December 1, 2022

Self-tanner, to me, has always been like a narcissistic boyfriend: The promise it offers seems lovely. Then, you get into a relationship with the actual product, a little time passes, and it turns out to be nothing like it claimed it would be (cue the streaks up and down your legs). Now, you’re left wondering how you thought any of this was a good idea in the first place. For the most part, this has been my cyclical journey with self-tanner.

Recently, though, post giving birth to my second child, Sandro, I was scrolling through Instagram during one of his naps and saw Lauren Ireland Gores with the glowiest skin I’ve seen in a while. I tapped on the picture and saw a name pop up that I wasn’t yet familiar with: @SKJ, which stands for Sunkissed By Jenni [Blafer].

When I landed on her Instagram page, I instantly saw Megan Fox, Kylie Jenner, Julianne Hough, Desi Perkins, Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez—the list goes on. I thought, This lady does everyone. How have I never come across her before? Cut to me DM’ing Blafer and asking if I can give her a call. I wanted to hear her story, be introduced to her products, and, most importantly, I wanted my skin to glow like a celebrity. She happily obliged and hopped on the phone with me.

Why I Turned to Self-Tanner

Carly Cardellino / Design by Tiana Crispino
CARLY CARDELLINO / DESIGN BY TIANA CRISPINO

After getting Blafer on the phone, I was ready to give my tainted relationship with self-tanner another try. She sold me on her fool-proof gradual glow formula and buffing brush (it helps avoid tanner mishaps). In exchange for her life story, I let her in on mine: I’m in my 30s and birthed two kids. I have always loved my body (I eat healthy foods, do lymphatic drainage, work out, etc.), but now my body looks different to me after having two kids.

I buttoned up our conversation by telling her I was looking for something that would give me an immediate confidence boost while I waited for all of my fitness training to kick in. She assured me her products would do the trick. A few days later, I got a neatly packaged box from SKJ that held my confidence in a bottle.

You can spiral out, mentally, after having a baby. After giving birth, you have to take care of a new human, who is relying on your every move to stay alive. Not to mention, there’s the unsaid pressure (that some people still choose to verbalize) of people expecting you to “snap back” to your usual self as if you didn’t just house a baby for 10 months.

This rant isn’t coming from a place of bitterness, to be clear. Instead, I’m hoping it simply explains how important it is for me (and new moms) to do whatever feels possible to keep my confidence up—whether that’s starting my day with lymphatic drainage, buffing on some CC Cream for even-looking skin, or using self-tanner. Adding self-tanner into my routine has allowed me to be more accepting of where my body is at now. It’s also allowed me to remember I was lucky enough to help create two incredible lives, whom I love dearly, with my body.

The Application Process

Sunless Tanning Moisturizer with Buffing Brush
Sunkissed by Jenni Sunless Tanning Moisturizer with Buffing Brush $37.00

Applying self-tanner is a damn art—even if you’re using a gradual-glow formula. Blafer explains it like this: “Application is crucial. You need a collection of tools.” In Blafer’s toolkit, she might have a mitt, but she relies mainly on the buffing brush she created to blur her formula into perfection, even when spraying her clients. “The most tell-tale signs of self-tanner are when you can see streaks or lines on your body,” she says.

Blafer only sprays in LA and Austin right now; maybe New York soon, if we’re lucky. For those applying at home, she recommends starting at your feet and working your way up. She suggests using an applicator tool when doing your hands, feet, and face. “You want to control the amount of the dihydroxyacetone (DHA)—[the color additive that reacts with the amino acids on top of your skin and simulates a tan]—that is absorbed into the skin around those areas,” Blafer explains. “Your hands and feet are twice as porous as the rest of the body, and they also tend to be the driest areas, meaning these spots often grab more of the DHA in the formula, which can cause patchiness.” This very reason is why she created her application tool—the buffing brush is meant to disperse the formula for a fool-proof finish.

After you’ve thoroughly applied the formula, wash your hands for 20 seconds with any hand soap. Make sure you get in between your fingers since that’s where the formula can sit and continue to develop. Lastly, pump a pea-sized amount of Blafer’s gradual glow onto your application brush and apply it to your hands and wrists. “I find it’s best if you make your hand into a claw to get in between the lines of your knuckles on your hands,” Blafer says. “Then, with your palm facing the floor, start swirling the product around on the back of your hand before buffing out each finger.”

So, what sets Blafer’s formula apart from the other options I’ve tried? There are a few things: “One key component is that it’s so hydrating for your skin while other formulas are alcohol-based,” she says. To have healthy skin, it’s imperative to look for a self-tanner that is moisturizing since it will keep your “tan” around longer. Blafer’s formula relies on nourishing cocoa seed butter, vitamin E, and rosehip oil, while beetroot extract gives her formula that natural tone everyone turns to her for. It also goes on super smoothly—I haven’t had any streaking. And when it starts to slough off, as all self-tanner does when your dead skin cells start to turn over, I haven’t experienced any splotchiness.

Final Thoughts

Carly Cardellino / Design by Tiana Crispino
CARLY CARDELLINO / DESIGN BY TIANA CRISPINO

Overall, I’ve never really been a self-tanner person. That said, when I wasn’t outdoors in the sun a ton this past summer because I had a newborn to take care of, self-tanner came to my rescue. It gave me the subtle glow I needed and created the optical illusion that happens when you’re “tan.” It blurred slight imperfections while helping me look at myself in the mirror differently. So now, instead of analyzing certain things and wishing I was more toned (or more whatever) at the moment, I look at myself with acceptance because I look more like the me I knew before baby number one and two.