The best self-tanners for holding onto your summer glow all year round
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I cringe at the memory of me as a teen lying in a tanning bed to achieve a faux glow before homecoming, prom, dance recitals and other big events. During my sophomore year of college, one incident from tanning sent me to the doctor’s office and helped me kick the habit for good. (I’ll spare you the details, but my skin became uncontrollably itchy.) Since then, I’ve turned to spray tans and at-home self-tanning products to achieve a healthier, natural-looking tan.
Self-tanning products have come a long way over the years, ditching their reputation for a streaky orange color and chemical smell. The first self-tanning product I ever tried was a lotion, but today there are sprays, foams, drops, towelettes and even in-shower lotions — and I’ve tried all forms.
Some pro tips: Before applying any self-tanner, you’ll want to exfoliate your skin. This will create an even surface for application, as dry skin patches absorb more of the tanner and leave you with an uneven color. Once you’ve exfoliated, make sure you’re completely dry before applying. You can apply lotion to your knees, elbows, feet and any other dry areas to prevent them from over-absorbing the tanner.
When applying, to achieve even coverage, you’ll want to blend your product using a tan applicator mitt. A mitt protects your hands from absorbing all of that extra tanner. It also helps you to rub the product in more evenly, preventing streaks and missed spots. For even face coverage, you can use a makeup brush to buff the product gently around the hairline and eyes.
Personally, I like a foam or a spray self-tanner used with a mitt for a quick tan. For a more gradual glow, a lotion is where it’s at. If you need some solid recommendations for top self-tanners, check out these products featured on this episode of “You Need This.”
Shop: Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops, $29
These drops combine tanning actives with avocado, chia seed and coconut oils, and come in three different varieties — light, medium and dark — for a healthy faux glow. Add one to 12 drops to your favorite lotion, mix together and apply to your skin. The more drops you use, the deeper the tan. However, if you don’t use a mitt, make sure to wash your hands after! Your tan will go on clear and develop in 4-6 hours, so wait to sweat or shower until after that time period.
All of Isle of Paradise’s self-tanning products are made with a “color corrective approach,” meaning they can help even out your skin tone. The brand is a safe bet if you’re worried about applying evenly.
Shop: Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning Lotion, $6.89
Banana Boat is known for its sunscreen, but this self-tanner ensures a tan minus the sun. (Heads up, there’s no SPF in this so you’ll still need to apply sunscreen when heading outside.) The Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning Lotion is a gradual tanner, meaning the more you use it, the deeper the tan. It also contains aloe vera and vitamin E for extra moisture, which is good, as other self-tanners can be drying. Apply it like your regular lotion to clean, dry skin and your tan will develop in 2–3 hours.
Shop: St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse, $42
This mousse by St. Tropez is one of my tried-and-true favorites for developing a really natural, instant tan. On Amazon, over 5,500 people have reviewed the product, and 87 percent of them have given it at least 4 out of 5 stars.
The mousse is incredibly easy to apply and has a built-in instant bronzer, so you can see exactly where you applied — and where you may have missed a spot. The tan develops over 4–8 hours and is a little darker than a buildable lotion like the one by Banana Boat. It’s great for using before an event or anywhere else you want to have a significant, yet quick glow.
If you enjoyed this article, you can also read about Amazon’s best-selling self tanner from Beauty by Earth.
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