If you've never experimented getting a dark tan, you can easily be fooled when preparing for your first contest. As you become darker than you've ever been, you start to think you have a great tan, and that you're ready. Then you get up on stage only to realize you're too pale. What happened?

The stage lights are very bright. They can wash out definition and make you look much lighter once you get under them. Don't fall victim to this common oversight. Make sure you will still have a dark tan once you're under the lights.

You'll most likely need to add artificial color before the show. Even African Americans, whom many tend to think wouldn’t need to tan, find they can benefit at a competition by having darker skin coloring; plus coloring evens out their tan. Tanning beds are not needed for that one-day you'll be on display, although many competitors do use them to get a base tan. You should shave your entire body at least a week before the show in case you break out from shaving in areas not accustomed to being shaved. To look really dark, use a skin dye like Pro Tan Competition Color or Jan Tana Show Tan the night before the contest and apply amply (about 4oz per coat). Be aware that this stuff can really dry out your skin, so it's wise to apply a moisturizer before you apply the skin dye product. Don’t fool with a spray nozzle that some brands come with. They are messy and take much longer to apply the product. Pour the dye in a cup and dip the applicator in it. You will get a thicker coat, and cover yourself much faster. While applying the dye, you may wish to stand on a towel to catch any dye that drips to the floor. When you go to bed for the night, make sure you use old sheets where you sleep, as the dyes leave many stains. Rinse off the excess tanning agent in the morning. If you are light skinned, it would be good to apply another coat of dye in the morning on contest day. Then you can apply a coat bronzer (ProTan, Jan Tana, DreamTan) over top once the dye dries to make the color darker, and more even looking. (Bronzer is intended for use on contest day. It does not tend to leave one blotchy like the skin dyes can do, as long as it is rubbed in thoroughly and evenly). Bronzers darken the skin’s appearance, but do not stain it. If you want to be even darker, you can apply a second coat of bronzer on top of the first. Bronzers also wash off afterwards. If you need to even out streaks from sweating after group comparisons, apply another coat of the bronzer prior to the finals. If you use a skin dye more than one day before your contest, don't apply it to your face or neck until the night before to avoid peeling skin in these more sensitive skin areas. It's not necessary to dye your hands, wrists, feet or ankles until the night before either. Doing so can make those areas more noticeably dark than the rest of your physique. Go easy around the elbows and knees when applying tanning agents or those areas will appear darker due to being more porous. If you choose to use oil over your tan, use professional posing oil, not baby oil as that makes one look too shiny and wet. Remember that posing oil is for providing a sheen under the lighting. You don’t want to over apply it and appear too wet. A small amount is all that’s needed. A warning about Dream Tan... wear black or very dark posing trunks, Dream Tan doesn’t dry completely. Try not to put any clothes on until after going on stage as that can ruin the look (comes off on clothes). Apply small amounts and rub in. Using too much at once can cause the stuff to go on looking very messy. You can apply more Dream Tan before going on for finals, or at least add some Hot Stuff vasodilator to help bring the shine back out. Baby oil does help a lot when removing the color after a contest (after you’ve scrubbed with a lufa or washcloth). Be courteous in the contest venue or in other people’s cars. And that goes to all tanning products users. It takes 15-45 minutes to apply Dream Tan.

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