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BareMinerals Faux Tan Body Sunless Tanner ($26)
Best for: Beginners
We applied in the morning and found the lotion’s tint useful for making sure we didn’t miss spots. Overall, it provides color but definitely requires a few coats to yield a noticeable tan. Recommended for anyone wary of self-tanners.
Our two cents: Wash your hands ASAP.
Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Sunless Tanner ($11)
Best for: All-Natural Gals
The clear formula makes it difficult to see the areas you missed, so a thorough scrub and other preventative measures around your ankles and feet are necessary to prevent streaks. The color turns a full shade darker 24 hours later, so don?t apply a second layer until the first one has fully set in.
Our two cents: Surprisingly, it smells great.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze ProPerfect Salon Airbrush Self-Tanning Mist ($11)
Best for: Easy Application
For a spray product, this guy performed awfully well. We sprayed at arm’s length away from our body and didn’t have any streaks. Two days later, our tan deepened.
Our two cents: While it comes in different shades (light to deep), the color really depends on how much you apply.
Tarte Brazilliance Skin Rejuvenating Maracuja Face and Body Self Tanner ($37)
Best for: All Skin Tones
We were really impressed by how quickly the color blended with our skin tone. The intensity depends on how many layers you apply, but after one application our fair skin was two to three shades darker.
Our two cents: This lotion takes a while to dry, so don’t make any immediate plans.
Guinot Hydra Bronze (coming August 2013)
Best for: Long-Lasting Tan
This tanner was a bit oily, and we noticed a few streaks around our hands and feet. The upside? It didn’t budge, even after a hard-core (read: sweaty) Spin class.
Our two cents: If applied daily, it takes at least a week to notice a darker complexion.
St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse ($42) and Tan Booster ($30)
Best for: Events/One-Time Use
We followed the directions on the bottle, which said to dispense onto the mitt and apply in long upward strokes. The product comes out in golf-ball-size dollops of a blackish green color, but on the skin it’s a realistic--and really flattering--golden brown. It dried fairly quickly, and we were dressed (in a white silk blouse, no less) in less than five minutes.
Our two cents: Washes off pretty easily. Not recommended for lasting wear.
Bliss A Tan for All Seasons ($36)
Best for: Guidettes
This product is extremely runny, and the color is very dark. It requires a lot of damage control, so be sure to rub it in or you’ll end up with puddles at your ankles.
Our two cents: For a brand we adore, we expected a bit more.
Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel ($35)
Best for: Fair Skin
This gel went on very easily and we ended up with zero mistakes (even after an admittedly careless application). You can use it on your body or face, and it dries very quickly. The resulting color is a perfect bronze.
Our two cents: The smell was hard to get used to (that standard expired-body-lotion scent), but it faded after eight hours.
Kate Somerville Somerville360 Face Self Tanning Pads ($45)
Best for: Travel
These pads are great for anybody who?s afraid of self-tanner. Simply slip your fingers into the pouch and wipe the pad onto your face or body in a circular motion. We prefer the face pads to the body towelettes, as they are more manageable.
Our two cents: Tread with caution around the neck area.
Too Faced Royal Oil Coconut Oil Body Bronzer ($35)
Best for: A Night Out
This body oil gives skin a sultry glow and easily adjusts to match any skin tone. You can use it on your body, face and even hair, as it contains antioxidants and coconut oil to protect locks from chlorine and salt water. The oil also acts as a moisturizer but won’t come off on your clothes.
Our two cents: Watch out for dripping (i.e., don’t apply it while standing on your Oriental rug).
Baking in the sun is so passé, but unfortunately, we’ve found sunless tanning to be just as haphazard (50 shades of streaky bronze, anyone?).
Luckily, we got the lowdown on the season’s best self-tanners and how to minimize mishaps.
Exfoliate We can’t stress this enough. Self-tanner develops a deeper color on dry patches of skin, leaving you looking like a splotchy mess. In the shower, use plain granulated sugar from your pantry and apply in a circular motion. Bottled exfoliants may leave a greasy residue.
Moisturize Ankles, feet, elbows and knees are notoriously challenging when it comes to absorbing color evenly, so try coating those four areas with a light layer of moisturizer before you begin to self-tan. Put Vaseline on your fingernails and toenails to avoid stains.
Apply Every self-tanner is different, so your application process depends on the product. A universal rule: Move from bottom to top (feet to head) to avoid creasing the color while bending over.
Buff To prevent streaking, dab a moist cloth around problem areas (ankles, feet, elbows, knees) as soon as you’ve finished applying self-tanner. You can also add a touch of moisturizer over the tanner to dilute those areas. Finally, wash your hands immediately! Orange palms are a sure sign of faking it.
For beginners to Coopertone babies, here are this season's best self-tanners.
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