Skin Prep for a Smooth Competition Tan

Skin prep starts well before peak week, the week leading up to show day.  Exfoliating in the shower with a loofah and moisturizing the skin on your body and face every day are some small manageable steps.  All bodybuilding competitors benefit from diligent skincare.  Competition color is applied the night before and the morning of your competition; it’s pretty much dark brown paint that gets sprayed on.  For the competition color to look good and smooth on stage, it has to be applied to smooth, soft skin.  Wherever the skin isn’t exfoliated, the tan doesn’t take up evenly and you end up with odd patches.

If you’re acne-prone like myself, use gentle cleansers, spot treatment (either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid), and then use a light moisturizer to promote healing and decreased oil production.  My favorite cleanser is PanOxyl 10 Percent Foaming Wash.  If I have any active breakouts, I put on Nexcare Acne Absorbing Covers which pull out the sebum and draws the acne to a head.  I never pop using my fingers, and I use an extractor that I clean with rubbing alcohol before and after each use.  It seems like a lot of fuss, but it’s really minimized the pitting and scarring I used to get.

Peak Week

Shave every inch of your body.  Repeat as often as necessary – multiple shaves ensure that you get every hair/area, as it’s easy to miss some when you’re doing your whole body.  You want to be completely hairless the day you get spray tanned, as the follicles cause the tanning solution to pool.  This may result in some skin irritation, which can be alleviated with a light coat of Aquaphor healing ointment and skipping a day or two of shaving.  Using a quality razor with a moisture strip will minimize how much irritation you experience.

Exfoliate using baking soda.  This will neutralize your body’s pH and prevent your tan from turning greenish.  It’s cheap and effective – just mix water to turn it into a paste and rub on using a washcloth.  If you’re looking for a ready-made product for whatever reason, Pro Tan’s Get Buffed is a highly rated scrub that balances your body’s pH and helps the tan apply smoothly.

Tanning Day

For most shows, this will be Friday afternoon.  Shower at least eight hours in advance so your skin has adequate time to dry and balance its pH.  It is crucial that you exfoliate with baking soda during this shower.  You cannot use any moisturizers (prevents the tan from absorbing into your skin and drying) or antiperspirants/deodorants/perfumes/colognes (turns your armpits green) from Thursday to after show day.  Absolutely nothing on the skin.

For women, do not get your face sprayed at all.  The tan reacts poorly to make-up, and the colors will just smear together.  If you are pale, use a foundation that is darker than your normal skin tone (Maybellline’s FitMe in 330 or NC/NW40 in MAC) so that your face blends better with your body.  If you are darker, try and match your tan.  It will not be an exact match to your tan, but it will look better than having tan applied to your face.

I also think men would benefit from using color matched make-up rather than getting their face spray-tanned.  At the very least, wipe the spray tan off of your lips so that your lips don’t blend into the rest of your face.

Post-Tan Care

Do not get wet.  You won’t shower until after your competition.  This sounds gross, but trust me, everyone smells like spray tan.  Sleep in long sleeves (no zippers) and long pants so that you don’t touch your skin and turn it green.  It’ll also minimize how much tan rubs off.  You will still want to bring your own sheets that you don’t mind staining.  Also bring Saran wrap, so you can wrap the toilet seat to protect it from staining.  Ladies, you absolutely need Dixie cups/GoGirls to prevent pee splashes on your backside and inner thighs (cut out a hole in the bottom of a Dixie cup, hold it tight and make sure there’s a seal, and then pee through it).  This will minimize the amount of touch-ups you need.

DIY Options

Every show has a sponsoring tanning vendor which will be spraying on site before and during the show.  The two major companies right now are Liquid Sun Rayz and Pro Tan.  The package with unlimited touch ups cost about ~$150.  Pro Tan does sell a DIY version  which costs $40 (overnight color for the day before and top coat for the day of competition).  This is a substantial savings.  I’ve personally never tried it before, but many competitors do use them and claim that it’s easy to do by yourself.  I personally always go with the venue’s tanning service for peace of mind, because no matter how careful I am, I always ruin the tan somewhere.

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