Hi, my name is Katie, and I’m a sun worshiper. I know it’s bad, but it feels soooo good. Funny thing is, I can’t get a tan to save my life; I really am practically translucent. (I hate that you can see my veins.) The sun clears up my skin like magic Noxema. But the burn—and it’s always a burn for me—is bad for my health, especially considering my family history, and I’d like to always look my age. So I attempt to stay out of the sun, but can you deny a girl the desire to glow? I figured it was time to quit fooling myself. I’ll just have to be a bronze goddess of another kind—sunless. I tried five self-tanning options and have given them a one-to-five sun rating. Use this as a guide for your own test drive, but take into account that we all have different skin. And we’ve only got a few months to show it off, so make the most of yours.
Concept: Limited-edition makeup collection that is infused with shimmery bronze and copper shades—intense colors to brighten features and reflect a sun-kissed look.
Goof proof: No new beauty concept to master—it’s simply blush, eye shadow, and lip products.
Time: Fifteen minutes.
Cost: Products in this line run $10 to $17.50 each.
Color: Intense Firespot eye shadow is a tangerine bronze that accentuated my blue eyes, and reddish-tinged lipsticks faintly remind me of a slight sunburn—without the pain or health risk.
Scent: MAC lipsticks always smell a bit like vanilla frosting—yum!
Staying power: All day. Even on my oily eyelids.
Overall rating: 3.5
Bliss Spa A Tan for All Seasons
Concept: A spray in a can, not unlike aerosol hairspray.
Goof proof: It was easy for me to make mistakes. I thought the tanner came out fast, furious, and in a tight stream, so I had to rub it in after spraying it on to ensure an even “tan.” It goes on in a weird brown color, but fades fast, so I had to move quickly.
Time: I spent a lot of time worrying it would come out wonky. It took a while to master the superspray and blending. It’s probably best left to a more experienced self-tanner. Plus, I had to wait to see the deepened results.
Color: Ehh. Not very natural-looking, but I still got tan.
Smell: Surprisingly fruity and pleasing.
Staying power: A few days, typical of most tanners.
Overall rating: 2.5 It just freaked me out too much.
NARS Body Glow
Concept: A bronzing Monoi de Tahiti oil for the short term, perfect for darkening the décolletage or other areas for a night out on the town.
Goof factor: Definitely klutz proof, completely streak proof.
Time: Just the time it takes you to rub oil in.
Cost: $59 for a 4-oz. bottle. Not cheap.
Color: It left a lovely, translucent mocha color with a fine sheen. Very flattering.
Scent: Heavenly, seriously—coconut oil with macerated tiare flower makes for a sweet, intoxicating, island-exotic scent—not sunscreeny.
Staying power: Just until I showered.
Overall rating: 5 For a short-term tanning solution, it covers all manners of skin sins (veins, cellulite, red spots) and made me glow. Someone told me I looked thinner. I’ll take two!
Summer Glow at Details Salon
Concept: A spa treatment, complete with exfoliation rubdown, then an application of Aveda Sun Source.
Goof proof: I had noticeable streaks on the backs of my arms and some streaking other places.
Time: Plan for ninety minutes.
Cost: $80 and up.
Color: Very natural, after deepening over a period of about eight hours. I was sent home with the bottle, and I should have applied more the next day to even out streaking and deepen the tan even further. Plan ahead!
Smell: I couldn’t place the smell, but it was almost like warm skin after a summer day at the beach. I loved it.
Staying power: It started to fade, somewhat unevenly, after four days. You could stretch it to a week or more by religiously applying the rest of the bottle.
Overall rating: 4 It’s expensive and not goof-proof, but it’s a nice way to chill out at the spa.
Concept: An airbrush gun delivers a fine mist of tanning solution for an even, light-handed tan.
Goof factor: It’s tough to make a mistake—the mist came out evenly, I had time to cover everything, and it’s easy to control the stop and start. Plus, it goes on bronze for insta-tan results. It deepens somewhat over time, but not so much that I wished I’d used less.
Time: It isn’t a fast process, but it dried quickly and looked even. It might take an hour or so to cover the entire body.
Cost: $175 for the gun, $62 for tanner canisters.
Color: It looked the most natural of those I tried. Plus, the option is there to layer for more depth. It did look a bit orange after a couple of days.
Smell: Nothing discernable. No icky tan smell.
Staying power: A few days if I avoided shaving, waxing, or major exfoliation. It’d be easy to do touchups along the way. It generally stuck to me and only me—it didn’t even stain the towel I was sitting on!
Overall rating: 5 The shiny silver gun, the airbrush concept, and the overall natural look, all add up to a giant “oooh.”