I’m not much of a tanner. My father calls my skin tone “clear,” if that’s any indication of how melanin-challenged my complexion is. So, when faced with a box of sunless tanners to test for this story, I was nervous—not the feeling I usually get when tasked with trying out beauty products! Would I be covered in streaks or compared to an Oompa-Loompa? And what about the infamous smell? But I rolled up my sleeves, ignoring my blindingly white forearms, and got to work. Here are my favorite products I tried, plus some application tips I learned along the way.
By now, most everyone is aware of the pre-tan mantra: exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate. Don’t skip this step! It helps the product go on smoothly and keeps it from clinging to dead skin cells. The Clarisonic Plus has a body brush attachment that gives an ultra-thorough cleansing. If you want to help flush out toxins and reduce cellulite, you can try a natural-bristle brush and try dry-brushing. Just stay away from any shower scrubs that leave an oily residue—they might compromise the a sunless tanner’s formula. Most importantly, moisturize rough spots like elbows, knees, and ankles to prevent them from getting too dark.
I also recommend getting a tanning mitt prior to application (I used St. Tropez's). It really helps to evenly spread the solution, making it look more natural.
I prefer this product to St. Tropez’s Bronzing Gel, which was more difficult to apply and dried in streaks. The mousse version is foam-based, which means it goes on really easily and spread evenly. And it smells good—according to the brand its “Aromaguard” technology helps reduce the typical self-tan stench by at least 70%.
This lotion-like formula gave good coverage and an instant glow; even when I applied it haphazardly before bed I still woke up with a nice color. The face version is just as good, too!
It’s quick-drying, transfer-resistant (a loofah scrub-down in the shower was necessary to remove the color!), and has good-for-you ingredients like acai, pomegranate, and vitamins A and E. It gives you an instant matte tan that looks airbrushed, and reduces the visibility of cellulite, bruises, and spider veins.
My favorite of the bunch, the spray-on application couldn’t have been easier! It’s smart to follow up with a once-over with your mitt, just to be sure that it’s even. Touch-ups are easy, it smells delicious, and because it has some glycerin, it left my skin nicely moisturized.
Jergens recently debuted a reformulated version of their best-selling Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer. Not only does it have the added firming boost, it also has a much more pleasant scent than the original (the new one is meant to be odorless). You apply it daily to layer on color gradually, so it’s virtually mistake-proof.
What’s your favorite sunless tanning product? Tell us in the comments!
Photo: Athit Perawongmetha / FLICKR