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Glow Time: The Best Self-Tanners for a Healthy Tan

  • Jack Miskell

    Prep Like a Pro

    "Exfoliating before self-tanning is essential, but using scrubs can cause minor abrasions," explains Veronique Munro, the founder and CEO of the sunless-tanning company Infinity Sun in West Hollywood. "When you apply self-tanner, the formula can seep into the little cuts and result in uneven color." Instead, Munro suggests washing with a nonabrasive chemical exfoliator like Infinity Sun Infinity Exfoliant ($35,, which she formulated with pineapple to speed up cell turnover. "Shave, wax, and get your mani and pedi before self-tanning; doing them after can cause streaks," advises Natalie Cupid, a manager and senior technician for Sundara Airbrush Tanning salon in New York City. "Remove deodorant, perfume, and makeup, because they can make the tanning agents turn green on your skin," adds Sophie Evans, a St. Tropez celebrity skin finisher. Apply a fragrance-free body moisturizer all over your elbows, knees, ankles, feet and hands, and the back of your wrists. "The skin on these spots is drier, so it can turn as many as seven shades darker if you don't moisturize it," Evans warns. "If you have any freckles or sun spots, dip a cotton swab in body lotion and dab it on these areas to create a barrier to prevent them from looking superdark," Munro says. Q-tips Precision Tip Purse Pack ($1 for 30, drugstores) gets the job done. "Spray aerosol deodorant on your nails and palms and the soles of your feet to prevent the tanning solution from sinking in," Munro says. Finally, choose an area with natural lighting and a full-length mirror.

    Find Your Formula
    No matter what you're looking for, there's a self-tanner that'll meet your needs.

  • Peter Ardito

    Foolproof Application

    First timers, rejoice! St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse ($44, is tinted so you won't miss a spot when applying it. Just move swiftly; once it dries, your blending time is over.

  • Peter Ardito

    An Immediate Glow

    Victoria's Secret Instant Bronzing Tinted Shimmer Lotion ($15, delivers a golden sheen along with a pretty dose of shimmer, perfect for highlighting your leg muscles.

  • Peter Ardito


    "Slather an aloe-based gel on dry skin before applying self-tanner, then go over it with a hair dryer," Munro recommends. "The gel will help your skin absorb the tanning solution evenly so the color is uniform." Try Sun Bum Cool Down Hydrating After Sun Gel ($10, Then layer on a rich self-tanner. Tarte Brazilliance Skin Rejuvenating Maracuja Self Tanner ($37, contains vitamin C and essential fatty acids.

  • Peter Ardito

    Quick Results

    "Sprays are fast; mist your face, neck, and hands if you don't have time for your body," Cupid says. "Protect your hair with a thick face cream along your hairline, moving in a side-to-side motion," Munro advises. L'Or?al Paris Sublime Bronze ProPerfect Salon Airbrush Mist ($11, drugstores) works even when it's held upside down.

  • Peter Ardito

    Buildable Color

    For a subtle boost, use a gradual sunless-tanning lotion with a low level of DHA (the chemical that reacts with your skin to create a faux glow), such as Neutrogena Build-a-Tan ($10, drugstores). Massage it on daily until you're satisfied with the shade.

  • Peter Ardito

    No Telltale Scent

    If you've been avoiding sunless tanner because of its smell, we've got sweet news: Jergens spent seven years reformulating its line with an odor-reducing technology. Try Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer ($9, drugstores).

  • Peter Ardito

    Travel-Friendly Options

    Stash self-tanning wipes in your suitcase to get your glow on the road. Rub a Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pad ($32 for 20 towelettes, on your face. It contains time-released DHA so the color develops gradually over three hours. For your body, use Kate Somerville 360° Body Tanning Towelettes ($48 for eight towelettes,, working in circular motions from the neck down. Bonus: They contain tea tree extract to help clear up breakouts.

  • Jack Miskell

    Zero Irritation

    "Because sensitivity and allergies vary, it's hard to say which products will work on everyone," Munro says. "Swipe a small line of tanner on a concealed area like your inner thigh," she suggests. If you experience no reaction within 24 hours, you're set.

  • Peter Ardito

    Need a Hand?

    The Xen-Tan Hard to Reach Back Applicator ($18, has a soft foam pad at the end of a foldable handle that extends to help you apply self-tanner to your back.

    Originally published in FITNESS magazine, May 2013.