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 4 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.
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