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In past summers, incidents of self-tanning trauma led to a household ban on spray products in my family. With feet, ankles and entire posterior as victims, my drip-drops were mocked relentlessly by my husband and eyed quietly by strangers.
Similar problems--as well as pale heroines such as Anne Hathaway--apparently are diverting others from self-tanners too. According to new research from Mintel, sunless tanner sales fell 5 percent between 2006 and 2007.
The main complaint of Mintel's survey respondents who have stopped using sunless tanners is that they are too hard to apply (42 percent of the nearly 2,000 respondents said as much). Also, 33 percent said they've stopped using the products because the results appear too artificial.
Because the hind side is one dead giveaway, one of Q's beauty informants suggested that spray tanning become a couples endeavor. The equivalent of "You spray my back, I'll spray yours."
Hmm. We could skip that much-hyped memoir about "365 Nights" of sex as a bonding exercise. (Bodily contact is definitely ill-advised if you team-tan right before bed, as recommended by veteran users.) Instead, we could test this hypothesis: The couple that sprays together stays together. Below, the details.
She: My husband agrees to spray my back one night before bed, on the promise that, if he maintains the necessary 12- to 14-inch distance, he should not have to rub any in and risk staining his hands--an advantage over the more popular lotions.
He: Even though my husband prefers his Irish skin with a hint of color, he declines to receive the spray. (His feelings are consistent with the Mintel survey, in which male respondents overwhelmingly said they would not use a sunless tanner and prefer their color the old-fashioned way, in moderation.)
Product: The cult favorite Fake Bake Air Brush Instant Self-Tanning Spray, $26.99 for 7 ounces (plus two lip glosses) at fakebake.net.
Process: I step in the shower, turn my back and pray for no pranks. Cold spray assaults the skin (my chief complaint with spray tanners). Husband panics as he sees rusty runoff; grabs a towel to wipe me down and start over. This time he uses less-lingering strokes and finishes in less than a minute. Dries quickly.
Morning after: After a shower nine hours later, the spray leaves a lightly tanned tone with no splotches or streaks, except on pajamas and sheets (which come out in the laundry). With this as a solid base, I can use the Olay or Jergens gradual tanners on my own for at least a week, then make another appointment with my husband.
Pillow talk: Did it bring us closer? Well, it certainly was an exercise in vulnerability and trust--and one we could smile about at no one's expense. He was satisfied. I was satisfied.
Gradual: Jergens' new Natural Glow Express promises the same natural-looking tan as its other Natural Glow products (a favorite in Q's previous tanner tests), but in three days versus seven. "It's sort of the median between the gradual tan over seven days and the overnight tan, where everyone knows what you did," said Allure beauty editor Victoria Kirby. "It's a little more powerful but can still be incorporated into your daily routine." $7.99 at drugstores and Target.
Quick: Lancaster Self Tan Fast Dry Bronze Mist is tinted but also develops your deeper tan in just an hour. Bonus: Its anti-aging formula neutralizes free radicals. $24 at C.O. Bigelow stores.
For scars/skin tone: Per-fékt body perfection gel delivers surface color and also purports to soften the appearance of scars, bruises, uneven skin tone and stretch marks. It's resistant to sweat, water and transfer and claims Reese Witherspoon, Heather Locklear, Jennifer Hudson and others as fans. $48 at select Sephora stores, sephora.com and perfektbeauty.com.
For veins/spots: Olay Body Age Transform Skin Tone Equalizer aims at diminishing the appearance of spider veins and age spots, packing an antioxidant complex, moisturizers and just a hint of sunless tanner. $9.99 at drugstore.com.
SPF 30: Neutrogena Sun Fresh Foam Color Boosting Sunblock includes SPF 30, partly in response to a teen study conducted by the American Cancer Society in which 69 percent of teens confessed to getting a sunburn during the summer and 68 percent said they look better when they have a tan. $9.99 for 4 ounces at drugstores and Target.
A Sephora favorite: Lancome Flash Bronzer Glow 'n Wear promises to tan your body, not your clothes, with a quick-drying gel that is virtually transfer-free despite being tinted. A "Best of Sephora" product in 2007, it's $31 at sephora.com.
"Exfoliate first!'" is the opening line of just about everybody's self-tanning advice. If buying a drugstore self-tanner has left you with a few beauty dollars to spare, the Jo Malone Vitamin E Body Treatment Scrub will do the sloughing-plus-moisturizing trick with purifying salt and organic brown sugar, avocado, wheat germ oil, shea butter and more, while treating your nose to an indescribably delicious scent. Compared with similar scrubs, it leaves less oily film on the shower floor. $75 for a 21-ounce tub at the Michigan Avenue Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.