My adolescent years were spent in a perpetual quest to stay tan all year. Growing up in Washington where the sun shines all of about two months, I made exceptions for my orange streaky ankles and dark knee caps just to have that year round sunkissed look. My bathroom cabinet was stock-piled with 1/2 used bottles of sub par sunless tanners. Sadly I never found one that did the trick before I completely gave up on them. The technology since then however has come full circle. Manufacturers have improved their formulas and that horrendous smell and we can now soothe, hydrate and even restore elasticity while getting a golden, natural glow without the harmful UV effects.
Last week a reader asked if I could recommend the best self-tanner. Based on my research, here are a list of the top self-tanners from steep to cheap that won't fail you:
FOR THE BODY-
Steep: In 1984, Guerlain of Paris created the first bronzing powder they called "Terracotta Sunless Self-Tanning Balm ($50)." Although expensive, it's still one of the best spray tanners on the market. Its delicate iridescence and slight bronze tint give immediate gratification, and its rich oils leave your legs silky (but not sticky). Found at Nordstroms, Saks, Dillards, Sephora, and many other places, you can order online or make an in-store pick-up.
Middle of the road: I, along with Oprah.com, believe the Clarin's Self Tanning Instant Gel ($30) gives you the most natural day-at-the-beach coloring. It's clear, but its viscosity lets you feel exactly where you missed any spots. Four hours later, you won't see a streak in sight.
FOR THE FACE-
Steep: The authors of "Total Beauty," gave Clarins Radiance-Plus Self Tanning Cream-Gel for the Face ($52) 8.13 points out of 10 - the highest rating for all their tested self tanners. Why did they like it? It's light, has a pleasant smell and lasts a couple days. Its non-comedogenic formula means it won't block pores, irritate skin or cause pimples. It creates an even, radiant tan and perks up the most lacklustre of complexions. Available at major department stores.
Cheap: I am hesitant to recommend some cheap-o product to go on the face. After all, you can't cover it up so with that said, I recommend a less expensive option - Origins Faux Glow Radiant Self-Tanner for the Face ($19.50). This face tanner creates an instant coulda-fooled-me fake-tan. And the tinted formula delivers instant beautification. Shows what you’ve done and still need to do. Rosemary and Orange soothe skin. Color shows smoothly, swiftly - never turns streaky, stripe-y or some sweet potato tone. Sun-craved skin looks and feels pretty pleased, remarkably radiant for days. The added perk: the refreshing aroma of Peppermint. Available at Macys.
3 step process on how to self-tan the body:
1) Start by exfoliating skin with a body scrub in the shower paying special attention to rough areas including knees and elbows (dry skin absorbs higher concentrations of tanner). Shave before you tan. InStyle suggests using a body oil, instead of shaving cream, when shaving.
3) Apply tanner limb by limb, starting with your legs. Apply over the shin and calf of a leg, sweeping tanner down over your ankle, foot and toes. Then apply tanner to your thigh from front to back, using the excess to cover your knee. Repeat on your other leg. For the final step, apply tanner to your hips, stomach and torso, following with your shoulders and arms. Wait 10 minutes to dry before dressing and avoid any excessive activity that will make you sweat for at least a few hours. If your tan hasn't set, sweat could cause streaking.
Bonus tips: To remove tanner from palms, without washing off product from the tops of your hands, rub palms along a wet washcloth, making sure to get in between fingers.
4 step process on how to self-tan the face:
1) Pull hair up in a ponytail before you start so you don't miss any parts. Prep skin by gently cleansing and exfoliating. Skip moisturizer, which may interfere with the tanner.
2) Apply under-eye cream. You want the color of your skin to be lighter under the eyes, it makes you look younger.
3) Blend a few drops of self-tanner and equal parts moisturizer in the palm of your hand then apply over face and neck. You only want to go one shade darker than your natural color.
4) Let color develop for three hours then follow up with a sweep of bronzer on forehead, cheeks and nose: areas where the sun naturally shines.
Don't forget: Smooth remaining tanner over earlobes and upper ears. Wash hands thoroughly. Don't skip the sunscreen.