Do you want radiant and glowing tanned skin? Too busy for long days laying out in the sun? Fret not, tanning enthusiasts, sunless tanning, a safe alternative to sunbathing, can give you a fresh, just-came-from-the-beach, flawless look.

With the Skin Cancer Foundation reporting an increase in the number of skin cancer diagnoses throughout the last 30 years, it is no wonder sunless tanning options have become so popular.

Sunless tanning products — whether they are cosmetic bronzers similar to regular makeup or self-tanners that stain the skin and fade as skin cells shed off — will give your skin a healthy glow without the exposure of ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Cosmetic Bronzers

Cosmetic bronzers and wash-off products can be used to add a golden glow to your face, legs, and body. These products, like other types of makeup, are temporary and can be washed off over time says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Bronzers may or may not provide protection from the sun, therefore consumers should read product labels carefully to evaluate if they need to apply sunscreen. Products that do not contain sunscreen ingredients are required to carry a warning label that stating so, according to the FDA. Cosmetic products labeled with sun protection factor (SPF) numbers regulated as both drugs and cosmetics.

Types of Cosmetic Bronzers

A bronzing powder, gel, spray or stick can do the trick to achieve that natural sun-kissed glow.

Bronzing Powder

To create a nice, even tan, bronzing powder can be applied all over your face, nose, cheekbones, forehead, or chin. To apply bronzer, use a big, fluffy brush and be sure to tap off any excess product before you swipe it on your face. Place a little extra on your temples and along your cheek bones for emphasis. Avoid double dipping your brush and quickly swipe from your nose to your chin. Remember to apply bronzer from your chin down your neck to create an even-toned look. A common bronzing powder faux-pas is having a golden, radiant face with a different color-toned neck.

Bronzing Gel

A bronzing gel can be difficult to apply but is favorable with those who have dry skin. You can use your finger, a sponge or a glove to apply the gel onto your skin. Apply with caution because failure to apply the recommended amount can result in an orange tone à la Snooki.

Spray Bronzer

Using a spray bronzer is a quick-and-easy way to fake a tan with little to no effort. To focus on your face or neck, you can apply the spray after your makeup is on to give a light, soft glow. The goal of a spray bronzer is to spritz on areas of the face your sun would naturally shine on. Make sure to apply the bronzer under natural light and not artificla light to maximize a natural-looking glow.

Stick Bronzer

A stick bronzer can be the go-to instant fix to turn your face from pale to tan. Gently press the tip of the bronzer on your cheeks, chin, and forehead where the sunlight is most likely to hit. One to two strokes on these areas will suffice to get a subtle color. You can opt to use your fingers or a tissue (to prevent your fingers from tinting) to blend the bronze onto your skin in a circular motion. Avoid touching your face while you wear the bronze to prevent it from going on your clothes or other objects.


If you want to achieve a longer-lasting effect, self-tanners can do just that. Most of these products contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), an ingredient used as a skin color agent. The application of DHA onto the skin causes the ingredient to react with dead skin cells to darken the appearance of the skin temporarily says Mayo Clinic.

DHA is approved for external use on the skin by the FDA, but unapproved for application near the eyes, mouth, or nose. Self-tanner creams are easier to use to avoid these areas whereas sprays can be harder to control. Safety precautions can be taken to protect these areas by using googles and nose plugs upon application.

Remember, self-tanners go on clear and take about an hour until you see results, while the full color appears an eight to 24-hour time frame. Unlike cosmetic bronzers, self-tanners do not wash off, and they slowly fade as dead cells fall off over the course of a few days.

Prior to the use of any self-tanning product, Mayo Clinic advises consumers to:

  • Exfoliate first. Before using a sunless tanning product, wash your skin with a wash cloth or sponge to remove excess dead skin cells. If you typically shave your legs, do so before you apply the sunless tanning product for an even application.
  • Use a light touch. Apply the sunless tanning product evenly and lightly. Use sparingly on dry or thickened skin, such as over your ankles, knees and elbows. If necessary, ask someone to help you apply sunless tanner to hard-to-reach spots.
  • Save the tops of your hands for last. After you apply the product to your face and body, wash your hands with soap and water to avoid coloring your palms. Be sure to remove any product from under your fingernails. Then use a cotton ball to apply the sunless tanner to the top of each hand.
  • Take time to dry. Wait to dress until the sunless tanner dries completely.

Types of Self-Tanners

Self-Tanner Lotion

Use a pair of latex gloves to apply the lotion starting with your legs. Gently rub the lotion in circular motions to avoid streaks. A light coat on your feet, ankles and knees goes a long way. Follow with your torso, chest, and neck area, then your back. To ensure even full coverage of your back, ask a friend to assist. Next, the lotion should proceed to be applied on your arms, underarms, and shoulders, but use minimal to no lotion on your elbows. Lastly, your hands should be applied with lotion. Remember to remove your gloves first! Lather your palms to avoid discoloration.

Self-Tanner Spray

Spray self-tanners can be difficult to use and usually require an extra set of hands. To focus on easy-to-reach areas, you can spray your face, neck and upper chest. If you opt to not use gloves, don't spend too much time rubbing the tanner onto your skin because your hands will get too much product which can be difficult to take off. To prevent the build-up of product on your hands, be sure to wash your hands every five minutes. Once you have spray tanned your whole body, apply lotion to your feet, ankle, toes, knees and elbows, to prevent these spots from getting too dark. It is advised to not put clothes on for an hour to ensure the spray tan is completely dried.

Self-Tanner Gel

Gels usually dry faster and feel less sticky compared to other self-tanners. Apply gels using the same method as lotions to achieve an even and radiant look.

Self-Tanner Mousse

Mousse self-tanners dry quickly and are applied in the same fashion as most self-tanner products. You work your way from the legs towards the stomach to your lower back, arms, upper back, and lastly your face. The wait time to get fully dressed after applying a mousse self-tanner is typically one to two minutes.

Always look at the labels of bronzer cosmetics and self-tanners to see if they contain any UV rays protection. If your product doesn't contain an SPF, be sure to apply sunscreen accordingly to keep looking healthy and radiant with your fake bake sun-kissed skin.