Belly Dancers & Tanning: Faux Finishes Are Fabulous!
For any belly dancer, there is one thing that perfectly complements all the rich colors and beautiful embellishments of any costume: radiant, bronzed skin. On stage for any performance, lighting also seems to favor tanned, golden skin—it’s dazzling how the light bounces off skin that seems to glow, too.
But with talks of harmful UV rays and skin melanoma or cancer, how can you maintain such perfectly golden skin? Two words: fake bake.
Self-tanning, also known as sunless tanning, is exactly what the term indicates: it involves the use of products, treatments or services that provide the same results as traditional sun-tanning, but without the harmful side effects of UVA and UVB rays. There are many known products and services that offer sunless tanning: lotions, gels, creams, tanning beds, airbrush tanning or tanning spray booths. The effects—color/shade, longevity—vary depending on the method you use. Most of these products have dihydroxyacetone (DHA), an FDA-approved chemical, as active ingredient.
But before you reach out for a bottle of self-tanning lotion or book an appointment with the tanning salon, it would be good to know the basic differences and benefits of each product and service—with additional insight from fellow belly dancers, three of whom are from California. (Who else but our California ladies would know so much about tanning?)
Virginia Burns (California) shares, “Anytime I have a gig for belly dancing, I use a body glitter lotion that is in a skin tone color with some gold [shimmer particles] in it to give me a tanned color, without looking orange. For the stage, the glitter lotions with color work for me!” Bronzers—in the form of powder, mousse, gel, cream or lotion—are easy to apply. It’s basically makeup, and can be removed easily. That said, it doesn’t have lasting power though. The moment you perspire and wipe the sweat, color comes off, too!
Tanning lotions, gels and creams
These options are the most convenient as you can apply them on your own, and as much (or as little) as you want. Sabrina (California), a belly dancer and professional sunless tanning technician (check out her site at sabrinabellydancer.com), “prefers the hand application method of a lotion or cream” for many reasons. One reason is that they are more “moisturizing, instead of drying like an alcohol-based spray liquid.”
Application can be tricky though if you don’t know what you’re doing. Choosing the right shade for you is also key—you don’t want anything too orange or something too light either that the effect is hardly noticeable. A good rule is to get a shade that’s 1, 2 or 3 (and nothing more!) shades darker than your skin tone, and always apply gradually. It’s much easier to add an extra layer than to remove. Always do a skin patch test to rule out any allergic reactions and prep the skin (wax, exfoliate, etc.) before applying.
This can be done in the convenience of your home (But take note: Sabrina warns that a tanning spray “can also tan your walls, carpets and pets!”) or in a professional spray tanning salon that has booths (machine or manual) especially made for this.
Sabrina adds as a cautionary tale: “I have questioned all the major manufacturers of spray tan. None of the manufacturers have been able to reassure me that it is safe to breathe in the product, or that the product does not linger in the air causing damage to lungs of technicians and clients via invisible particles.”
Another dancer, Melonye Grant (Texas) had a terrible experience with spray booths. “I paid $40 for extra moisturizers, bronzer, and the works. I followed instructions to the letter. In 30 minutes, I had orange feet, hands and FACE. My stomach and legs got practically nothing...but [were] streaky. The gig was the following evening. I went home and scrubbed till I was raw, and had hubby do my back. I had better luck doing it on my own with the self-tanning lotions and a pair of rubber gloves.”
Virginia cautions about tanning beds, “CNN reported a week or two ago that there's been a study showing the direct relation between tanning beds and skin cancer!” It’s true: This man-made device emits ultraviolet radiation and is a possible carcinogen. The American Cancer Society has, in fact, recommended other alternatives (like the ones mentioned above) over tanning beds.
Perhaps another controversial option is a tanning pill. Canthaxanthin is the main ingredient for tanning pills and there are still many debates raging on this topic. For sure, it is the most invasive, and anything in this nature should be reviewed before use. Better err on the side of caution.
Given all this and you still want to go the traditional route and have some fun in the sun, another belly dancer, Sherareh (Northern California), shares this interesting piece of advice: “I do not use lotions or tanning beds. I just apply a generous amount of sunblock and swim for an hour. I then reapply some more sunblock, and swim for another hour or two. After I shower, I apply lots of moisturizers and drink lots of water. By that time, I am much tanner, not blotchy, and it stays long. My skin was also adequately protected during the process and I indulged in exercise at the same time!”
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