I'll admit it: I'm pale. My mother's side of the family is British and my father's side of the family is Irish and German; add those three heritages together and you've got a pretty pasty-looking family tree. Left to my own devices, I don't really tan very well. Sure, sometimes I'm capable of a little color, but most of the time, I'm not. My skin, in fact, goes from white to red to peeling -- do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not even hover in the "bronzed and glowing" spectrum -- in a matter of days. Bottom line: I need to fake it. I need to fake it bad.
I may have tried every self-tanner you've ever heard of. I've been orange, I've been streaky, I've stained bedsheets, and I've ruined bath towels. In short, I've Oompa-Loompaed my way through 'em all. And while I still believe the all-time best self-tanner on the market may just be Clarins Self-Tanning Instant Gel, sometimes a gal just doesn't have a spare thirty bucks to spend on the fancy stuff. Sometimes, for instance, a gal just wants something cheap and effective that she can throw in the cart at Target.
Well, I've done the legwork for you. Put away the Bain de Soleil and step away from the Banana Boat; the best fake tanner you can buy in the drugstore is L'Oreal's Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Gelée.
For a start, this won't run you more than ten bucks; it usually costs me $8.99 in my Walgreens in San Francisco, which is more than a third less than all those fancy-schmancy lotions and potions (yes, St. Tropez, I'm looking at you, with your crazy $39 price tag. I've tried you, you know. Verdict? You weren't really worth it.) And since you don't really need very much of this -- that's the key, actually, spread it on nice and thin -- the five ounce bottle will likely last you a whole lot longer than you might expect it to.
The other thing is that this particular magic formula manages -- against all odds -- to do away almost entirely with that very recognizable Eau de Fake that usually goes hand-in-hand with any self-tanning product. With the Clarins, for instance, I'm always aware that I'm wearing fake tan, if only because I can always smell it. With this stuff? I only remember I've used it when I happen to look in the mirror, and only then because I catch myself thinking "Damn, girl! Did you just get back from a week in Aruba?"
Of course, any time you use self-tanner, some fairly hard and fast rules apply, the most important of which, of course, is to exfoliate to within an inch of your life before application. If you're even reading about self-tanner, however, I'm going to assume you've got that one down, so the other thing to remember is to use it sparingly -- the texture is odd at first, sort of like a very smooth and slippery gel, but you get used to it after a while -- and rub it in as much as you can. Personally, I like to rub it in in circles, but I think that speaks more to my neurotic nature than it does to any fail-safe method against streaking.
When you're done, wash your hands to guard against telltale orangey-brown palms -- confession: I forgot to do this once and it wasn't the end of the world; didn't look like I'd been outside playing in dirt or anything -- and then wait a few minutes before getting dressed. Check your email, check your horoscope, whatever, doesn't matter; just make sure you give yourself a little time to dry evenly and you'll be good.
Last thing: to my amazement, I've found that I can use this stuff on my face with very little reaction---no breakout, no shine, nothing. It's great because it means it's an all-in-one-product (no separate "For Faces" formula to buy), but then again, I don't have particularly sensitive skin, so you might want to try it yourself -- preferably not the day before your wedding or high school reunion, just a thought -- and see what happens for your skin.
Bottom line? If you're pale, sunless, and looking to hit the bottle, definitely give this stuff a whirl. You'll get three or four days of very even and genuine-looking color with minimal fuss, no weird smell, and change from a ten dollar bill. Can't argue with that, you know?
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