Yes, the tan really does make a huge difference. And the condition of your skin will make or break the tan. Thank goodness that I was ingesting enough fats that my skin looks smooth and healthy. So often when dieting down you end up with dry, parched looking skin, and one of the judging criteria is actually "skin tone" can you believe it?!
I guess I understand the thinking, as David says a Figure competition is a beauty contest with muscles. He is right, the women all look dazzling backstage with their rhinestone suits, sleek tanned bodies, stage makeup, manicured nails and beautiful hair.
It's kind of funny, women you would normally see in sweats and baseball caps all decked out. But it really is the tan that makes it all surreal, especially on a natural blond like me.
Don't try to do your tan yourself, if it fails you will be kicking yourself all day and night. Jan Tana is the company that tans at most shows, they have a link on the promoters site and you pay online. It's not cheap either, it runs from $125.00 to $150.00 depending on the show. This gets you the initial tan the night before, a tan just before going out for pre-judging, glaze, and then a tan and glaze or spot touch up before the night show. They do take care of you.
You pay online and the week of the show they email you the time you need to show up. The day of your appointment they email you the room number in the hotel so you know where to go.
It is important to take steps to ensure the tan looks even and stays that way for the entire two shows (morning pre-judging and evening finals and awards). So to start, if you use a self tanner, you need to stop early or make sure you get it all scrubbed off like the body scrub I get. You don't want any blotchiness! I have a problem with my chest in that I am naturally fair skinned and I drive a convertible. My chest is always red compared to the rest of me, and it shows through the tan at times.
Next you need to eat enough healthy fats to keep skin looking smooth, moist and elastic. This means fish oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts, the things that are good for skin. At the same time, these tend to be calorie dense so you have to limit them or make sure you are accounting for them in your daily caloric intake.
A week prior to tanning you need to use an exfoliating body scrub (non oil based) everyday in the shower, and then moisturize all over. Avoid using new products, as you might develop a rash. So don't go out and buy a new body scrub that you have never used before! Something I find works just fine is sugar...yes I will take a plastic bowl of white sugar into the shower with me and scrub gently. It's cheap, non toxic and if you leave some on, it tastes great!
Just prior to tanning take a shower and exfoliate but do not use moisturizer. Dry well, and wear a loose fitting robe or sweats to your appointment. Wear rubber thongs so you can throw them into the wash the following day. The tanning solution will wash out of clothes, but it will not come out of leather! Bring a shower cap too, they use industrial sized spray guns!
The tanning is done in a hotel room. They upturn and move all the furniture and paper the walls and floors. They set up 4 pop up tents next to each other so they can spray two people and have two people dray at once. This is all done naked. Not the sprayer- the competitor! This is not a hobby for shy people, but then I think you have probably figured that out by now.
So you have your hair up and they have you spread your arms and they spray, lift your arms, spray, inner thigh, spray, butt, spray, back, spray. Everything. Then the tanner will use a puff to smooth out areas where there might be excessive tanning solution. The will spray the faces of the men, but women don't get your face sprayed! It will creep into every nook and cranny and make those very small wrinkles of yours look more pronounced. Plus, you have make up for that area!
After everything has been tanned, you step to one of the drying tents where there is a floor fan set up to dry you faster, just keep turning and chatting with your neighbor, while trying not to be obvious about checking out their killer naked body!
When you are done, you carefully put your robe on and walk back to your hotel room, not much you can do now except wait as the tan gets darker overnight and stay away from water! Seriously, this is not like a spray tan at Hollywood Tans, one drop of water and you have a dalmatian spot. This means, as a woman, urinating can be rather tricky. You don't want to sit on the toilet, it will mar the tan, and peeing from any height causes splashing...so you learn to do the "Figure gal hover", thank god we all have such strong quads! You leave the seat up, like a male lives there and hover as close down as you can, being very, very careful not to splash. Inevitably you will find you have a few little splashes the next day, but Kevin or Christina are there at the competition to fix it all up! Whatever you do, never attempt to fix the tan yourself, they can fix anything the next day, don't worry.
The tan looks pretty wicked in the morning, I mean I love it! But it is smelly and you cannot shower until after the entire competition is over, and you cannot use any deodorant or perfume, nothing. Other products can interact with it and turn your skin green- yes you will look like the hulk. Not everywhere, but all under your arms and down your sides, guaranteed to make sure you do not place in the show!
My suit straps will eventually wear and make marks, but the tanning crew is there to fix the mess before the night show too, they re-spray and puff (with your suit on) and then rub "glaze" all over you so the skin is moist looking.
At night, the first thing after taking off my false eyelashes and slathering my face with cold cream, I get in the shower and stand for what seems like hours as the hot water washes most of the tan away, the dark, dirty water swirling around my feet.
The tan will stain your skin very lightly for a week or so, but eventually wears off.