Dallas McCarver achieves a base tan before the contest and then gets sprayed at the contest.  


I’m an amateur bodybuilding competitor, and my goal is to work my way up to the national contests and vie for a pro card. I’m wondering, are there certain tanning errors you’ve seen that I should try to avoid? I am fair-skinned, so I tend to get “blown out” by stage lighting. 


STEVE WEINBERGER: Many people have been scared away from allowing their skin to get a natural tan by warnings of skin damage from the harmful exposure to ultraviolet light. However, as a fair-skinned competitor, you have a much better chance of achieving an even, natural-looking tan if you can get some color from the sun before applying any bottled tanning product.

Of course, any real suntanning should be done carefully, for short exposure periods, and preferably in a private area so you can eliminate tan lines. If this is possible, then I encourage you to build up a natural tan while carefully monitoring your skin and keeping it exfoliated and moisturized.

Beyond that, to get the dark tan required to look good under strong stage lights, you’ll need a tanning agent applied to your body. The most popular, convenient method now is to hire a company that provides contest spray tans, which can be applied very close to the competition day—usually the day before— along with touch-ups on the day of the show. Make sure that the company you use is reputable, as a poorly applied, patchy tan can severely detract from the appearance of your physique. Before you go for your spray tan, make sure that your skin has been exfoliated, to remove dead skin cells and rough skin, and that you are clean, with no oils or lotions applied.

Give your spray tan a chance to dry before allowing anything, including clothing, to touch your body, and do not apply oil when the tan is still wet, as this can cause streaking. In addition, keep the palms of your hands, knees, and elbows away from the substance, as it quickly soaks into the dry skin and can be distracting onstage.

As for your face, you want it to be almost as dark as your body, but not darker. The best way to prepare it is to have a light coat of tan applied to the face— less than used on the body—and then finish with makeup that is close to the color of the tan on your body. It’s much safer to use a darker makeup on your face than trying to get a spray tan over your eyes, nose, and mouth that will match the body tan. This applies to men as well as women! 

Tanji johnson
Per Bernal

Even veteran pros like Tanji Johnson were once amateurs who asked judges for feedback. 


I just did my first fitness show, and I came in third in my class. I wanted to ask questions of the judges afterward, but I ended up not approaching them. Is asking questions allowed? Are there certain things I shouldn’t ask about or that a judge can’t answer when it comes to how I compare with the other athletes? 


SANDY WILLIAMSON: Some districts ask athletes to e-mail the judges for critiques due to the length of most shows rather than speak with judges immediately after the show. However, unless this was discussed in the athletes’ meeting, athletes can speak with judges after the show, since some judges prefer to critique athletes right afterward.

Either way, competitors should ask for critiques either directly after the show or by e-mail. Judges will respond to athletes from their perspective regarding your physique, routine, and overall look onstage. They can provide you with valuable insights to help you make improvements for your next show. 


Judges Sandy Williamson and Steve Weinberger