Mountain Chic

Reflections and observations on culture, food, style and travel

The end of my relationship with the sun was the result of a long, slow, and reluctant break-up process. Though I am fair-skinned, with the lightest blonde hair, I’ve been a sun worshipper since middle school.  I always hoped for a dark brown tan, impossible with my skin type and my home climate in the mountains, where the altitude can make it seem like you’re practically ON the sun itself.  I loved skiing on sunny days, hoping I’d get the “goggle burn” that told everyone I’d spent a weekend on the slopes.  And I’ve always happily escaped to the ocean  – with the beach and the tanning – at every opportunity.

Belize, 2005

Belize, 2005 – with no sunscreen!

In fact, when I was a sophomore in high school and preparing for a date one evening, I sat in the sun for so long that afternoon trying to be tan and beautiful, I ended up with second-degree burns on my face that blistered throughout the night. I’m sure that experience was unforgettable for my companion that night, but not for the reasons I wanted.

Bahamas, 2014 - wearing SPF 50.

Bahamas, 2014 – wearing SPF 50.

Thankfully, not only has my sun protection improved, but also self-tanners have seriously gotten with the program.  These days, I don’t want the deep bronze color I aspired to when I was younger (and, let’s face it, could never possibly achieve, anyway).  In my quest for an appropriately healthy glow, I’ve experimented with almost every tanner on the market – from drugstore brands to higher-end products.  And last spring, I am happy to report, I struck gold…en tan, that is, with a combination of two amazing creams.

My sunless power duo doesn’t come cheap, but it IS effective.  And really, at what price beauty?  La Mer The Face and Body Gradual Tan ($90) is peerless when it comes to quality.  I use it on both my face (without breaking out) and body. The color that develops quickly and evenly after application mimics my best golden glow after spending lots of time in the tropics – that natural, nutty brown that often doesn’t appear when you start with a burn. There’s barely a trace of self-tanner smell in the lovely fresh scent.  And though the product is meant to work gradually, I’ve found its application and believability to be even better when I cut it with a regular moisturizer.

Enter Epicuren Kukui Coconut After Bath Moisturizer ($40 for 8 ounces), the best mixer I’ve found for easy application to the body.  I simply squeeze a portion of the La Mer into my hands, add an equal amount of the Epicuren lotion, combine the two and smooth the mixture onto my arms, chest and legs.  The Epicuren has just the right amount of light slip to move the tanner evenly, but it also contains intense moisture to help combat dry spots (and the telltale deposits of too much color).  As a bonus, the Kukui Coconut smells just like tanning oil, putting you in a tropical state of mind even if you’re far from the ocean.  I make sure to go light over my elbows, knees and ankles, the traditionally pesky problem areas for tanner.  Those areas just get the smallest swipe of coverage after I’ve rubbed the lotion elsewhere.

I find applying the tanner every other day keeps my color looking fresh and deliberate but not too unbelievable.  Yes, I wish I’d quit frying my skin years ago, since that abuse is definitely showing as I age (and living in the bone-dry mountains doesn’t help!).  But this little dynamic duo gives me better color than I ever achieved naturally.

Sporting my fake tan with my little, who has my coloring but does not yet have the advantage of La Mer!

In Mexico, sporting my fake tan with my little, who has my coloring but does not yet have the advantage of La Mer!

How about you?  Do you have a holy grail tanning product of your own?  Any brilliant application methods I need to know?  Tell me in the comments!

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