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The 9 Smartest Ways to Tan (and No, None Include Sun)

While avoiding the sun is a smart thing to do for the sake of your skin, that doesn't mean you also have to give up that gorgeous glow. Thanks to self-tanning innovations, it's easier than ever to get bronzed without leaving your house.

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Best for all over self-tanning


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“Exposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause your skin to age prematurely, leading to a loss of collagen as well as age spots and wrinkles,” says Jamie Greenberg, makeup artist and self-tanning expert. Instead of lying out in the sun, opt for a self-tanning lotion that gets you all of the glowy goodness with none of the side effects. Greenberg recommends Versa Spa Gradual Tanning Spa Butter. It has the whipped butter texture that we love in a lotion, while getting your skin up to its deepest bronze in a week’s time.

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Best for self-tanning in a hurry


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No time to add another step to your morning routine? Try Jergens Natural Glow Wet Skin Moisturizer, which you can use right in the shower. Simply rub onto damp skin post-shower in place of your regular moisturizer. You’ll save time all while looking like you just had a week off.

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Best self-tanner with SPF


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If oil-drenched legs were a staple of your childhood, you’ll love the (much safer) tan that comes courtesy of a self-tanning oil with SPF. These luxurious oils give your skin the sheen that of a just-vacationed glow. For lightweight coverage, Moroccanoil Sun Oil SPF 15 lets you tan over time. Reapply up to every two hours until you’ve reached the desired level of tan, whether you want to look like you spent one day in the park or two weeks on a Caribbean cruise. Bonus: It’s nourishing for skin thanks to a combination of vitamin E and argan oil, which also means it smells delicious. Since oil doesn’t meld well on all skin types, be sure to test a patch of product on the underside of your arm and wait 24 hours before applying to the whole body. Once you do that, you should also try out these other great argan oil uses for health and beauty.

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Best moisturizing self-tanner


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If you’re a moisture addict in addition to a self-tanoholic, meet tanning balms. Like a nourishing lotion that leaves your skin glowing, a tanning balm will leave skin both intensely moisturized and richly bronzed. James Read Coconut Melting Tanning Balm has the added benefit of organic coconut oil. Expect to reapply product two to three times a week to maintain your summer glow 24/7.

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Best self-tanner in a sheet mask


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Some of the industry’s most innovative products revolve around getting your face ready for a sun-kissed selfie. Sheet mask fans are flocking to St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Face Sheet Mask for a dewy glow. Just like a regular sheet mask, it fits to the contours of your face and infuses your skin with serum. Leave it on for five to 15 minutes, depending on just how deeply you want to tan, and expect to see the full results in eight hours. Not all face masks are created equal; here’s how to find the best one for your skin type.

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Best self-tanner in a serum


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For a tanner that you can work easily into your existing skin-care regimen, try COOLA Organic Sunless Tan Anti-Aging Face Serum. “Apply a small amount to the palm of your hand and spread evenly onto clean, dry skin,” says Chris Birchby, founder of self-tanner brand COOLA. “Allow two to four hours for your tan to fully develop. For a more gradual color, add two to three drops of serum to your moisturizer and apply daily.”

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Best quick-dry self-tanner


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Need to get out of the house quickly after applying? You can’t go wrong with a rich tanning mousse. NKD Skin Natural Gradual Tan Lotion comes in light, medium, and dark shades for anything from a natural glow to a deep “spent all summer in the Hamptons” tan. Also try Paula’s Choice SUN 365 Self-Tanning Concentrate for streak-free color in just five minutes.

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Best for quick results


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With vegetable-derived DHA, you’ll only need to wait 60 minutes after applying celeb-favorite Cocoa Brown 1 Hour Tan. The mousse formula goes on smoothly—which means no streaks—and it has a floral Tahitian garden fragrance so there’s none of that fake tan scent left behind on your skin. Leave it on longer to get a deeper “tan.”

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Natural self-tanners

Sometimes, the best self-tanner can be found right in our kitchens. Picture the sunset-colored tones of a papaya applied directly to your skin. “Natural products can help the skin prepared to get a better and long-lasting tan,” says Roselia Flandes, spa director at Fairmont Mayakoba. “Papaya is loaded with alpha-hydroxl acids, which are natural exfoliants that work to smooth and energize the skin.” Mix one part papaya, one part honey, and one part brown sugar for a sweet-smelling scrub that will prep your skin to be its best self and leave you with a golden hue. As summer approaches, make sure you’re also following these summer skin care tips dermatologists recommend.

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