It’s weird how we Filipinos are blessed with a beautiful golden hue and beaches a hop, skip, and a jump away, yet the majority of products we see in the beauty aisles at the mall (and everywhere else) are all related to becoming unnaturally white. I remember when I was in high school, the soap in the shower was Silka Papaya and Block & White lotion was all the rage, my mom had me taking glutathione before it became all the rage, and I was to wear a jacket and tote an umbrella around no matter how hot it was outside to maintain my glow-in-the-dark complexion.

Yes, I was the “ideal color” (for most Asians, at least), but I wasn’t happy. I felt like I looked pasty and sickly. I tried to get some color on me. I really did. But everytime I’d lie out on the beach to brown up, I just ended up turning lobster red one day and sunburned the next – no matter how much sunblock I’d slather on. I just couldn’t understand it. “Is this the effect of having used too many whitening products?” I thought to myself. I had almost given up all hope of ever being golden until a trip to Cancún a few years back where a friend of mine taught me her secret for bronzing up and staying that way – no matter what the weather.

So if you’ve always wanted to rock that perfect sun-kissed tan 12 months out of the year, here are six tanning secrets from a mestiza:

1. Scrub Down


Before even hitting the beach or hanging out poolside, give yourself a good scrub to slough off any dry skin. I usually do this a night or two before my beach trip. As much as possible, I prefer to make a homemade scrub out of brown sugar and virgin coconut oil (this works as a great lip scrub, too!), but I’m also partial to The Body Shop’s tropical smelling Coconut Body Scrub and their limited edition Chocolate Body Scrub. I swear, half the time I don’t know if the smell of deliciousness is coming from my kitchen or my bathroom.

2. Love Your Sunscreen


Before you go off to your sun salutations, a good douse of sunscreen is important – you want to look sunkissed, not crayfished. I love how convenient Target’s Up & Up sunscreen is – there’s no goopy, sticky feeling after. You just spray it on, spread it around a little bit, and wait for it to dry. Since Target doesn’t really have a store in the Philippines, I’ve learned to love Nivea’s Sun Spray with SPF 20, which is extra light and non-greasy, giving you just enough sun protection to work up an awesome tan. The best part? It’s readily available at most of the country’s leading department stores.

3. Brown Up!


After applying sunscreen, brown up with – what else – browning lotion! My friend swore by Maui Babe Browning Lotion, and now I do, too! This costs a pretty penny, but if you’re serious about turning a glistening shade of gold – or bronze, depending on your original skin tone – then invest in this! A few shops like Strip and Brown Belly sell it here. A more affordable local version (I think) is Real Tan. A couple of my friends swear this works as well, but I haven’t tried it myself, so I’m just taking their word for it. These two brands are as organic as they come, using natural ingredients like coffee to give you that perma-vacationer hue.

If you want to brown really quickly, you can also opt to slather on coconut oil as a substitute. Just don’t stay out in the sun for too long – 20 minutes tops! And if you smell sizzling bacon with a side of latik… well, that’s not a good sign.

4. Cooling Aloe


After a day of being out in the sun all day long, the more sensitive parts of your body that have been exposed to the sun for too long – like our stomachs and shoulders – our body is totally parched and needs a tall glass of water too, so slather on a good amount of aloe vera gel or lotion to keep the sunburn at bay (or at the very least, minimize the pain). The Banana Boat brand s pretty easy to find at most department stores, but I personally like the Jason’s cooling Aloe Vera Hand & Body Lotion.

5. Hydrate


After baking n the sun all day, take a lukewarm shower and slap on a hydrating mask to keep your face from peeling the next day. A current favorite of mine is Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Masque, which I slather on just before going to bed, waking up fresh-faced in the morning. For those on a budget, I find the face masks from Watsons, Missha, and Faceshop to be quite affordable yet very effective.

6. Maintain the Glow


After spending a few days by the beach and coming home with a golden glow, I maintain my color by layering on Jergen’s Natural Glow Moisturizer as a base, before applying a thin layer of L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Fresh Feel Gel – something I usually beg my friends coming back from the US for that they can easily buy at Target or Wal-Mart. This just gives your tan that extra oomph it needs, and works wonderfully well when you actually put in the work to achieve an even tan. You can still use this without heading to the beach or lounging by the pool, and this has been my go to self-bronzer now that the rainy season has started and the sunny beaches of Boracay and Batangas seem so far away.

After you come back from your much deserved vacay, you’ll notice that the first thing that starts to lighten is your face, since you scrub and clean it daily. I keep my face glowing with St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse – another natural tanner that has a gentle formula, so you don’t break out. You can use this on your body, too, but since your best chance of buying this is through Amazon, I suggest you save the contents of the bottle for your face and neck.

After finally learning to tan, I have never looked back. Gone are the days of being so white I was practically luminous! Being tan, my face looks smaller, my legs look leaner (and longer!), and I love the “just came back from the beach” look. I’d recommend this to anyone who asks, so if you’re one of those people who just cannot seem to brown, try these tips and let me know if it worked for you!