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Ah, the spray tan — a notorious beauty treatment that can either infuse hints of life into the palest persona or, when done incorrectly, make even the most beautiful of Hollywood starlets look like one of Charlie’s Chocolate Factory minions.
At Sunday night’s Emmys, the latter was unfortunately the case for Will Arnett, Alec Baldwin and Orange Is the New Black star Laura Prepon, each of whom appeared to have gone a little crazy with the spray tan wand and walked their respective red carpets looking as if they were caked in a layer of thick orange sludge.
In an era when selfies serve as a mirror that never leaves your side and faux tanning technology continues to advance, how could so many faux glow fiascoes occur on television’s biggest night?
“Somebody told them it’s OK to do it the day of,” says St. Tropez tanning and skin finishing expert Fiona Locke, who gave clients Connie Britton, Lily Rabe and Anna Gunn their Emmys glow. “Then it’s on all day long, and by the time they’ve hit the parties it’s continued to get darker and darker.”
Locke begins planning her clients’ tans long before the red carpet gets rolled out, talking to them about the vibe they’re going for (Hawaiian Tropic girl or New York socialite?) and the cut and colors of their outfit.
“A lot of times we look at wardrobe together,” she adds. “You really have to communicate your end goal. If someone’s not asking you what you want to achieve, be worried.”
There’s also an art to timing that first shower, Locke says. The longer that initial treatment stays on, the more toasted skin will appear. If a client is doing something sweat-inducing — like, say, hitting the Emmys carpet in 80 degree heat — that first layer will visibly sweat right off without a proper pre-ceremony wash. Timing also depends on original skin color, and how dark a client hopes to be.
For example, if you’re Dancing With the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba, sleeping in your spray tan will only enhance your already dark glow. But for American Horror Story’s Rabe, who, Locke says, “loves her pale skin,” a pre-bedtime shower is a must unless you want to wake up looking like a cantaloupe.
ORANGE REALLY IS THE NEW BLACK: Netflix actress Laura Prepon hit HBO’s after party looking quite bronzed.
According to makeup artist Kirin Bhatty, who gave Jessica Pare her flawless face at Audi’s pre-Emmys party on Sunday, a would-be tanner should also be realistic with expectations.
“Never go more than two shades darker than your natural skin tone,” she says, adding that anything more is a surefire way to look orange, streaky and just plain unnatural. To make sure your tan is as even as can be, Bhatty suggests exfoliating before your treatment. Locke agrees.
“You want to exfoliate with an oil-free scrub that’s specifically designed for pre-tanning.” She suggests using St. Tropez Optimizer Body Polish, or even just a plain old loofah. Locke also moisturizes very dry areas, including hands and elbows, before applying tanner. Those rough patches, she says, “are always a dead giveaway.”
It’s important to remember that the goal of a good spray tan is to create a natural, rested and healthy look while covering up flaws that would otherwise show under the glare of flashbulbs.
“You should look like the best version of yourself just back from an island vacation,” says Bhatty. “And not like a honey-baked ham that’s been left out too long.”
The key to not looking like spoiled deli meat, it seems, is in the planning.
“There’s a total science to it,” says Locke. “And anyone who thinks there isn’t ends up looking like Will Arnett.”
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