Perhaps it’s the girl in me who spent every summer on the beaches of Cape Cod, but my favorite beauty look above all else has always been dewy, golden skin. I’ve found myself on countless occasions nursing a sunburn in front of the bathroom mirror after one too few sunblock applications, until one day it dawned on me that there had to be a safer way to get that summer glow I craved, both in less time and all year round. Thankfully, there are plenty of sunless tanner options available that will give you that fresh-from-the-beach glow without putting your skin in any sort of danger.

For years I have stayed loyal to St. Tropez – a brand synonymous with sunless, no-stink self-tanners – and have loved the results. Their original pilot product, the Classic Bronzing Mousse, gives a gradual tan which can be great for someone who is trying out self-tanning for the first time or has lighter skin and is weary about how the color will turn out. In the winter, I tend to go over my entire body once or twice with an applicator mitt to get a healthy-looking, sun-kissed glow that blends evenly. I recommend leaving it on for 4-8 hours depending on how dark you want to be, so be sure to plan ahead. I apply it after my shower, wait an hour or so before bed, and sleep with it on through the night. The only downside to this is you’ll have to change out and wash your sheets afterwards, as there will most definitely be residue when you wake up. For a last-minute fix for someone who is somewhat familiar with self-tanners, I recommend the St. Tropez Tanning Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse. It applies a bit darker and oxidizes quickly, significantly reducing your wait time if you’re tanning yourself for an event that same night.

If you’re constantly on the go and don’t feel like you have enough time to wait around for your tan to seep in, a more recent favorite of mine is Body Drench’s QuickTan. I was introduced to it while on vacation back in January, after a long day at the beach left me more burnt than bronzed. It comes in a travel size as well, which is perfect for touch-ups while you’re away. I love this product because it’s an aerosol vs. a mousse and while it does have a brown guide to assist you, it is surprisingly not messy. The best part about it is that you can wear clothes shortly after without needing to shower off the residue. Exaggeration aside, I put on a white bodysuit just 20 minutes after spraying my face and upper body and there was no residue to be found when I got home later that night.

Tanning your face is where it can get tricky. I’ll admit, I use both the tanning mousse and aerosol on my face and haven’t run into any issues.  If your skin is much lighter than mine or the idea of a self-tanner makes you nervous, I recommend starting with a gradual tanning face oil like the Self Tan Booster oil from Body Drench. Add 2-3 drops to your daily moisturizer and work into your palm before applying in circular motions for an even, blended application. For optimal results, exfoliate head to toe in the shower and apply to clean, dry skin. Fresh’s Brown Sugar Body Polish is a long-time favorite of mine. It doubles as a moisturizer and provides a smooth canvas for a balanced, deeper tan and reduces the risk of uneven color deposits settling in areas like your knees, elbows, or the hollows of your collarbone. For a longer lasting tan, always remember to moisturize head to toe after rinsing off the tan residue in the shower. I like to use a lightly scented moisturizer like this one from Nivea.

Along with the select few body products, there’s a handful of makeup products I use consistency to round out the entire sun-kissed look. I use the Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Bronzer almost every single day, lightly brushing it over the parts of my face where the sun would naturally hit (i.e., cheekbones, temples, jawline). For added shimmer in the evenings, I’ll top off the look with a drop of NARS Illuminator highlight on my cheekbones for a refreshed glow and to emphasize the higher points of my face (a good tip to give the illusion of a thinner face!).

While sunless tanners are a much safer alternative to laying out in the sun or even opting for the tanning bed, it’s still so important to apply a moisturizer with an SPF as a base before applying foundation or a BB cream. A light, sheer option I’m fond of is the Super Fluid Daily UV Defense sunblock from Kiehl’s. I love this one because it contains Vitamin E as the main active ingredient, working to soothe and neutralize any free radicals that could potentially damage the skin barrier. I also carry the AmorePacific SPF Mist in my bag with me for when I’m on the go. It’s perfect for a little added sun protection while simultaneously hydrating and cooling the skin to give you a more desirable, balmy complexion that lasts all day long.

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How I’ve Perfected the Fake Tan

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