Consumer Reports Picks Top Sunless Tanner

If you're craving a summer tan but worried about those damaging ultraviolet rays, a self-tanner might be just the thing. Consumer Reports ShopSmart checked out six popular tanning sprays and lotions to see if they offer a golden glow.

Marissa Graham has fair skin that burns easily. When she wants a tan, Marissa sprays it on.

"I think I look a lot better when I'm tan. Once a week I probably put it on to give myself a little more color," Marissa said.

Consumer Reports checked out six self-tanners ranging from about eight dollars to 35 dollars.

To test, a panel of volunteers wore patches, so the skin underneath could be used as a reference. Then testers applied tanning sprays or lotions to the volunteers' arms.

All contain dihydroxyacetone, a chemical that reacts with the skin's outer layer to create a darker color.

Sue Byrne of Consumer Reports said, "It takes about four hours to really get the full effect. And then you need a second follow-up application about a day later to get really the deep tan you really are looking for."

When the patches were removed, Consumer Reports experts compared the skin underneath with the skin that was colored.

One lotion produced an orange color that was sometimes streaky. It's Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning lotion.

Another problem: odor.

"Some of them didn't really smell so great," Sue said.

But testers did find a favorite: L'Oréal Sublime Bronze Self Tanning Mist in Medium Natural Tan. It gave the most
natural-looking results, for around ten dollars a bottle.

When Marissa Graham spray tans, she says you can really see the difference.

"When I wear white dresses in the summer, this kind of makes more contrast that makes me look better," Marissa explained.

Even though sunless tanners can give you a glow, Consumer Reports warns they don't provide sun protection, so you'll want to wear a sunscreen. And about that ingredient dihydroxyacetone - some people are allergic to it, so try the tanner on a small area to see if you react before applying it all over. And avoid inhaling or getting it in your eyes.

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