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05-24-11 | Posted by

Fake tans have come a long way since the 1970s creams that left skin streaked, orange and unhealthy looking – like you overdosed on Vitamin A or ate a bowl of carrots. Does anyone remember QT? As if the funky smell wasn’t bad enough, it was next to impossible to get the greasy lotion on without lines, streaks, and nasty stripes.

There are so many great options in terms of products, shades, applications, that women can get a gorgeous bronzed look with ease. For diehard fake tan fans, spas and salons offer the option of mist-on tanning or spray tans. It is the lazy girl’s way to get a gorgeous, streak-free tan. Technicians will assist you in a booth that sprays a very fine mist of self-tanner so you get a uniform coating from head to toe that looks natural and lasts about a week. There are new home versions of this concept proliferating too. Fusion Beauty AirGlow ($175) offers a unique DIY spray system to get this effect at home.

Remember that many self tanners do not contain high SPF so add a broad spectrum sunscreen when you will be outdoors to protect skin from dangerous UV rays.

Hopefully by now most of us have taken on board the message that there is no such thing as a safe tan. A tan is a burn, full stop, and indicates skin damage. Instead of frying in the sun, causing premature wrinkles and possibly deadly skin cancers, women are flocking to the self-tanner category to save their skin. Fake tans are the perfect alternative and look good on almost any skin type. New products can be very affordable with great finds at every price range – from drugstore brands like Neutrogena and L’Oreal that offer great technology at fair prices so you can buy and use a lot, all the way up to prestige brands like Estee Lauder and Lancome. Tanning is so popular because methods and formulations have improved greatly so they work well, last nicely, and are much easier to apply. Fake tans today can also look much more natural – if done well.

Cheap and cheeful products we love include: L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Lotion SPF 15, Medium Natural ($9.49) because it includes an SPF; Australian Gold Instant Bronze Self-Tanning Lotion ($8.99) for its new technology to prevent that tell-tale tanner odor; and Neutrogena  MicroMist Tanning Sunless Spray ($9.76) as a hands-free alternative.

Photo Credit: nordstrom.com

For those who want to spend a little more, check out these raving beauties: Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Golden Self-Tanning Lotion for Face ($22.50) gives an instant radiant glow, and Lancome  Flash Bronzer Tinted Anti-Age Face Lotion SPF15 ($38.00) balances self tanning with moisturizing benefits. Sisley Self Tanning Lotion ($115), exclusively for the body, is applied with a spray for an instant moisturized glow. And Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel ($33) has an instantly absorbed, non-oily formulation.

Photo Credit: tantowel.com

Choose your product wisely based on personal preference. Foams, gels, creams, and sprays are the most common. We also love the concept of individual applications in foil packets or pads that are handy to travel with, such as Tantowel Self Tan Towelette Packets, Fair to Medium Skin Tones,($24), which feaures 10 citrus scented towelettes. Comodynes Self Tanning Towelettes for Face & Body ($12.99) gives a natural looking tan in under three hours.

Another popular trend we love are tanning moisturizers or tinted lotions and creams, like Clinique Self Sun Body Tinted Lotion ($21), that deliver a subtle color after consistent use. This prevents an overdone fake look entirely. And if you are looking for a year-round, friendly priced alternative, check out Nivea Sun-Kissed Radiant Skin, Medium to Dark ($12), a daily moisturizer that gives a gradual tan.

Photo Credit: albabotanica.com

Even the natural inspired brands have option for sunless tanning. Alba Botanica  Natural Very Emollient Sunless Golden Tanning Without the Sun ($9.95), which features natural botanicals like sweet almond oil and green tea,  and Nature’s Gate Glow Lotion ($12.99), an Allure magazine beauty award winner, are two good options sold at health food outlets.

To get a great fake tan as close to the real thing as possible, start by exfoliating with a scrub or loofah in the shower so your skin is smooth and ready to take on color. This helps you to distribute color evenly all over your skin. Skin should be clean and dry before applying self tanner. Apply evenly and allow time to dry and get absorbed into your skin before getting dressed or you could end up ruining your tan and funding your dry cleaner’s pension fund. Knees, elbows and ankles can be tricky because the skin is thicker and it absorbs more pigment so you can end up with dirty-looking stained knees or elbows.  Avoid encroaching too closely towards your hairline or around the eyelids. Be careful to wash hands after application to avoid staining your palms. If you mess up, use a remover quickly – St Tropez Essential Tan Remover ($18) helps get rid of mistakes. Or take a hot shower or hop into a sauna to sweat or soak off some of the excess.


Don’t try to get too dark all at once. Tanning is a gradual process naturally.

Start with only one coat, especially if you have very fair skin, add a second coat when needed.

Avoid products with a high concentration of DHA.

Keep skin well moisturized in between applications.

To avoid build up, bronzers work nicely for face, legs, decollete in between self tan treatments.

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