When it comes to getting a great tan, "faking it" is perfectly acceptable. Here, three simple ways to get the look.
A glittery terra-cotta-tinted face may work for celebrities, but the rest of us want a more natural glow. The key: "You have to make sure your complexion is free of dead skin cells, so the color goes on evenly," says Morgen DeMann, a makeup artist in New York City.
Gently exfoliate your face with an oil-free scrub, like Garnier Nutritioniste Nutri-Pure Microbead Cream Scrub ($8; amazon.com), pat dry, then decide which look you're after and proceed with the easy how-to.
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An immediate tan that lasts three to five days
Instantly look like you just returned from a vacation with one application of a tinted self-tanner that contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA).
"It's a sugar that reacts with amino acids in your skin to develop into a deep tan over the next few hours," says Ni'Kita Wilson, a cosmetics chemist in Fairfield, New Jersey.
Apply the tinted lotion to the areas where you'd naturally tanyour cheekbones, forehead, nosebefore blending it out to the rest of your face and over your jaw line and neck.
Try: Lancôme flash bronzer Oil-Free Tinted Self-Tanning Lotion for Face ($37; bloomingdales.com
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A subtle tan that gradually builds over a week
For that just-spent-a-few-days-by-the-shore glow, use a gradual self-tanner. These lotions typically contain a smaller amount of DHA, as well as erythrulose, a slow-acting sugar that "causes your skin to turn a very natural-looking brown color," according to Wilson.
DeMann suggests applying the gradual tanner the same way you would a tinted self-tanner, so more of the product is deposited on the bony parts of your face that bronze slightly darker in the sun.
If you just want to glow for the day (or night), then your best bet is to reach for a bronzer. Gel formulas are easy to blend and build beautifully, according to DeMann, who suggests "a golden-brown version without shimmer for the most natural look."
First, apply your regular facial moisturizer, which will help the gel go on evenly. Next, smooth the bronzing gel from your cheekbones up toward your temples and down the bridge of your nose. "Make sure to blend well with your fingers," DeMann says.
Try: Bobbi Brown All Over Bronzing Gel SPF 15 ($34; macys.com)
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