When I was seventeen, I begged and pleaded with my mom to let me get a spray tan before my senior prom. My mother didn’t understand why I, a black girl, needed a spray tan, but I knew if I was going to be remembered for one thing in high school, it was going to be that I was radiant as fuck. Every single year (even now), there’s a period in and after winter where my skin looks dull, dry, and ghostly and I’m counting down the days until summer. It was very important for me to look like late-summertime me all year round. I aspired to glow like Nia Long, J.Lo, Gabrielle Union … literally any black woman whose skin glistened from the months of June to August.
I did end up achieving my radiant prom look, though, at seventeen, I realized the high-maintenance tan life wasn’t for me: Spray-tanning took much longer than I thought, and the whole time I was shivering. My “tan” also came out uneven (which, thankfully, my dress mostly covered). Did people really do this on a regular basis? I was not interested.
I left spray-tanning behind, but I still have the same luminescent aspirations every summer. I want my skin to glow with the postcoital dewiness that we’ve all been conditioned to believe is real. I want my cheeks to be as flushed as if I’ve just run a marathon (which I don’t have any plans to do). I want my shoulders and legs to beam IRL and in photographs like I’m a heavenly being whose sole purpose on Earth is to shine. And I want to get it with as little effort as possible.
I’m the kind of person who cancels plans if they feel too far from my house. Making tanning appointments, trying to apply lotion evenly, trying not to stain my sheets — it’s not gonna happen.
So I’ve made it my mission to find the right routine to get that dewy glow that will make all my ex-boyfriends send me “Hey, stranger” texts. Here’s my lazy, anyone-can-do-it guide to looking radiant as fuck this summer.
Yes, Exfoliate: Getting rid of your dead skin and deep-cleaning your pores isn’t just for the winter. Exfoliating is a year-round commitment — and you’ll be rewarded with silky, smooth skin, an even complexion, and unclogged pores (anyone who tells you that you can make your pores smaller is a scammer). Think of summertime exfoliation as the essential prep for your dewy new look.
Start with the face. I’m in a very serious relationship with chemical exfoliators, but do what’s best for you. Currently, I’m using BioGen Gauze Peeling Lemon Pads, Son & Park Beauty Water, and Tarte’s Knockout. For physical exfoliants, one of my good girlfriends with covetable skin raves about Tatcha Rice Enzyme Powder, and I’ve always been a fan of Kate Somerville’s Intensive Exfoliating Treatment.
Then, onto the body. Dry-brushing is tedious, but the results (after consistent use) are so worth it. I use one by Organic Pharmacy before I shower. Also, MAKE YOUR OWN SCRUB; after doing so myself (OK, it was only once, but still), I realized how easy it is: just add coconut oil, some Epsom salts or brown sugar, and essential oils, and voilà — you saved $40.
Stay Hydrated: One thing I hate is reading beauty stories where women with seemingly perfect skin say that all they do is “Drink lots and lots of water.” That’s a lie. There’s no way to get intensely hydrated skin by just drinking water (though it is important for your body to be properly hydrated, especially as the weather warms up). So, yes, drink water. (And if you want an extra boost, maybe add a collagen-boosting supplement, like this one from Beauty Chef that helps to increase your skin’s elasticity and brightness.) But also, make sure what you’re putting on your skin is hydrating too.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is the most important ingredient to add to your routine — it’s like a sponge, penetrating the skin’s surface and retaining tons of water. For the face, try a serum like Noid’s Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex or Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster. For the body, the Chemistry Brand sells a tub of hyaluronic acid to use before you moisturize. Look for water-based products, as most of them contain HA.
Ceramides are another important ingredient to add to your skin-care routine. They are lipids that are already found in our skin but over time decrease from sun damage and aging; adding them back into the skin helps us retain moisture and protects our skin cells. I am a huge fan of Dr. Jart’s Ceramide cream and liquid.
Moisturize: It doesn’t matter how much I exfoliate or hydrate my skin, if I walk out of the house ashy, all that work was basically for nothing. lt would be a disgrace to both Nia Long and my mom.
I always moisturize at night because I can get as greasy as I want and let it all sink in while I sleep. I have super-dry skin, so I like to double up: First, I moisturize with a body oil right after I shower. I’ve been using Everyday Oil for three months, and I get compliments on the scent at least once a week. (You can also use it in your hair and as a facial cleanser.) Oils don’t moisturize the skin on their own, but combined with a lotion or cream, it’s the perfect hydration-moisture cocktail. I like to put on African shea butter (I recently made my own mixture and added a hint of coconut oil) or a body lotion — my go-to is Nivea.
Protect Your Skin: I know, I know: sunscreen is important for many reasons. But I only really started wearing it after I learned that it helps to prevent wrinkles. It’s also the most important step in getting that summer glow, because it’s actually protecting your skin from UV rays (which is especially important if you’re exfoliating, because your skin is practically brand new).
I apply SPF to my face every morning. I’ve been using La Roche-Posay Dry Touch Sunscreen for the past two years. It’s lightweight (and doesn’t leave white residue) and waterproof. I admit I don’t wear SPF on my body every day, but if I know I’m going to be in the sun for extended hours, I’ll use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter SPF, which is both protective and moisturizing.
Cheat (Well, Only a Little): Now that you’ve got all the boring skin-care necessities down, it’s time to have a little fun — I’m talking shimmer, highlight, repeat all over. Since I am wayyy too lazy to apply any kind of sunless tanner and I tan easily in the summer (if you don’t: Dr. Dennis Gross has some great tanning towelettes that also exfoliate — I use these in the winter), I play with makeup to add a little more shine.
The most important body parts to focus on are the cheekbones, legs, eyelids, clavicle, and shoulders. I forego foundation most of the summer (because, again, I’m lazy), but an illuminating tinted moisturizer like Bare Minerals or Laura Mercier is the perfect solution. Apply some Nuxe Dry Oil With Golden Shimmer or, for even more glow, NARS Mono Body Glow to the legs, shoulders, and clavicle. I haven’t tried Fenty Beauty’s Body Lava, but Rihanna did make a song with the lyric “Shine bright like a diamond,” and have you ever seen her look dull? Girl knows how to shine.
For the daytime, I want a more dewy face — glossy lids, flushed cheeks, angelic subtle highlight. If I want to blind my haters, I up the gold factor — a bronzer, a golden highlight like Fenty Beauty’s Killawatt (it can also be applied to the eyes), some punchy blush, a colorful eyeliner. Also, do not leave the house without these two things: some type of misting spray (Supergoop has one with SPF, which is perfect for the beach, and Jordan Samuel has one with hyaluronic acid) and a shiny lip gloss like Glossier’s.
Tahirah Hairston is a beauty enthusiast who just shaved her head — so is trying to get more into eye makeup.