If there’s one thing that I’m grateful for, it’s how far self-tanners have come in recent years. As a self-diagnosed recovering tanning addict (college was a rough time, guys), I do send up a big thanks to the bronzing gods every day for coming up with self-tanners that finally give you a natural, healthy glow—and fast. I might be aging myself here, but who remembers when one of our only shots at getting “bronzed” legs in a hurry was to use Sally Hensen Airbrush Legs, only to be left with a weird pearlescent chalky residue that looked nothing like a real tan? I sure as hell do. So you can imagine my excitement when I recently noticed an influx of upgraded self-tanning waters, oils, and mousses up and down my (beauty-focused) Instagram feed, as well as the shelves of Sephora. So, because I believe that everyone looks better with a little natural glow (don’t @ me), I’ve tested out some of the newest and best self-tanners on the market right now so you can look like you just got back from some exotic island even if your summer vacation plans start and end in your backyard.
Tan-Luxe was actually the first brand that caught my eye on social media. On top of their chic packaging, the brand prides itself on introducing the world’s first self-tanning oil. So naturally, I was like, “wtf is this?” and immediately had to try. Tan-Luxe’s Wonder Oil has a convenient roller ball that glides on easily so you’re guaranteed an even application. Gone are the days where your tan turns out streaky because you rubbed globs of self-tanning lotion on unevenly. The shade of the tan itself is one of the best, most natural looking shades (and trust me, I’ve done the legwork). It’s more of a brown-bronze, so if your skin naturally has a red pigment, Wonder Oil is sure to cancel that out. And if you’re one of those “less is more” people when it comes to self-tanning (not me), since the solution goes on clear you can judge the development of the tan, and at any point during the development process (which is about two to four hours), if you’re like “Okay, this is good, I don’t want to get any darker,” then you shower and that’s the shade you will be.
Celebrity spray tanner Jules Von Hep has spent many years of his career inside a tanning tent bronzing some pretty famous bodies, so when he recently came out with his new self-tanning line, Isle of Paradise, I figured the products would be pretty good. The verdict? They’re really fucking good—and innovative, hydrating, and organic too. The brand’s hero product is their Self-Tanning Water that comes in light, medium, and dark shades. Each shade in their collection is color-coded: pink for light, green for medium, and purple for dark. I tried medium on my arms and legs (I had already had a pretty decent base tan) and the results were unreal. My orange-skinned college self was so envious. The water goes on as a clear mist (so again, you can judge the development of the tan) and all you need to do is pat dry with a tan mitt after the application and wait four to six hours for your tan to develop—and voilà, you end up looking like you’ve spent the week in Tulum. The tanning water is made with an exclusive blend of the brand’s SuperBalance complex to purposely reduce redness and soothe the skin, so again, if you have a natural red pigment in your skin, it gets canceled out so you look bronze, baby. As with any self-tanner, just make sure to wash your hands after applying to avoid any unwanted color gathering at your palms or between your fingers.
It’s common knowledge that the tan on your face fades the fastest as you tend to wash and exfoliate your face more often. So when I heard about the Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops designed for your entire body, and especially your face, I knew I had to try it out. After cleansing and exfoliating your skin, simply apply 1-12 drops of the self-tanner to your favorite moisturizer and wait four to six hours as the tan develops. The more drops you add, the darker your tan will be. Just like IOP’s Self-Tanning Water, the Self-Tanning Drops are organic and infused with hydrating properties like avocado and coconut oils so your streak-free tan will also leave your skin smooth and moisturized.
If you’re looking for an instant bronze color while you wait for your actual tan to develop, NKD SKN’s Tinted Self Tan Mousse will get you a few shades darker right after application. The lightweight mousse goes on smooth and has a fresh, fruity scent so that you don’t have that typical spray tan smell as you wait for the mousse to work its magic. As for the actual tan, NKD SKN’s medium tan will get you a good two shades darker and gives a brown tan that I’m willing to bet is so much more natural-looking than any other self-tanner you’ve ever tried. The best part? Since the mousse goes on bronze, you’re able to see where you’re applying the tanner so you can ensure the coverage is even.
Everyone has probably used or at least seen a St. Tropez self-tanning product at some point in their life. Well, to stay with the times, the tan masters have recently released a tropical scented, clear water-foam self-tanner. While St. Tropez’s water mousse goes on clear, it delivers a golden tan that develops between four and eight hours—the longer you wait to shower after applying, the darker the tan will be.
To round out our list of the new wave of self-tanners is Vita Liberata’s now sold out foaming tan water, but sold out or not, it still deserves a spot on our list because it’s that fucking good. It goes on clear so there’s zero risk of the self-tanner transferring on to your clothes or sheets as it develops. And while the tan is a fierce, natural looking bronze color, it is safe enough to be used on your body AND face. What’s more is that it’s formulated with natural fruit extracts that contain anti-aging properties, so not only are you getting a safe tan without exposing your skin to UV rays that speed up the aging process, but you’re also providing your skin with anti-aging benefits.
August is upon us, which means we’re about to enter that traumatizing stage of summer where it’s too hot to even hit the “continue watching” button on Netflix let alone actually leave your house to go outside and live your life tan. Nope, not gonna happen. That said, I can’t let my laziness this weather deter me from looking like the bronzed goddess I was never genetically supposed to be. My only options now are self-tanner, which puts far too much pressure on me not to fuck up the process, or spray tans, aka the reason I looked like a blond Snooki at my senior year semi-formal. It’s a real Sophie’s choice. But at the end of the day using self-tanner requires the bare minimum amount of work so you know I’m out. Spray tans it is then. And nothing is worse than having to scour through Yelp to see which salon is the least hated by Internet trolls. So lucky for you I’ve braved my friend’s reviews the trolls and picked the best places in NYC to get spray tans without looking like Snooki.
1. Beach Bum Tanning
Average Price: $25
We’re into this place mostly because the price is ridiculous. Like, the last time I found any sort of service for less than $25 in New York City it looked sketchier than a Lifetime movie about online dating. So ya know, I’m glad there’s places like Beach Bum Tanning out there to restore trust issues. Plus the spray tanners at this venue mist on a hydrating toner to help prolong the life of your tan before airbrushing you. Blessings.The staff are also huge fans of contouring while they airbrush. So basically they can spray you ten pounds lighter even though you’ve spent the last 2-3 months being a hedonistic asshole. And they say money can’t buy happiness.
2. Gotham Glow
Average Price: $75
The best part about Gotham Glow is that they offer both in-studio services and also house calls. So if you’re lazy AF but, like, still want to look tan (hi) then you have the option of booking the appointment at your home and having the technician come directly to your home to spray tan you. What a world we live in. The in-studio spray tan costs around $75 while the house call service is more like $160 and up, but Gotham Glow is usually worth it. Especially because they can spray you in broader strokes, getting the job done in half the time thus letting you do other important shit with your day like Google whether Cole Sprouse is actually dating his costar on Riverdale because important.
3. Urban Tanz
Average Price: $60
Urban Tanz claims to be the “best tanning in Brooklyn” but, like, it’s Brooklyn and the average person in that area has the complexion of an extra on the set of Twilight so is that really saying much? That said, this place has hella good deals and discounts for large group packages just in case you and your friends want to GTL on a Saturday before hitting the bars. Definitely hit up Urban Tanz before any bridal/bachelorette events to ensure that no one looks like Casper in the group photo.
4. Faux Glow
Location: Midtown East
Average Price: $90
This place is a little more high-end, but if you can afford to waste your money treat yourself then Faux Glow is definitely worth it. The spray tanners are literal artists and spray you with surgical precision. They’re known for their long-lasting glow, most of which last longer than my online dating relationships (think 10 days) and the glow looks authentic AF.
5. The Spa @ Equinox
Location: Upper East Side
Average Price: $70
If you’re already a member of Equinox then congratuFUCKINGlations you get to be skinny, rich, and tan. Boo, you whore. But if you’re a peasant more like me then you’ll get some sort of sick satisfaction out of going to Equinox knowing that over your dead body would you spend $70 on a gym class but you wouldn’t hesitate to give them all your money for the perfect beach glow. Equinox is brand new to the airbrushing business and, like, they’re v eager to please. They even offer coffee and scones before the session because nothing makes me feel more comfortable shedding all my clothes in front of a stranger than carb loading right before. The session takes about 15 minutes and it’s 100 percent the best 15 minutes you’ll ever spend at the gym because instead of leaving sweaty and feeling like you want to die inside (just me?) you’ll leave looking glowy AF.