Now that it's shorts season, you might have looked at your pale winter legs and found them wanting. If you're inclined toward tanning, let me be the first of many this season who will probably tell you to take advantage of modern technology and stay out of the sun. You'll be glad you did when you're older, I promise.
Self-tanning is an intimidating proposition because when it goes wrong, you're stuck with the obviously wayward results for a week. Thankfully, cosmetic chemists have improved self-tanners by leaps and bounds since my first experimentation with the stuff in the late 90s. Below, we've got everything you need to look sun-kissed without the sun, from beginning to end.
First Aid Beauty Cleansing Body Polish
$28 via Sephora
First things first: before you apply anything meant to turn your skin a different color, you need to exfoliate in order to get even results. This scrub is safe even for sensitive skin, packed with skincare ingredients and has no lingering fragrance to compete with already-stinky fake tanner.
Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish
$67 via Sephora
For a more spa-like scrub experience, this one from Fresh is wonderful
Hampton Sun Airbrush Bronzing Mist
$42 via Sephora
If you're not looking to commit to a full-on tan and just want to look a little bronzed for a particular outfit or event, this stuff is the way to go. It's temporary (it washes off with soap) but doesn't rub off while you wear it like most similar products do.
James Read Bronzing Mousse
$38 via Sephora
This self-tanner is super popular for several reasons: no orange undertone, no streaks and much less self-tanner stink than most products.
St. Tropez Gradual Tanning Lotion
$25 via Sephora
A gradual tanner is a great idea for people who are nervous about smell and streaking, and this one is super moisturizing on top of it all. Plus, it's quicker than the term "gradual" implies; most reviewers reported a noticeable change after only one use and a genuine tan after only a few days.
St. Tropez Self Tan Luxe Face Oil
$35 via Sephora
Putting self-tanner on your face is not for the faint of heart, but this one is carefully formulated for it and does a solid job. You'll get a buildable tan that won't stick around forever if you don't like it, which is probably the best combination of attributes that can exist in a facial tanner.
$27 via Sephora
These have been around forever, and there's a reason for that: the tan they provide develops quickly and looks good, and the application method is a lot less messy than products in a bottle.
Tarte Brazilliance Plus Self-Tanner Kit
$39 via Sephora
Tarte's original Brazilliance formula is widely beloved, and this new version has the same active ingredients, plus a whole boatload of skincare ingredients to make it more moisturizing and luxurious. The addition of the application mitt makes this set a very good deal.
Vita Liberata Self-Tanning Tinted Mousse
$30 via Nordstrom
This mousse goes on purple, which helps you see spots you've missed or over-applied while you put it on. The results are sun-kissed instead of orange, and the smell is relatively mild.
Vita Liberata Tanning Mitt
$6.50 via Sephora
No matter which product you choose, get a tanning mitt. They're inexpensive and tremendously helpful in ensuring an even, smooth application. This microfiber version gets high marks.
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