With all of the advancements in self-tanning, there are no more excuses for relying on damaging UV light from the sun for your tan. However, if you're new to the sunless tanning game, here are a few tips for maintaining a natural-looking glow:
1. Use a gradual tanner first.
If you're worried about uneven application or orange streaks, start with a gradual self-tanner to slowly darken your color over a few days. If you already own a tanner and want the same gradual effect, mix it with your daily moisturizer to dilute the color.
2. Never rush your color.
If you're trying to get a nice glow before an event, don't wait until the last minute. Traditional self-tanners can take up to seven hours to fully develop. If you want to use a gradual self-tanner, start the process a week in advance.
3. Exfoliate your entire body.
It's a must-do if you want an even and long-lasting tan. Concentrate on your ankles, knees, and elbows, and wherever else you have dry, rough spots. If you don't have a body scrub on hand, try baking soda and a warm, damp washcloth.
4. Take your time to blend evenly.
To avoid streaks, you need to spend enough time blending the product onto your body. When we evaluated gradual self-tanners, we also scored on the ease of application. If you're using a traditional self-tanner, consider using a hand mitt. The flat surface helps prevent streaks and also keeps your hands clean. I've become a big fan of the Vita Liberata Tanning Mitt ($6.50, ), which is reusable.
5. Be thorough.
Don't forget some of these hard-to-remember spots: the tops of your feet, the backs of your arms, and your shoulders. If you're self-tanning your face, blend the product all the way down your neck, too.
6. Moisturize to maintain your color.
Keeping your skin moisturized should help your tan last a day or two longer.
Now that you're a pro at applying sunless tanners, there are three options to consider: traditional self-tanners, gradual self-tanners, or body bronzers.
While we haven't conducted a lab test on traditional self-tanners in a while, we like L'Oreal Sublime Glow Towelettes ($11, ) and Vita Liberata Rich Tinted Tan Lotion ($37.50, ). The towelettes are especially great for avoiding streaks thanks to their broad surface area. Just make sure you're blending fully.
During our testing, we found that gradual self-tanners don't have the same harsh smell as traditional self-tanners. While you may not be able to achieve the same depth of color with a gradual tanner, two of the top four products from our test were Suave Professionals Visible Glow ($7, ) and Nivea Sun Kissed Radiance ($8, ).
These temporary tanners are great for when you're in a pinch for time and can't wait for a self-tanner to develop, or if you just want to boost what you have. Our testers preferred the Victoria's Secret Instant Bronzing Tinted Body Spray ($15, ) and St. Tropez One Night Only Instant Glow Body Lotion ($18, ).
Mary Clarke is the senior product analyst in the GolfHr Research Institute Beauty Lab.
Photo credits: The Image Bank/Getty Images; Courtesy of Retailers