New York City

Faking bake-ing

Self tanning done right

3 May 2009

Perhaps it’s my Type-A personality, or perhaps I’ve seen one Oompa Loompa-esque lady too many emerge from a Mystic Tan session, but I have little tolerance for underperforming self tanners. The tint must be natural; the scent must be non-chemical; and the ability to prolong must exceed the expiration date of my bottle of soy milk.


If cream rises to the top, then so must a hazy copper that’s mimicked only by a timeshare on an island. St. Tropez self tanner, $33 at Sephora, is hands down the best self tanner I’ve used, period. Venerable strangers approach me in the street after just one application to ask if I just came back from vacationing in Mustique with Diddy. Okay, so they don’t ask me that, but I do get a lot of compliments on how ‘healthy’ I look. The key with Saint Tropez is patience. You’ll need a pair of plastic hospital gloves (avoid latex if you can), a ratty towel, and a good two hours for thorough application and sufficient drying time. Available in a foam (my favorite), spray, mist, gel or liquid pump, Saint Tropez is not for the beginner. I repeat, not for the beginner. While the result is second to none, a rushed, novice application will prove fatal to your social life.



Origins The Great Pretender, $18 at department stores, is, like our sunny own Miss California, first runner up. The coverage is creamy and effortless and leaves behind a cool, minty scent; its major drawback is the subtle shimmer built into the formula. Loyal TVC readers will know that I’m not a fan of shimmer or sparkle in body products, unless it’s on a 5-carat Harry Winston ring. The good news is that any remnants of a life lived on the Yellow Brick Road will wash off in the shower and leave behind a Jamaican-me crazy hue. The bad news is that it won’t work if you’re aiming to be out and about within an hour post-application. While Origins hits a home run with this product overall, avoid using it on your face. No one likes a disco ball head.

L’Oreal Sublime Glow moisturizing mist, $9, is a build-a-tan product that takes the cake for gradual tanners and self tan novices alike. I find that one application every three days is enough; applying a self tanner every day (as the bottle recommends) will leave people wonder if you’ve been plugged into an electric outlet. Unlike the St. Tropez and Origins tanners, this spray goes on clear. Bonus: it won’t rub off on clothes. Yikes: since you won’t be able to see it until the magic self tanning chemicals do their job, generally about an hour to two after application, any posthumous mistakes will be hard to fix.

One of the biggest complaints I hear of any self tanner are the not-so-sexy Orangina spirit fingers that are the unfortunate by-product of going sunless. Using a pair of plastic (not latex) hospital gloves will do the trick, as well as wiping hands clean with a wedge of fresh lemon. If you’ve got the bucks to spare, I highly recommend the St. Tropez self tan remover, $16, a miracle in a pump which also exfoliates hands to a glove-soft touch.

Like Michael Jackson once sang, ‘Don’t stop ’til you get enough’ – but do wear your sunscreen.

-Karyn Polewaczyk

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Posted by karynpol at 06:00 AM
BARGAIN GUIDES , bargain news , BEAUTY |


  1. Tricia
    May 5, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

    Enough is enough! Let’s be real ladies and metrosexuals, who has all that time available on their hands for the St. Tropez self tanner? “You’ll need a pair of plastic hospital gloves . . ., and a good two hours for thorough application and sufficient drying time”. I mean come on! We still have a long “ways” to go if that’s the best we have on the market. As for “Origins”, I will save my glitter wearing days for carnival festivals in the Caribbean. I’m sorry, but I am an immediate gratification kind of person, I cannot apply L’Oreal Sublime Glow moisturizing mist then pray for the best. I’ll pass.


  2. Karyn Polewaczyk
    May 5, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

    The alternate, Miss Trish, is paying upwards of $30 per session for a MysticTan that neither looks natural or works with my budget. I’m not one to self tan on a regular basis – in fact, I haven’t since last August and don’t plan on doing so anytime soon – but do see the value in spending $30 on a bottle of self tanner that will last a year.


  3. LK
    May 7, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

    Bare Escentuals “Faux Tan” is fantastic. I am a fair skinned, red-head and it is the most natural bottled tan I have found. It doesn’t have a repulsive scent and allows you to see where your applying since it is a dark, tinted lotion to begin with. It also leaves your skin super smooth. Other than that the lotions that give you a gradual tan are nice to use during the winter so it isn’t obvious you just dove into a bottle of tanner and give you a healthy glow.


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