Sunless Tanners: Lotions, Sprays, Gels, and Mousses
All sunless tanning products contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a sugar that is very safe to use. It interacts with proteins in the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin, to produce a darker skin color or fake tan. As dead skin cells slough off, the "tan" fades, usually within three to seven days after the product has been applied.
Sunless tanners come in forms such as lotions, gels, sprays, or mousse and can be found at drugstores and department store cosmetic counters and on the Internet.
"Personally, I love the lotions. They go on smoothly," Egashira says. Gels have their advantages, too: faster drying time and a less sticky feel.
In contrast, she has found spray tanners harder to use. Often, they require an extra pair of hands, but spray tanners are popular and easy to use for the face, neck, and upper chest, she says.
Mousses don't contain as much moisture as self-tanning lotions or gels, Egashira says, so they're fine for oily skin but not dry complexions. But, she cautions, the resulting tan tends to fade unevenly.
Egashira says that she has found that self-tanning lotions tend to last slightly longer than sprays.
Some sunless tanners work gradually and build up color over a few days -- a boon to beginners testing the waters as well as those who want to tan subtly. "That's great for someone who maybe wants to build it up over time," Egashira says, "so that it's not, one day, you're fair, the next day, you're dark."
Julie Morgan, a makeup artist who works in Los Angeles and New York, recommends Jergen's Natural Glow as a good drugstore choice for building up a gradual tan. Egashira likes Sephora's Body Intense Moisturizing Bronzing Lotion.
Fast-acting sunless tanners can create a bronze glow in as little as two to three hours, great if you’re short on time or need a glow for a special occasion.
Experts praised certain brands, such as Clarins, Dior, and Estee Lauder. In particular, Morgan, an airbrush tanning expert who has tanned celebrities such as Naomi Watts, recommends Clarins Intense Bronze Self-Tanning Tint for Face and Decollete and Clarins "Delicious" Self-Tanning Cream for the body.
Another of Morgan's favorites: Victoria's Secret Bare Bronze collection of self-tanners.