These fail-safe sunless tanning products want you to stay golden, Ponyboy.

by: Jamie deGraaf


Oompa loompa doompadee doo. I almost joined in the singing of my ninth grade music appreciation class until I looked around a realized everyone was looking at me…and my radiant melon complexion. That night I scoured my body with lemon juice and swore off spray tans.

That was 2007. Since then, sun tan alternatives, as well as my relationship with them, have come a long way. No, I haven’t had the nerve to get another spray tan, but as a freckled fair-skinner in a lifelong pursuit of keeping up with my bronzed friends, I have done my share of dabbling with the tan in a can.

If you’re headed down the sunless tanning road for the first time, hooray for you—just say no to scary UV. But it can be daunting to know what is what amid all of the product options; I’ve had my share of beach days with streaky legs and dates with orange palms. Here’s a list of my favorite products to aid in navigating the sun-free glow; take it from a self-proclaimed pale girl.


Tricks of the Trade

• Prime application time for a sunless tanning product is post-shower when skin is clean and exfoliated. Using a non-oil based exfoliant will slough off the dead skin and ensure a natural even color—avoid oil-bases. 

• Thoroughly moisturize your skin before applying. If your skin is dry, it will drink up the sunless tanning product and will result in uneven color.

• When it comes to lotions and foams, rub the product on in a circular motion to avoid streaking. Use a light hand when it comes to knuckles, elbows, knees, ankles and in between fingers and toes—these dry areas will absorb quickly and leave you with orange joints.

• Keep things natural—apply more product to the top of the arms and less to the underside to mimic a real life sun tan.

• Yes, the product will stain everywhere you don’t want it to. Wash your hands immediately after, because no matter what Yahoo Answers says, lemon juice doesn’t cut the mustard. Pay special attention to around finger nails.

• After application, hang out in the buff for a few, maximizing dry time so as to not smear the product or stain your clothing.

• Steer clear of showering or swimming or getting caught in a rain storm for a least three hours post-application to avoid a dripping tan.


Jergens Natural Glow Express Body Moisturizer: $8, Target, Meijer, CVS

This lotion achieves best results when applied gradually over the course of three days, but will still do the job for a one time quick application. It’s composed of a blend of skin tone-specific color enhancers: dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and erythrulose which deepen skin color through chemical reactions. It also contains anti-oxidants and moisturizing ingredients such as glycerin, petrolatum and mineral oil.


Jergens Natural Glow Foaming Daily Moisturizer: $9: Target, Meijer, CVS

This daily moisturizer is for those looking for a subtle constant glow. The non-greasy foam dries in seconds so there is no need to lock yourself in the bathroom and find things to pick and pluck while it absorbs. The skin-darkening formula develops a natural even color—just make sure to shake the bottle well before use.



Neutrogena MicroMist Airbrush Sunless Tan: $11, Meijer, Target, CVS

The airbrush spray is great for those not trying to get their hands dirty. The mist covers evenly when held about six inches from the body and keeping the can in constant motion. Ideally, this is a no-rub application process, but you may find you have to even out areas at the end of your strokes by hand. The product is oil free, won’t clog your pores and dries in less than five minutes.


Kardashian Glamour Tan: $34, Sephora

If Kim Kardashian gets her flawless russet glow from this bottle, I figured I try it too. The gel is non-streaking, non-staining and results are noticeable after 24 hours. The formula contains antioxidants and vitamins C, D and E. It’s the only self-tanner containing imudulin, an ingredient that stimulates vitamin D synthesis to lessen the appearance of those crow’s feet you may have acquired before switching from fake n’ baking.