* Scroll below for a poll of readers favorite self tanners!
I’ve never splurged for a spray tan applied by a human, but I absolutely love going to the Mystic Tan booth before a pageant or special event. The $21 application takes less a minute and honestly, you’d have to be an idiot to mess it up like Ross did in the popular Friends episode. The key, of course, is to exfoliate well before you go and put their “boundary cream” on areas that might absorb more or wouldn’t naturally tan like elbows, knees, feet and palms. It lasts four to ten days, depending how hard you scrub in the shower and does have a smell that fades with time, but I try not to be in public for the few hours following. Also, try to hold your breath and be sure to have something with you to drink, because the mist gets stuck in your throat and nose. I know that sounds like a pain, but it's worth it!
For at home use, I am a big fan of Neutrogena MicroMist Tanning Sunless Spray. You can get it at the grocery, drug or big box store for $9 to $12, and it comes in three shade levels. Like a Mystic Tan, it dries quickly and color develops a few hours after you apply it. Its smell is easily covered, it doesn’t streak and I find the color natural. The only drawback I’ve found it that if you use it a few days in a row it will make your floor sticky and give it an orange tone.
In the past I have used L’Oreal Sublime Glow and Jergens Gentle Glow lotions; they both work, but I no longer use them for the following reasons: 1. They smell awful and it can’t be covered by other fragrant lotions. 2. Your hands will turn orange if you forget to wash them immediately (which is an easy mistake, since they're marketed as daily moisturizers) and if you don’t already wash your sheets weekly, you’ll need to start… 3. When you stop using them, your color will be blotchy as it fades. They do add a pretty and subtle sparkle to your skin and I’d defiantly recommend these products to someone trying to get tan for a specific event, but until they fix the stench, I won’t use them again.
I wouldn’t be a woman of pageantry if I didn’t admit to loving Sally Hensen’s Spray on Legs! It’s a messy product and E.D.s hate it, but it does work. Some women spray it right on, others like to put it in their hands then rub it on. After it dries it’s not supposed to get on your clothes, but it does; you have to be especially careful when you put on bikini bottoms. The good news is that Sally’s Spray on Legs gives immediate colors and will wash completely off with your next shower. It’s a thicker product so unlike the MicroMist I mentioned above, I find that you need someone to help you get it even on your back. You need to experiment with the shade levels because the color can look fake if you get the wrong one.
For pageants and special events I use a combination of the products above, as well as hydrating lotions and bronzing powders the day of.
Sunless Tanning Tips and FAQs from MSNBC:
* Exfoliate first- Sloughing off dead skin with a loofah or exfoliating shower gel allows a self-tanner to work on fresh, new skin. Your tan will look more even and will last longer.
* Apply self-tanner lightly to areas where the skin is thick, such as elbows, knees, ankles and knuckles. Otherwise, those areas will end up darker. Also, you can avoid darkening your eyebrows and hairline by covering them with a thin coat of petroleum jelly.
* Wash your hands right after applying a self-tanner, or wear latex gloves. There’s nothing natural-looking about bronzed palms and fingernails. For a realistic-looking tan, skip body parts that wouldn’t tan in the sun, like your inner arms.
* Wait as long as possible before dressing or getting in bed — even longer than the “several minutes” recommended on many self-tanners — to lessen the chance the product will rub off. Avoid exercising (sweating), showering or swimming for six hours or more.
Q. Why do sunless tanners make me smell so gross?
A. That funky sunless-tanner smell is due to the chemical reaction taking place between your skin and the key ingredient in sunless tanners — dihydroxyacetone (DHA). The smell typically goes away when you next shower. However, many newer products — including self-tanners by Chanel, Clarins and Bliss — manage to mask the characteristic sunless-tanner aroma with other fragrances. Since you can't assess stink potential just by smelling the product in the bottle, try a sample on your skin and wait a few hours to sniff before purchasing.
Q. Is it true that I look thinner when I’m tan, or is this just a fantasy of mine?
A. Lots of people feel they look thinner, and generally “better,” with a little color, said Debbi Hartley-Triesch, Nordstrom’s national beauty director. “Dark colors absorb the light, which can make something appear smaller,” she says. “Giving the skin a little more color, or a darker tone, will have the same effect.” Also, a tan tends to camouflage cellulite.
Q. Which self-tanners require the least amount of work?
A. Self-tanning sprays and mists are quick, because often you don’t have to rub them in. Try Neutrogena’s MicroMist Tanning Sunless Spray or Bliss’ A Tan for All Seasons Self-Tanning Mist. Also, tinted products, such as Clinique’s face and body self-tanners, contain instant bronzers so you can see where you’re applying (which lessens the chance of streaks). On the go? Try a self-tanning towelette — individually packaged wipes containing just enough self-tanner for one application so that you don’t have to figure out how much product to use. Check out L’Oréal’s Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Towelettes or Estée Lauder’s Go Tan Sunless Towelettes.
Q. That still sounds like too much effort. Is there an even easier way?
A. Use what drugstores call “glow” products. The color produced by these products — which are more like moisturizers than self-tanners — is so subtle that you can apply every day, as you would your daily moisturizer... Also, bronzers — which come in powders, creams and mousses — are an alternate route to a quick and easy tan. Their main benefit: If you mess up, you just wash up with soap and warm water and start over.
Q. Are more expensive self-tanners better?
A. Not necessarily, although more expensive products tend to contain beneficial additives such as sunscreen or antioxidants, said Susan Weinkle, who serves on the board of directors of the American Academy of Dermatology. The “best” self-tanner is different for everyone, and trial and error is really the only way to find the product that looks best on you.
Top 10 Drugstore Sunless Tanners, according to sunless.com.
Check out their website for reviews of hundreds of products and tons of great info.
1. Bain de Soleil Mega Tan
2. Bain de Soleil Streakguarde Self Tanning Creme, Dark
3. Banana Boat Sunless Summer Color Tanning Foam, Deep Dark
4. Coppertone Endless Summer Sunless Tanning Gradual Tan Moisturizing Lotion
5. Coppertone Oil Free Effortless Color Sunless Tanning Lotion
6. L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Lotion, Deep
7. L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Towelettes
8. Neutrogena Sunless Tanning Foam in Deep and Extra Deep
9. Neutrogena Sunless Tanning Spray Micro Mist Deep
10. Savage Bronze
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the most effective products available are sunless- or self-tanning lotions that contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) as the active ingredient. DHA is a colorless sugar that interacts with the dead cells located in the stratum corneum of the epidermis. As the sugar interacts with the dead skin cells, a color change occurs. This change usually lasts about five to seven days from the initial application.
Another sunless-tanning product is a tanning pill that contains canthaxanthin, which is most commonly used as a color additive in certain foods… These types of tanning pills have been linked to various side effects, including hepatitis and canthaxanthin retinopathy, a condition in which yellow deposits form in the retina of the eye.
Another popular form of sunless tanning is the bronzer. These powders and moisturizers, once applied, create a tan that can easily be removed with soap and water. More like make-up, these products tint or stain your skin only until they are washed off.
It's important to remember that most of these products, unless they contain an added sunscreen, will not protect you from the sun's UVA and UVB rays. Even products that do contain a sunscreen won't be of much help, since they lose their efficacy within hours of application. So, if you're planning to head outside to show off your new glow, be sure to apply some extra sunscreen.