Talking tanning tips with St. Tropez's Katrina Brown

Katrina Brown shares tips including how to keep a spray tan from coming off on a wedding dress

We've come a long way since the "tanorexic" early 2000s and the orange to otherworldly hues celebrities like Paris Hilton paraded on the red carpet as if leather-looking skin was an upmarket accessory. The decade faded with the International Agency for Research on Cancer's 2009 report adding ultraviolet radiation from tanning machines to its highest cancer risk category: "carcinogenic to humans." But the desire for a bronzy, beautiful glow is still deep. For some tips on how to look naturally tan without UV exposure, we talked to Katrina Brown, St. Tropez's West Coast "skin finishing" expert whose work has been seen during fashion week, on television ("The Voice," "Dancing With the Stars," "Australia's Next Top Model") and in magazines including Sports Illustrated.

What is the biggest change in tanning since the early 2000s?

In the early days, a lot of tanning products did go orange and people overdid it, whether they got brown or orange.... Now the color technology is better and the tanning trend in L.A., especially with celebrities on the red carpet, is about having a natural color and not looking like you had a spray tan but just looking like you have beautiful, glowing, luminous skin.

The other thing, with regard to getting a professional airbrush tan, is I know just how much product to use for it to look natural. For at-home, DIY, achieve a natural color by going just one to two shades darker than your skin color.

The St. Tropez tanning trends website page has "vintage," "pastel," "luxe" and even "wedding day" tanning tips … I imagine a lot of people have pre-wedding tanning disasters.

Oh, exactly. I've had brides come to me with absolute disasters for me to try to fix. I always recommend having a "bride trial" so we can spray tan them, and they know exactly what color they're going to be on their wedding day. When brides wear white it automatically over-exaggerates the tan so I always just do just one shade lighter. There's a little trick to stop any tan coming off on the wedding dress. If the bride gets a little bit nervous and starts sweating, you just dust their body down with baby powder to absorb the tan that's coming off the skin so it won't ruin the dress.

What product do you recommend for people who want to get a glow without adding color?

I like the classic formula, the St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse ($42, sttropeztan.com). It's so easy to apply. A great trick is to apply the mousse with a St. Tropez [Applicator] Mitt ($6.50-$10), let it dry and just rub a basic moisturizer over the areas you've applied the tanning mousse to even it out so it won't be patchy.

Our One Night Only Instant Glow Body Lotion ($9) is just a bronzer. It doesn't have any DHA [the ingredient that interacts with amino acids to darken skin]. It's great for the red carpet because you can apply it, then wash it right off in the shower. Another great product to illuminate your legs, chest or body is St. Tropez Dry Oil ($50). It has a beautiful shimmer to it. I'll sometimes mix that with some of the Gold Skin Illuminator ($22.50). You know when you see celebrities photographed and their skin is reflecting and luminous? That's what I mix together.

On talk shows when a celebrity crosses her legs, they seem to just shimmer.

Yes, that's when you apply the mixture [or even just the illuminator] from the knee right down to the ankle on the front of the [shin] bone. You can also put a little bit on your clavicle bone and on the side of the biceps. You can also contour [with darker color] around the abs, shadow around the upper thigh or the buttocks — anywhere you want to look a little bit more toned. People just love it.

What are the biggest mistakes people make before and after coming to you?

Beforehand, not exfoliating, including under the arms and between the breasts, so [the tan] will be a little uneven and not last as long. I really like to spray people who are freshly showered. Afterward, if they wash their hands, or spill water on them, it's like wet paint. You're kind of left with dribble lines. So being around water isn't a good idea. The other thing is they go and do a Pilates class.... Not a good idea to sweat in a tan until after your first shower.

If someone's got a big event, when should they come to you?

Twenty-four hours prior, but for last-minute emergencies I can do a two-hour express tan the morning of the event.

How do you make your tan last?

Moisturize every day after every shower and wash under the arms and intimate areas with body wash; use just water to clean wherever you want your tan to last. Exfoliate where you want your tan to come off.

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