When we think of tanning, we generally picture lying out in the sun trying to achieve a golden brown look similar to that of a bronzed statue. It’s something that most people do to feed their vanity more than anything else. However, in the world of bodybuilding, tanning is an absolute necessity if you want to be seriously considered for top honours, and there are some good reasons for it:


Lighting used onstage is much brighter from the lighting used in your home. Bright light tends to wash out skin colour unless it’s very dark.

Muscle definition:

A darker tan makes it much easier to see what the muscles actually look like. Every little detail (feathers, striations, etc.) becomes more distinctive and easier to compare among competitors.

What tanning paint to use:

Choose a tanning paint that complements your natural skin tone. One of the most popular and commonly used products is ProTan. It provides a natural-looking black walnut colour that washes off with soap and water after use.


Pre-tan preparations

Ensure that you moisturize and exfoliate your skin for one to two weeks prior to the competition to prepare and condition your skin for the best tanning results. Stop moisturizing the day before your tan, and stop using deodorant at least one week prior to your tan as the chemicals could potentially interact with your tanning paint and turn you an unpleasant colour!

Hair removal, other than on the face, should be done the night before applying your tanning paint. After removing hair, apply a moisturizing lotion to calm the skin and help prevent irritation.

Right before you apply your tanning paint, take a shower to exfoliate and neutralize the skin. Do not forget to scrub under your neck, underarms and back! After your shower, do not apply lotion and do not use deodorant or put anything else on your skin as it may affect your colour and make it difficult for the paint to dry.


How to apply

The best way to apply ProTan is by spraying it directly onto the skin from about six to 12 inches away. Don’t use it sparingly; go ahead and cake it on! The stage lighting is going to make you look about half as dark as natural lighting, so make sure to lay it on thick. You don't want it to run, so pay close attention to each spray.

Every bottle of ProTan should come with a foam brush shrink-wrapped to it. Use this to blend any runs or smudges.

Do not use latex gloves to smear the tanning paint! Latex gloves leave terrible streaks and handprints.


When to apply

You should start applying your first coat the Thursday evening before your show (assuming your show is Saturday morning).

Applying tanning paint can take anywhere from one to three hours per coat, so make sure that you set aside an adequate amount of time. A woman may go through about two bottles of ProTan per show, and a man about four bottles , so keep that in mind when purchasing. If you don’t use at least the entire first bottle, your tan isn’t dark enough!

After you apply the first coat of tanning paint, it’s wise to lay down an old sheet or something to keep from getting the tanning paint all over everything you touch.

If you’re staying in a hotel during your competition, it’s imperative that you bring your own bedsheets, pillowcases and towels! If you ruin their bedsheets, they will make you pay for them. Remember, your competition life with your federation includes your treatment and care of the hotel and its rooms. You’ll also want to bring old pyjamas to sleep in that cover your arms and legs completely.

Apply your second coat on Friday morning and the third on Friday evening. By Saturday morning, you should only need slight touch-ups.

Where to apply

Anything the judges can see should be painted with the exception of the bottoms of your feet and your palms, although they will probably get tanning paint on them anyway. It’s almost inevitable.


So what does this include exactly?

  • Your entire body
  • Your face
  • If you are bald, your head.

Show day

Do not shower in the morning, and do not apply any deodorant or perfume/cologne as these may potentially make your tan turn green. It’s recommended that you wear flip-flops and, for the ladies, a tank top but no underwear or bra.

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