We all know a fake tan is the way to go these days. Bronzed skin makes us look better. It hides cellulite and other imperfections, while also making the body appear slimmer. However, getting a streak-free faux glow can be intimidating. Here we break down the rules for getting the most gorgeous natural looking tan whether it’s at a salon, spa, or in the comfort of your own home.
All self-tanners are made up of the ingredient DHA (dihydroxyacetone), which interacts with dead cells on the epidermis to turn a brown color. Some DHA is natural, derived from beet or cane sugar, while some is manufactured synthetically. While DHA is FDA-approved for topical use, recent warnings recommend that it should not be inhaled and to avoid areas such as the eyes and the nose.
At a salon, spray tans are the method of choice for deep glowing skin in very little time. Some salons offer individualized spray tan booths, which are quick and spray the entire body, albeit, can miss some spots. Other salons and spas offer airbrush tanning applied by a skilled technician. If you opt for the latter, the technician can even sculpt body parts for a chiseled, toned look. Booth tans can be found across the country and cost around $25 per session. A tanning session with a technician ranges from $45 to $75, and can be costly if you want to maintain bronzed skin for months on end.
There are a slew of self-tanners on the market today in a variety of formulations and shades: sprays, mousses, gels, creams, lotions and towelettes. Some build color gradual, while others turn skin a deeper hue in just a few hours. With some of the newer formulas, color can last anywhere from seven to 10 days.
Prepping skin is key when doing any self-tan. Exfoliating skin with a good body or facial scrub to remove dry patches helps build a more even tan. “You want to apply your self tanner to fresh skin cells so that the tan looks its best and lasts longer,” says St. Tropez Finishing Expert Sophie Evans. It’s important to pay extra attention to the knees, ankles, and elbows as they can be drier. “These areas will go a good few shades deeper than the rest of the body and look un-natural if not prepped properly,” adds Evans.
Confused on how to choose the right shade? “A good self-tan product should adapt and work off your own individual body chemistry and skin tone,” explains Evans. “Gradual tans will normally turn you one to two shades darker and a self-tan will turn a good four to six shades darker so start light if desired, but most people end up loving the depth of a self-tan application.”
Not all self-tanners are right for everyone so it’s important to do a patch test. Evans recommends testing a block of color in a two-inch square—too much product in a concentrated area will develop too dark while a tiny dot of color will be too light. Following are some of the best self-tanners on the market.
Below are some products that are sure to give you beautiful sun-kissed skin without a trip to the salon or spa.
Start with an oil-free exfoliator like H20 Plus Sea Moss Black Sand Body Scrub ($20) containing fine black sand from lava, sea salt, Irish moss and aloe vera to give your body the perfect smooth canvas.
Friends will think you spent a weekend in the Caribbean with St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Spray ($40), which features DHA containing allo-melanin to mimic the skin’s natural melanin, in a fast-drying spray for fool-proof application.
Recently reformulated to contain no stinky odor, Jergens Natural Glow Face Daily Moisturizer ($8.99) is great for beginners who want to gradually develop a natural bronzed color.
TanTowel Face and Body Towelettes ($24) deliver golden skin in just a few hours, plus are great for travel.
Josie Maran Argan Self Tanning Cream ($32) contains a natural streak-free nourishing formula rich in organic argan oil and caffeine to firm trouble spots.
Not only does Caudalie Divine Legs ($38 ) smells great and contains moisturizing grape oil, but it imparts a golden color with subtle shimmer that makes ghostly-looking legs appear sleek and toned, and then easily washes off in the shower.
For noticeable missed spots, apply Tanee ($5.99), a portable pen containing bronzer and self-tanner that blends in easily and fixes mistakes in a flash.
Evans swears by the St. Tropez Applicator Mitt ($6.50) to help distribute color evenly, and guarantee no messy residue left on hands.