Increasing concerns about the sun's intensity have caused many consumers to turn to sunless tanners. These products, which promise to supply consumers with a safer, temporary, faux tan, are currently available in lotions, gels, foams and sprays, in both professional and at-home formulas.
Lotions and gel tanning formulas are easy to apply but take the longest to dry. Foams and sprays dry faster, but many users say they're more difficult to evenly apply. Tanning wipes, which are towelettes doused in tanning solution, are best for spot treatments (like fixing tan lines) but not full-body use due to their tendency to cause streaking. Professional spray tans, another popular option administered at tanning salons, are available in two forms: airbrush and booth-spray tans. An airbrush tan is applied by a technician, who uses a handheld sprayer to coat tanning solution evenly over the body. For booth spray tans, consumers step into a booth where tanning solution is sprayed over their entire body by shower jets, ensuring that hard-to-reach spots are covered.
In addition to different consistencies, consumers also have a choice between instant and gradual self-tanners. Gradual products typically contain lower-strength ingredients to provide a more subtle, streak-free tan over time (typically a week) while instant self-tanners offer more rapid results (typically 6 hours for a full-blown tan).
Proper product selection can be tricky. Many consumers (particularly fair-skinned folks) report problems correctly matching their skin tone. Complaints about uneven coverage, complicated application, long drying times and pungent chemical odors are also common. Additionally, many products do not contain sunscreen, and DHA (the main ingredient in sunless tanners) offers no protection from the sun's damaging rays. If you're going to be spending a lot of time outdoors, experts suggest topping any sunless tanner with a sunscreen for extra protection. For additional information, be sure to check out our updated report on sunless tanners.