The goal of seeking a tan is perhaps rooted in vanity. The goal of seeking an artificial tan at home is safety (and convenience, fear of wrinkles, reducing the risk of skin cancer, etc.) While there is no actual truth in the notion that in order to look good, we need to be tan, I understand (and am guilty of) participating in the desire to look sunkissed.
So, in the spirit of vanity AND safety (and since Garance already has the sunglasses-parasol-gloves-spf-visor combination covered) a few of us at the Atelier have turned to self-tanners to see how they work as a sun alternative.
While our products, opinions, experiences, and results varied, a few things were unanimous: exfoliate first, apply evenly and thoroughly, wash your hands immediately, don’t crawl into your white sheets for a few hours, and YES your back is as hard to reach as you’re imagining.
Natalie’s Self Tanner of Choice: Kiehl’s Sun Free Self Tanning Lotion – A lightweight, non-greasy formula that promises a natural, even glow with no streaks. It’s filled with apricot oil, cocoa seed butter, and vitamin E, and I wholeheartedly and without reason trust any brand like Kiehl’s that boasts its natural qualities.
I approached my self tanner excursion like I approach most things in life: impatiently and without much preparation. In fact, I was pretty close to giving the application a shot while my internet was being installed in the kitchen by a man named Kevin. I (sensibly, thankfully, responsibly) waited until he left. Then I stripped off all my clothes and slathered a generous amount of the Kiehl’s tanner all over my body, as evenly as possible. Then I ran around naked until it dried, put my clothes on, and went to work.
As the day progressed, my skin began to bronze while my skepticism of getting a successful tan faded. I caught my darkening reflection in the bathroom mirror and was overcome with excitement, which my coworkers did not seem to care about as much as I would have liked them to. They redeemed themselves in the following days by reassuring me that I did look tan. Recognition and reassurance is the point of using these things, right?
While I overall prefer a from-the-sun, natural bronze, this Kiehl’s option was a solid, safe alternative with the welcome added bonus of feeling like an extra notch on the ole responsibility belt.
My tip: Slow down, wait for the internet technician to leave and your roommate to arrive to help you reach your back.
Pia’s Self Tanner of Choice: Loreal’s Sublime Bronze Summer Express – A 24 hour, wash off bronzing lotion with color-correcting pigments to instantly soften and perfect. Because I have a fear of commitment and I’m also chronically pale.
The idea of using self tanner sends me into a sweaty panic. Which is bad because (and it doesn’t take a pro to know this) sweat + self tanner seems like it might = streaks. Ever since a girl in my high school class had an unfortunate pre-prom spray tan faux pas that left her 50 shades of orange, I have given all forms of pigment altering lotions a wide berth.
But I’m Australian! What I lack in my ability to tan, I make up for in adventure, so I pledged myself a volunteer for a temporary tan via L’Oreal’s Sublime Bronze Summer Express which was great for my arms and legs but terrifying for my face (will it ever come off?!) which looked very dark. My panic was quickly unfounded as I was able to wash it straight off (shout out to accurate advertising!), no soap necessary. It’s apparently sweat resistant too, but my adventurous nature is not strong enough to put that to the test on a 90 degree day in a white skirt.
All in all, it feels like the perfect tanning lotion for first timers and commitment phobes, and is super friendly to the hands of your boyfriend, who generously says yes when you ask him to rub it on your back.
My Tip: To reiterate: wash your hands immediately. And apply one layer at a time, unless unnaturally orange and shocking is your goal.
Caitlin’s Self Tanner of Choice: Organic Pharmacy’s Self Tan lotion which promises a subtle, even glow that develops in three hours AND hydrates. Also, it’s derived from sugar beet (100% clean and natural!) and is sold on Goop. I love Goop.
This is not my first time using a self tanner. My first experience with a promised full body “glow” in a bottle was when I was in my late teens and living in the city for a summer as an intern… and it wasn’t pretty. It was actually very traumatic. I was sufficiently orange, striped in all the wrong places, and all my white summer clothes from the discount store across the street were ruined.
But here we are, a good decade later, and I’m newly in love with the idea of no sun needed, self tanning. The Organic Pharmacy’s Self Tan potion is straight up magic. As it’s derived from sugar beet (can’t get over that) it’s gentle coloring makes it impossible to mess up. I haven’t found the semblance of one streak! Plus it’s safe enough for your face, which means you can go easy on the bronzer, too. A new fixture of my summer beauty routine.
My tip: Apply the product post-shower in the evening while you still have time to let it dry before you crawl into bed. Oh, and use a moisturizer after the tanner on difficult spots to even it out.
Carie’s Self Tanner of Choice: L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Body Towelettes – single use wipes that contain vitamin E and can be used on the go – and, you guessed it, streak free! They seemed like the most easy and least messy option.
A California upbringing instilled in me an early love of the warmth and golden hue brought on by year round sun (not to rub it in). It also meant I never needed to use a self tanner. Yet here I am, one long New York winter later, after countless conversations with women who preach the benefits of such products, reporting on wiping invisible self tanner on my legs at 11:45pm while my cat cries outside the bathroom door, outraged I’d want some privacy in the room he firmly believes is actually his own.
The wipes smelled good, the application was quick and easy, no acrobatics required, though I opted against trying to reach my own back. Overall, I was not into it. I felt like a phony. It didn’t give me that warm, fuzzy feeling of earning the tan, actually enjoying the sun while you slowly become a natural shade darker, not that weird iodine hue the self-tanner brings.
I understand the repercussions of too much sun exposure and I always wear sunscreen, but I now know I actually need the sun in a visceral way. I’m happiest when it’s out, but I don’t care enough about being tan to apply an artificial one to make up for the lack of it. I need the sun, not the tan.
My Tip: Don’t apply at midnight, do keep track of the body parts you’ve already applied, and do lock your cat out.
It feels like we’ve only punctured the surface of the self tanner possibility – should we DIY? Do you self tan in the off months? Should we embrace our natural skin, no matter how long the winter? Perhaps we’ll never know, but I would love to hear your thoughts on self tanner – pro tips and horror stories!