The real thing

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We all know there is no such thing as a healthy tan, but if you insist on baking in the sun, here's how to get the best, and safest, natural tan.

The real thing
It's time to brave the elements, throw caution to the wind, and bake your skin to a nice golden brown. I'm not going to yell at you this year because for the first time in 20 years, I am sporting a suntan. Why? Well after being in ill health last year I have decided that I should add a bit of colour to my face. So, if you're going to ignore the health warnings and bake yourself in the sun, follow our guide and learn how to prepare your skin, how to tan safely, and what you can do if it all goes horribly wrong.The Real McCoy

Whether you are going to actually go into the sun or fake a tan, the most important factor is preparation. If you want a real sun tan, you need to get your skin in optimum condition before you plan to abuse it! Hydration is the key word. If you are going on holiday, get yourself a cheap hydrating body lotion and use it literally as often as you can. Skin that is dry and dehydrated is much more prone to burning. Peeling and blistered skin will not look attractive with the flirty summer dresses and sandals that you have packed. Beyond that, your skin can be ruined. Remember, a suntan is actually skin damage. I highly recommend products such as Clarins SPF20 for the body. This can be used for several days prior to exposure and will work as a pre-tan accelerator as well as protection for the first few days you are in the sun. Making sure your body is well exfoliated is also a great idea to guarantee an even tan.The rules

Always buy new products for each holiday. The sunscreen you used last year is not going to give you the protection it was designed to give. It sat in the sun warming up on your last vacation and has sat in the cupboard ever since. According to the governing powers that be, the lowest protection you can use and not cause irreparable damage is an SPF15 on your face and an SPF10 on your body. I know you are thinking that you won't even get any colour, but that is simply not true. If you tan through a slightly higher factor, the tan will be deeper and will last longer. You will feel like you are wasting your time for the first few days, but then when the colour starts coming, it will develop quickly and not fall off at the airport on the way home! If you suffer from pigmentation damage from birth control pills, pregnancy mask or maturity, use a higher factor on these places. An SPF30 stick will give you precision and you will find that as the rest of your skin gets colour and these stay the same, your colouring will look more even and you will not be deepening the existing damage any more than you have to. [quote] Apply your sunscreen half an hour before going into the sun. This sounds like a drag but in fact it is easier to stretch and reach when you are still in the privacy of your hotel room. Then, once you hit the sun-lounger, you can elegantly slip out of your sarong and recline in manner befitting a goddess. And because you have been so graceful, you should find flocks of other sun worshippers queuing to help you reapply.Don't forget to reapply! After you have been in the water or participated in other physical activities, you need to apply your products again. A mate of mine just returned from her holiday and though she diligently applied her high-protection products before going out, she forgot to put them on again after jet-skiing and ended up peeling her hard-earned colour off her entire forehead and upper cheeks. To say she looks ridiculous would be cruel but, sadly, it is also true! Don't let that be you.Go into the sun for a limited time, especially at the beginning of your holiday, and remember, stay out of the sun from 11am-3pm. I know that is when the sun is high and your tan will be more even, but it is also when it is the most damaging. Having completely brown skin may seem like a good idea when you are 18, but when you hit 50 and have a skin that looks like a piece of luggage, you will regret it. I have the damage to prove it. When I was younger, I would sit in the sun from 10am until 2pm in baby oil and iodine. My theory was that if I used a sunscreen I would waste valuable rays. Plus, if I was out when the sun was most intense, I could use the rest of the day to do other things. I now have a patch of dark pigment damage at the top of each of my cheekbones, which is the bane of my life. When you feel as though you have had enough, get the heck out of the sun! Go to a cool place and allow your skin to lose the heat. Skin will continue to tan/burn even though you have left the sun, so if you stay out when you have over-exposed it, you will most likely see a stunning shade of red develop that evening. A nice cool bath will take the heat out and feel great as well. When you step out of the bath or shower, apply an oil while you are still damp. This will give you an extra boost of moisture because when your skin allows the oil in, it will drag the water in as well. Plus, the oil makes your tan sheeny and highlights your colour.  Apply body moisturiser, even if you usually don't. You need not spend a great deal of money, but the better hydrated your skin is, the better your tan will last. Remember, a dull tan is not a pretty tan, either. Cut the frequency you exfoliate once you have your tan because each time you do it, you will remove a bit of colour. Don't skip exfoliating altogether though, you want to keep the skin tone bright and help the colour wear away evenly.
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