If you’ve ever attended a bodybuilding event or seen images of bodybuilders before, during, or after a competition, you know they don’t look like the typical person—in a positive way. They are more muscular, diced, somewhat dehydrated, and golden in color.
There’s no unique diet or chicken breast recipe that turns bodybuilders golden from the inside out anymore—the it’s magic of a spray tan. Before going on stage, most, if not all, bodybuilders get spray-tanned. On the other side, even though they no longer compete, athletes like Mike O’Hearn are fake-tanned for much of the year.
Even while sunless tans are an essential aspect of competitive bodybuilding, there are no clear guidelines for their application. Some bodybuilders tan their bodies but leave their faces bare. On the contrary, Men’s Physique contestant Choi Bong Seok took it to the next level when he walked onto the 2022 Arnold Classic stage in the pre-judging round without tanning his legs.
When done correctly, a tan seems to be a bodybuilder who has been spit-roasted for the appropriate amount of time. Okay, so maybe I went a little too far. Instead, how about a gleaming statue? A bodybuilder on stage displays oneself as a work of art, displaying their sculpted physique through exquisite posture. So, a gleaming bronze statue.
Bodybuilders compete in all divisions utilize an artificial tan. The majority of bodybuilders choose for a one-day rub-down, roller, or spray tan. For athletes with a pale complexion, the treatment may begin two to three days in advance.
This article will discuss why bodybuilders apply a tan before a show, the tanning procedure, items to consider, and how to remove the fake tan afterwards.
Why Do Bodybuilders Tan before Competitions?
Contrary to popular belief, false tanning in competitive bodybuilding is not required, nor is it a case of monkey see, monkey do. A good tan can help you present your body better on stage and will offer you a competitive advantage.
- Tanning Absorbs More Light
Pro bodybuilders strive for a deeper tan because it allows them to absorb more light on stage. Bodybuilding competitions employ intense spotlights that could blind a pale person. Because light skin reflects light, an untanned white person on stage may appear to be a shiny metal tin.
A dark tan coat, on the other hand, absorbs all light and highlights a bodybuilder’s characteristics, increasing their chances of placing higher in the event.
Bodybuilding is an individual sport, and there is a lot that goes into preparing for a competition. An athlete never skips a meal, workout, or supplement merely to appear on stage for a few minutes.
You can imagine how upset these people were when they were told they appeared washed out under the bright lights because they didn’t use the proper tan. These guys spend countless hours in the gym working on the smallest details that could give them an advantage over their opponent.
By absorbing more light, the proper tan highlights every cut and curve of your body.
- Tanning Accentuates Muscle Separation and Definition
To win a bodybuilding competition, you must have more than just muscle bulk. If only size was considered, bodybuilders would begin to resemble unattractive meat slabs.
A bodybuilder should have the following characteristics: size, shape, symmetry, balance, separation, and definition. Bodybuilding is a game of deception and beauty. A proportional physique makes you appear larger, stronger, and more defined, and a beautiful tan can enhance this illusion.
The difference between a bodybuilder before and after a few layers of artificial tan is night and day. As soon as the first tan coat is applied, muscle separation, definition, and shape improve. Furthermore, fake tan tends to build in crevices such as the creases between abs, giving your muscles a pop.
- Tanning Gives Bodybuilders Even Skin Tones
Most people have uneven skin tone, which means that the skin tone of their legs, which are normally covered, does not match the skin tone of their arms, which are usually uncovered.
A fake tan is an excellent technique to conceal blemishes or bruises, for whatever twisted reason you have them. Furthermore, many bodybuilders develop acne and stretch marks as a result of pushing their bodies to the maximum. A tan helps to hide them.
If you believe scars and stretch marks aren’t a big deal, consider this:
“The judge should also look for good skin tone with an absence of surgical or other scars, spots, acne, or tattoos, which the IFBB considers as a skin blemish, tidily dressed hair, well-shaped feet, and toes. When having difficulty in placing two or more competitors who seem to be on the same level, the judge should look for faults in those aspects listed above which will help to differentiate among the competitors.”
The remark above is from the IFBB Elite Pro regulation, not the IFBB Pro League, which oversees the Mr. Olympia competition. In a close competition, the IFBB Elite Pro judges will use your skin quality, tattoos, hair, and even the shape of your feet against you. We don’t have a horse in this race, but if you’re as savvy as Michal Krio, you should think about switching to the IFBB Pro League.
- Tanning Helps Level The Playing Field
Tanning is not required in the IFBB Pro League, the world’s largest and most popular professional bodybuilding federation. However, for the reasons stated in this article, most bodybuilders tan before going on stage. If you don’t tan when your opponent does, the results may be skewed in their favor.
Bodybuilders did not wear tans during the golden age, instead opting for a sun tan or bronzer.
Remember that using too much artificial tan can be harmful. Although the IFBB Pro League does not require tans, it does control their use with the following rule:
“The excessive application of oils, moisturizers, skin creams, tanning creams, and like products is prohibited and may be used only in moderation. The application of tanning products must produce a natural tone so as to give the appearance of a natural tan. Products that produce an unnaturally colored tone, with an orange, yellow, red, green, or gold hue, are prohibited. Bronzing agents that produce a metallic look are also prohibited.”
- Tanning is the Safer Method
Most bodybuilders use spray tanning because they want to be as dark as possible for a show, and attaining that tan from sun tanning is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, especially for white people.
Sunbathing or sitting in a tanning bed, on the other hand, is not the safest technique to tan. Using a tanning bed to achieve that dark tan hue can expose athletes to the risk of sunburns or even skin cancer due to UV radiation.
When most bodybuilders need to tan numerous times a year, using a sunless tan allows them to reach their goal more conveniently, swiftly, and without putting themselves at danger of getting skin disorders.
The Tanning Process
Getting a fake tan for a bodybuilding competition is a multi-step process that should be included as part of your contest preparation. Leaving tan preparations until the last minute can jeopardize your performance in a show.
The tanning process for a bodybuilding show looks like this:
Competitive bodybuilders do not have the most pristine skin since they subject their bodies to harsh diets, intensive training sessions, and water manipulation. These are not favorable to flawless skin.
An athlete hydrates and exfoliates their skin before applying a tan, although temporarily, to address these skin issues. Excess dead skin cells are removed from all over the body, preparing your skin for the initial tan coat.
Most bodybuilders are fanatical shavers, which should come as no surprise. If you ask a room full of bodybuilders what they would wage war on, they will all respond with body hair.
To avoid acne, pimples, or rashes, you should begin shaving your body at least 30 days before a show.
Depending on your skin tone, the tanning procedure will differ. If you are fair, you should have your first coat applied at least three days before a show. To acquire the perfect tan, you may need to see your tanning specialist twice a day.
Tanning products are often liquid mixtures that are sprayed, rubbed, or rolled on. Consider utilizing posing gels like the ProTan Quick Bronze® before going on stage.
Considerations When Applying a Tan for Bodybuilding
Before getting a tan, keep the following factors in mind:
- Stage Lights
If you have the option of inspecting the stage and lighting scheme before tanning, take advantage of it. As a general rule, the darker your tan should be, the brighter the lights.
- Your Posing Suit
If you compete in Classic Physique, this section is simple. Before you choose the color of your tan, consider the color of your posing trunks, board shorts, and bikinis. Choose a posing suit that complements your skin tone.
- Take Care of the Tricky Places
Consider the most aesthetically pleasing bodybuilder you’ve ever seen. With each posture, he walks over his opponent. He works the back lat spread, side chest, and front-double biceps. However, as soon as he reaches the front-double biceps, all you see are his snow-white underarms, and you can’t take your gaze away from them.
You should check for white patches during tanning. For an even tan, pay special attention to your underarms and gluteal region.
Hydration is essential for beautiful skin. However, we are not dermatologists, and the judges will not give you high marks for your adorable freckles. Furthermore, bodybuilding fans are there to see a freak show, not a beauty pageant, unless the bikini or wellness females walk out.
Water retention might be a major issue for your tan. If you’re holding water while posing on stage, you’re going to start sweating and ruining your tan. This is also what happened to Hunter Labrada in the 2021 Olympia match. Before you walk on stage, make sure you’re not holding any water.
- The Tan Itself
There are numerous bodybuilder tans on the market. Most bodybuilding contests include tanning services on-site, and some even provide a touch-up before you go on stage.
However, no two tans are alike. You want a tan that is free of booze. Remember how you’ll shave your body before taking the stage? Furthermore, while every bodybuilder wants to appear diced and crisp on stage, your tan should include a moisturizer to assist preserve a moist-skin appearance under the searing stage lights. You don’t want to appear as lifeless as a potato chip. A little gleam can draw attention to your body.