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.