Artificial Tans

Artificial Tans

Using artificial coloring agents to deepen skin tone has become almost universal in bodybuilding. No matter how good your tan, a skin dye or bronzer can make it better. That's why hotels frequently despair when playing host to a group of bodybuilders. Their laundry rooms fill up with sheets and pillowcases covered with rubbed-off skin dye.

The use of artificial tans allows a bodybuilder with only a base tan to look as if he'd spent the summer in the tropics, and allows bodybuilders who are very fair-skinned and don't tan well at all to compete equally against those who are more blessed with melanin. This also has a health benefit, since the use of these coloring agents means that the competitors don't have to spend as much time in the sun as they once did. However, for fair-skinned bodybuilders, it's a mistake to try to get your entire tan from a bottle. Artificial tanning agents over totally pale skin tend to look very unnatural. The bodybuilding physique itself, with its exaggerated muscle development, looks very strange to many people in the first place. If you combine that with an odd unnatural-looking skin color, the final effect is very strange indeed. So, we recommend that you get as good a tan as possible first and then increase its depth with the use of artificial agents.

The most often used coloring products are based on a product called Dy-O-Derm, a skin-dyeing product developed for individuals with severe skin problems. One of the more popular products based on Dy-O-Derm is Pro-Tan, available in gyms and by mail order. Another version of this type of dye, giving a slightly more bronze look, is Tan Now. These and other similar dyeing products are advertised in most of the physique magazines.

Skin dyes like these actually bind to the skin cells themselves and won't come off until the cells do - which takes about 21 days. After a few days you'll begin to see the color gradually flaking off, which gives an odd appearance unless you reapply some color. The best procedure for applying these artificial tan products is to 1) shower and scrub off as much dead skin as possible, 2) apply a coat of the color, wearing rubber gloves to keep the palms of the hands from staining, 3) allow to dry for several hours, and 4) shower again to wash off the stain that has not actually bonded to the skin. This process should be done gradually over a period of days. Do not try to get a deep tan with only one application.

There are other types of artificial tan products that are more like a traditional bronzer than a dye. This type of coloring is easier to apply and fades fairly quickly, but doesn't give the same solid, deep look that the skin dyes do. Skin bronzers are available at most drug and cosmetic stores, and there is a version called Competition Tan by Jan Tana that is specially formulated for bodybuilders. Most bodybuilders don't use a bronzer by itself. Instead, they create a base color by tanning and applying a skin dye, and then use the bronzer-type coloring on top of this to create a finished look and to cover areas where the stain may have begun to flake off.

Applying color correctly is very important since it has a tremendous effect on your overall appearance. Some bodybuilders show up looking yellow onstage or so dark it looks as if they were covered with shot polish. Others apply the coloring too late, or when they are perspiring, so that rivers of color run down their body onstage, spoiling the effect they are trying to create. Too much color on the face also creates a very strange and unattractive look, as does getting stain on the hands and feet, or too much on the knees and elbows. Remember, you spend years learning to train and months following a strict diet; it's worth some time and effort to learn to get your color correct or else you end up ruining all your other efforts.

Putting color on at the last minute can also be very dangerous. We remember one contest in which a bodybuilder applied a bronzer just before he went onstage, and with the oil on his skin and the amount he was sweating, the artificial tan ended up running down his body and totally spoiling his appearance. In some cases you can apply color at the last minute, but it takes a lot of experience and know-how to do it right. Which look would you rather have - being a little paler onstage than you'd like or having little streams of color running all down your body?

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