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Fake a tan year-round: Self-tanner tips & techniques

The sunless tan. It’s one fashion that never seems to go out of style. Celebrities love it and you can afford it — even do it yourself. These days, a golden tan is available without the potentially harmful rays of the sun. Here are a few safe ways to maintain a tan year round, no matter where you live or what the weather!

Kristen Bell and Hayden Panettiere have natural-looking tans

Back in 1923, French style icon Coco Chanel developed tanned skin while cruising from Paris to Cannes. She later admitted she simply had stayed in the sun too long — a disclaimer so to speak, but it failed to keep the look of tanned skin from catching on like wildfire. Even today, stars — including Kristen Bell and Hayden Panettiere, shown above — love the sun-kissed look.

Multi-task with moisture and color combined

Self-tanning products come in various formulas, including lotions, sprays and creams. While offering great color, they can also make skin dry, so many companies have developed moisturizers with self-tanner in the formula. Here are the double duty sunless tan products to try:

Hawaiian Tropic Island Glow Daily Moisturizer has a green tea fragrance, and with daily use gives you a believable tan in one week.

Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer won an Allure magazine Best of Beauty Award for their gradual self-tanner

Dove Energy Glow Daily Moisturizer has earned raves for their subtle self-tanner. (Clearly, “glow” is the beauty buzzword of the tanning world.)

Even lingerie superstars Victoria’s Secret boasts its own brand of glowing glory, called Bare Bronze. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen uses this product line — which includes goodies like a pre-glow body scrub, shimmering body oil, sheer self-tan mousse, leg perfecting spray tint and an illuminating face tint.

Aveeno Active Naturals Continuous Radiance Moisturizing LotionGet a custom tan

Knowing that one-tan-doesn’t-fit-all, most companies offer several skin tones choices for their products so you don’t end up looking like you are from planet Tan-o-rama. Aveeno has taken this one step further with a genius product called Active Naturals Continuous Radiance Moisturizing Lotion for All Skin Tones.

This magical bottle has a patented dial design that allows you to customize the color with five different settings from light to dark. Brilliant! Perhaps in December you don’t want to look quite as tan as you might want to in June, and now one bottle can make all your wishes come true.

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The scent of sunless

As with many things in life, self tanners have a dark side –the smell.

The problem

Anyone who has ever used a self tanning product knows that when Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the active ingredient in self tanners, reacts with the outermost layer of your skin (dead skin cells, aka the stratum corneum), you get that funky smell going! It’s been likened to body odor and the scent bergamot — but any way you slice it, most folks find it not so pleasant.

The solution

One way to deal with this is by applying your moisturizing self tanner before bed and washing it off in the morning shower. Companies can make all sorts of claims about how their product smells heavenly…and well, it might while still in the bottle. But if you don’t detect “that smell” after you slather it on, it may not be working.

Neutrogena MicroMist Tanning Sunless Tanning SpraySpray your pastiness away: the pros and cons

Spray tan for less

Spray on self-tanners are great for your back and other hard to reach places on your body. Neutrogena makes MicroMist Tanning Sunless Tanning Spray, available in Medium and Deep tones. The can sprays upside down and every which way, making it easy to get your glow on — airbrush-style. 

Spray tan for more

For those of you with a bigger budget, the Fusion Beauty GlowFusion Airglow gun might be more your speed. If you’d rather spray your tan on at home as opposed to going out to a booth to get a Mystic Tan, you could probably justify the $175 for the Airglow gun by applying the cost per use formula. How? Get out your calculator and figure cost of the product (don’t forget $62 a piece for refill cartridges of tanning solution) with how many times you’ll use it. If you keep a fake tan every month of the year, you are probably a candidate for the Bentley of spray tanners. Hey — I report, you decide.

Quick tip

It’s a good idea to do your spray tanning enclosed in the shower, as the mist can shoot out all over the place and may damage fabrics. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) This is especially true if you have one of those posh all-white bathrooms like you may find in a South Beach hotel. Spotty tan grout lines, anyone?

Get some face time with self-tanning

The delicate skin on your face needs special care when it comes to self-tanning. Many companies make self-tanners specifically for the face — recommended because they won’t accumulate in and darken fine lines in your face. Some include SPF and various moisturizers so you get therapeutic benefits along with that beautiful glow. Bronzers, powder or liquids that can be washed off with soap and water are popular to give a little color without the worries of streaks — or of being stuck with a tone far from what you expected.

Bobbi Brown's Shimmer Brick compact, sunless tan, makeup adviceDon’t over bronze it

For me, Bobbi Brown’s Shimmer Brick compact (shown at right) in Bronze is the be all when it comes to powder bronzers. Buck the conventional wisdom when it comes to application of bronzer, as most directions suggest you sweep it across your forehead, nose, cheeks and chin. Instead just brush it over cheekbones, usually over a soft blush, and get a sweet bit of color without looking like something from an alien movie. Too much bronzer is horrifying, and your forehead, nose and chin do not need to be all-over bronzed.

A few tips for thought

Liquid bronzers tend to be harder to use, as you must blend them quickly to get a pleasing look.

Bronzers are particularly nice in the colder months when you want a bit of warmth on your face but don’t want to be sporting a full-on tanned look.

Philosophy, Olay, Carita, Neutrogena, Clarins, Jergens and Estee Lauder are just a few of the superior brands available with formulas that are face-friendly. I recommend first choosing a brand whose products you have had good luck with before, and selecting one of their tanners suitable for your skin type. If in doubt, ask your esthetician or dermatologist for a facial sunless tanner recommendation.

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St Tropez Self Tanner Remover wipesBlotches, streaks and stains

If you have a tanner disaster, St Tropez Self Tanner Remover might be able to help! Used mainly to clean your hands or fix up any “oops” spots, it can help removes sunless tanner stains for up to four hours after application. Available in a bottle and as individual towelettes, if you are just getting into self-tanning, buy it before your maiden voyage — it’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

If your color is too deep, too uneven, or just too orange, you have a few other rescue options. Take a warm shower and then, with your skin still damp, gently massage in some dry baking soda to lightly exfoliate (thus removing some of the colored layer). On your face, try sweeping a gentle makeup remover or alcohol-free toner over your skin.

A soak in a tubful of warm water or a swim in a chlorinated pool will help tone down the color, and, of course, over time — without doing anything in particular — your faux tan will fade all own its own.

Get our top 10 sunless tanning tips here>>>

Get back to our hot weather guide - click here!Go with the glow

While the look of a year round tan is not for everyone, many people find they like a bit of color all the time, not just in the height of bikini season. Companies caught on to this, and have since developed products for different skin tones and varying shades of ‘tan.’ It’s easy to customize your color for just the tone you are going for, so you can lighten or darken your tan depending on your mood or the season… or for whatever sun-soaked spot you may be jetting off to at a moment’s notice! 

It’s nice to know that tanned looking skin doesn’t require a few days in the sun or a series of visits to the dreaded tanning bed. You can actually moisturize and protect your skin while seeking that golden glow. Save your skin, because even though tan is in, it doesn’t have to involve the harmful sun’s rays.



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