If you’re craving a summer tan but worried about those damaging ultraviolet rays, a self-tanner might be just the thing. Consumer Reports checked out six popular self-tanning sprays and lotions ranging from about $8 to $35 to see whether they offer a golden glow.
To test, a panel of volunteers wore patches so that the skin underneath could be used as a reference. Then tanning sprays or lotions were applied to the volunteers’ arms. All the tanners contain dihydroxyacetone, a chemical that reacts with the skin’s outer layer to create a darker color. When the patches were removed, Consumer Reports experts compared the skin underneath with the skin that was colored.
It takes about four hours to really get the full effect. Then you need a second follow-up application about a day later to get the deep tan you really are looking for.
Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning lotion produced an orange color that was sometimes streaky. Another problem with several of the tanners is the odor.
In the end, testers did find a favorite: L’Oréal Sublime Bronze Pro Perfect Salon Airbrush in Medium Natural Tan. It gave the most natural-looking results for around $10 per bottle.
Even though sunless tanners can give you a glow, Consumer Reports warns that they don’t provide sun protection, so you’ll want to wear a sunscreen. And about that ingredient dihydroxyacetone: Some people are allergic to it, so try the tanner on a small area to see whether you react before applying it all over. And avoid inhaling it or getting it in your eyes.