In my teens, I'd reason with myself that SPF 8 sunscreen would provide both a decent amount of sun protection while allowing my skin to be veiled with the 1970s Farrah Faucet bronze of my dreams. The reality, though, was more like marginally darker skin and red, blistery burns that hurt to the touch. (Fun story: One time my face blistered so bad after a trip to a Long Island beach that the little girl at the camp I worked at told me she felt bad for me. Ah, out of the mouths of babes.)
That dose of unfiltered honesty was the kick in the pants I needed to stop sautéeing myself in dangerous rays (let's glide past the fact I also used to bake in tanning beds sans SPF for the sake of my own humility), and soon I became one of the biggest sunless tanner enthusiasts going. While I knew I wouldn't get a natural sun-kissed glow by sitting under an umbrella at the beach and piling on the SPF 50, I could still fake it with one of my favorite tinted mousses, lotions, or sprays. The only issue was sometimes I'd notice the sunless tanner and the gluey sunscreens would counteract each other and pill or cause splotchiness, so I prayed to the beauty gods that someone would formulate a bomb sunless tanner that also gave high-level, non-greasy sun protection.
Serendipitously, right before my honeymoon in Italy and Portugal, Supergoop sent me a bag of goodies, one of which was Healthy Glow Sunless Tan, a carry-on-approved spray bottle of SPF 40 with a subtle tint built right in. I'm a huge fan of the brand's sheer Everyday Sunscreen, so I audibly gasped when I saw it had just about everything I could need for a European getaway.
It's certified "clean" by Sephora, meaning it's free of parabens, sulfates, and other skin-harming ingredients. However, it's a chemical sunscreen (made with UV protectors like avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, and octisalate), so if you have sensitive skin, you may want to do a patch test first as these ingredients have the potential to be irritating. Also, because chemical sunscreens work by converting UV rays into heat, which is then released from the skin, you run the risk of exacerbating existing discoloration and brown spots from the increased internal skin temperature. Personally, I've been diagnosed with sensitive skin and found there to be no adverse reaction to the formula, and my melasma remained the same.
My first impression was the ease of the ambi-directional pump spray bottle—it makes for a user-friendly application, especially in those hard-to-reach areas. You also don't need a mitt to apply, just your hands in a circular motion (but do wash them with soap immediately after you're done.) It dries on contact, a rare find for both sunscreen and sunless tanner, and it didn't streak or splotch in the slightest. The color was definitely subtle at first, but I applied just about every day (and at night before bed) and the color graduated into the perfect sun-kissed glow. I even used it on my face, which the bottle encourages, and saw benefits from vitamins B5 and E, which translated into glowing, fresh, plump skin.
My only gripe was that I wore a white tee to bed most nights (sexy honeymoon garb, right?), and it turned my shirt orange. This was probably a result of getting dressed too fast/sweating in the warm hotel rooms, but I'd recommend wearing an old, dark set of PJs to bed just to be safe. Otherwise, I'm completely in love with this sheer, lightweight, glow-inducing potion that I'll certainly carry with me into fall (and winter, and spring).
Here are more of my favorite sunless tanners.
I used this mousse consistently the week leading up to my wedding and had a nice bronze on my wedding day. The indicator color does wash off quite a bit in the shower, so you'll have to continuously build if you want a deep bronze.
I've stockpiled a few cans of this in my apartment in case it ever gets discontinued (or a zombie apocalypse hits). It is, without a doubt, one of the best sunless tanners I've ever used both in terms of application (a fine, continuous mist) and the believable, orange-free tint it gives off.
This is apparently the first SPF-meets-self-tanner (we just haven't yet gotten aquatinted). Unlike other tanning oils, it's not meant for frying like our parents did way back when. Instead, it's SPF 50 and filled with skin-nourishing oils like marula, monoi, and neroli. One Sephora reviewer even said it made her naturally pale skin look like a golden goddess'.
Quite possibly my favorite product of the summer, this antioxidant serum packed with fatty acids gives my skin the best immediate tan that shows through even when I place it underneath foundation. It's sunshine in a bottle.