A bronzed body has long been viewed as a status symbol, conjuring images of the wealthy frolicking on the shores of Capri or Monaco. Today we know skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. To raise awareness, May was designated Melanoma Month by the American Cancer Society. Now, we are of the firm belief that everyone looks better with a tan, though not at the risk of your well-being. So with summer upon us, what is a health-conscious sun worshipper to do?
We don’t recommend going to an actual tanning salon since tanning lamps don’t prevent exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays. Plus, the thought of lying down on a plastic bed of bulbs teeming with germs is enough to make us swear off a golden glow for good.
Fortunately, there are other ways to achieve a radiant look. Most sunless-tanning products are safe and easy to use, without turning you into a George Hamilton doppelganger. With so many options to choose from, we decided to try a few and share our results.
Formerly sold only at high-end shops, the famed St. Tropez self-tanning product line is now available to the masses at Bath & Body Works and we couldn’t wait to try the Whipped Bronze Self-Tanning Mousse ($24 for 8 oz bottle). We were so eager, in fact, that we forgot to carefully read the directions. Apparently, there is a reason the bottle warns users to wash hands THOROUGHLY with a scrub brush after application; our palms looked like we fell into a mud pit. The mousse dries in 60 seconds, making it impossible to get to the sink to scour your hands before the color sets. Though for the next two days our bodies (and palms!) were a beautiful bronze, we don’t recommend this product for amateurs, those with a long walk to the faucet, or anyone without a scrub brush.
Since we weren’t having much luck with our first foray into self-application, we decided to seek professional help at Gloss Day Spa. Their Body Bronzing treatment ($65) uses the California Tan airbrushing system to create a streak-free self-tan. At first we were put off by the thought of standing in a disposable paper thong with someone shooting us at close range with an airbrush gun. But, for the sake of our vanity, we succumbed, and less than five minutes later we left Gloss with a perfect golden glow. No smell. No streaks. The only drawbacks are that you can’t wear your bra home (because it leaves tan lines) or wash any part of your body for 24 hours. Despite these caveats, we happily jiggled our bronze bodies back to the office. Three days later, we still had a fresh glow.
Once you’ve achieved your faux tan, you must maintain it. We’re currently using MAC Bronzing Powder ($18.50), which comes in six shades—ranging from Refined Golden to Matte Bronze—that work well with all skin types. A great tip we picked up from Romero Jennings, a senior artist for MAC Cosmetics, is to make sure to apply the powder evenly to forehead, cheek bones, bridge of the nose, base of the chin, and neck using a large fluffy brush (we love MAC goat hair brush #168, $30). For oily skin he suggests dabbing the area with powder or blotting papers before applying the bronzer to avoid dark splotches on the face.
So dear readers, go faux and tell everyone you just got back from St. Barts. We won’t reveal your secret.