a healthy diet to maintain the quality of your skin: certain food types can actually help the tanning process and slow the color fade. Bring in the famous "superfoods" like carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe, which contain the antioxidant carotene. A U.K. study published in 2011 showed that people who ate more carotenoids had a more golden skin color than those who did not. Just don't go overboard, as with all nutrients it's all a question of moderation.
Hydration 101: H2O
You can apply hydration to your skin from the outside in through moisturizing, and also from the inside out by drinking lots of water. We all know that our body needs to be regularly hydrated to function properly, but many don't realize that the skin is the body's largest organ, and is also therefore crucially dependent on water. A lack of hydration in the skin will not only promote dryness, which risks you shedding your tan like a snake, but will also make the skin appear more dull, as the blood doesn't have optimal circulation. The right hydration = healthy blood flow = a radiant glow. If water tends to make you yawn, try adding a little excitement to the mix by slicing up some lemons, strawberries or fresh mint for a summer-flavored drink.
Fake the bake
Image: via @anna.krylova on Instagram
Your tan may have run its course naturally, but no-one has to know. By gradually introducing a few cheeky tan-enhancing techniques into your beauty repertoire, you'll have a year-long tan and people wondering how you can afford so many vacations! A few sweeps of bronzer across the forehead and along the cheekbones gives the complexion an instant boost, while a shimmering body oil not only locks in moisture, but gives the skin a flattering sheen.
Prolong and enhance your tan with these key ingredients:
Morrocan Oil After Sun Milk - $28
Shop Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm With Aloe - $25
Shop Lumistone Hydration Face Moisturizer - $52
Shop Kiehl's Creme de Corps - $30
Shop Scientific RX Intensive Repair Serum - 88
Shop Lancôme Hydra-Intense Masque - $36
Shop Clean Eating Made Simple - $11 (paperback)
Shop Fruit Infused Water Recipes - $7
Shop Color Pop Topaz Pressed Powder Face Duo - $14
Shop I'm Fabulous Organic Bronzing Body Oil - $40