Too often competitors put off addressing skin tone until the last minute, getting a subpar spray tan at the show itself. But a few weeks of prep can get you the right shade for your skin that will help your muscles look their best under the stage lights.
Some people, though, don’t understand the need to be a certain shade.
Stacy Kaufman, president of Performance Brands and inventor of Pro Tan, says that it goes back to a very simple principle: “White reflects and black absorbs. When you’re onstage, the lights are very bright, so in order to achieve definition that can be seen by the judges, you’ve got to create something that would allow the light to absorb onto the skin and then reflect and show your muscle definition.”
Step 1 is to remove your body hair. “I recommend to start doing it several weeks prior and on a regular basis so that you have no stubble and no irritation,” Kaufman says.
Next is to plan a daily exfoliation routine because that’ll make your skin look more even when you start applying a self-tanner closer to the show. “Your absorption is going to be 100% even, and it is going to wear off more evenly,” Kaufman says.
Then establish a base tan, no matter your race—Dexter Jackson is an avid user of the tanning bed—about a month before, using the sun itself or a tanning bed. Make sure to at least get a base tan going under 14 days before the show, because your skin cells shed every 14 days. “Whether it’s from a self-tanner or the sun, use that for a few days to get a base.”
You don’t want to be in a tanning bed or in the sun three days before your show, though, because the UV and heat can actually make you hold water. The night before the show, you want to get a base coat with a product like Pro Tan, which takes eight hours to develop fully, says Kaufman. “After pre-judge, you can rinse it off if you desire, and then just reapply the top coat one more time before your night show, and you’re done.”
If you just want to rely on a spray tan, make sure it is coming from a certified spray tanner who understands competition tanning. And don’t forget your face—use one application of your base coat, which can be done the day before the show, but avoid your nose because it stands out and will look a little bit darker onstage. Be aware that you don’t need to go superdark, says Kaufman. It’s important to know the right color for your skin and what looks good under the lights.
“You need to look at your skin tone and make sure you look naturally dark for your specific skin type and body hair—a white, blond, or freckled person shouldn’t look like a black person.” And if you show up and you get onstage, and they tell you your tan looks terrible, just go rinse it off, he says. “Often athletes look stage-ready after they’ve washed off their color. It’s the funniest thing.”