Beauty Test Drive: Sephora’s Express Self-Tanning Kit For Face And Body (Video!)

You know who I blame for my never-ending pursuit of the perfect tan? Francine Pascal. The author behind the widely popular ’80s teen/tween book series, Sweet Valley High, instilled me with the belief that to be beautiful meant I needed to be bronzed. After all, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, the most beautiful 16-year-old twins on the face of the earth, had “sun-streaked, silky blonde hair,” “blue-green eyes the color of the Pacific” and, of course, “sun-kissed skin.” I couldn’t do anything about the blue-green eyes, but for years I “chased the blonde dragon,”  which I finally gave up after a hairdresser finally told me platinum hair didn’t look good on me. But thanks to SVH and being California born and bred, I’ve remained pretty obsessed with having a glowing tan. During the summer, I lay out every weekend, though I realize that even with a high SPF, this isn’t the wisest idea. Thankfully, a recent trip to the dermatologist confirmed I am skin cancer-free. (I’m lucky — for about six months in college I went to the tanning salon once a week. Big no-no!) And I always emphasize the tan I’ve got with bronzer — for awhile, I had the boneheaded notion to use bronzer meant for Black women.

Now that I’ve lived in NYC for nearly 12 years, I’ve gotten some distance from my California-roots and have begrudgingly let go of my desire to be tan 365 days a year; during the winter, I leave my naturally fair skin well enough alone (though I still use a little bit of bronzer every day). But summer is on its way and in less than a month I’m headed to Nicaragua for vacation. I need a (fake) base tan! You know, something close to the subtle, sun-kissed glow of Snooki’s knee-caps. Luckily for me, Sephora sent over their Express Self-Tanning Kit For Face And Body and I rushed home to try it last night. Let’s review…

Price: $22, Sephora (alas, they appear to be out of stock right now)

Packaging: The body self-tanner comes in an aerosol cannister, while the self-tanner for your face is in a tube with a brush-on attachment.

How it works: Let’s start with the body self-tanner, which you can watch me test in the video above. As with any self-tanning product, you want to start with clean, exfoliated skin, preferably freshly shaved/waxed so that the bronzing mist goes on evenly. Shake the bottle and then spray continuously all over your body from 3-5 inches away. Now, before I left work yesterday, I took the kit out of its box and left the box at work, so I was operating without full instructions. In general I don’t recommend this. Luckily, my expert knowledge of standard self-tanner application came in handy, as I had an innate sense of how to apply. I did forget to shake the bottle though, but I don’t know how much that actually affected the application. I also think I sprayed the tanner on from slightly further away than five inches — probably, like, seven? — but my guess is that a closer spray would have just given me a deeper tan? Anyway, the tanner goes on tinted so you can see any areas that are uneven and blend with your hands. Best of all, the tint gives you an immediate payoff. In a matter of 10 minutes, I went from Angelina Jolie pale to Jennifer Aniston bronze. I know, I’m flattering myself. Moving on…

I was much more afraid of the self-tanning face gel, mostly because of the brush applicator. When I first stroked the brush across my face and saw a gloppy copper streak across my cheek, I got even more freaked out. I was only joking about wanting to be the color of Snooki’s knees! I said to myself. Thankfully, after blending with the brush, my face was perfectly and evenly a shade or two darker. Mission complete! A few more applications and I’ll look like my dream tan self:

Amelia's ideal shade of tan.

Wear Time: To be honest, I don’t quite know yet. I applied on Tuesday night and took my first shower since on Thursday morning. The tan doesn’t appear to have faded on my body, though multiple face washings have taken a little bit of the glow out of my face tan. To be expected I guess?

Overall: I’m mostly very impressed with Sephora’s Express Self-Tanning Kit for Face and Body because of how natural and Wakefield-esque the color appears for being, you know, fake. Many, many self-tanners, especially the ones made for your face, give you a look that’s more “dirty-faced cowboy” or “Oompa Loompa” than “bronzed goddess.” While the face gel looks intense straight out of the bottle, the blending brush not only ensures that you get even coverage but also keeps your hands off your face. You should always wash your hands after applying self-tanner, but the chances you’ll have orange palms in the morning is greatly reduced the less you touch the stuff.

Likewise, I’m really stoked about the body self-tanner as well. While I do have some slightly darker areas and a few subtle streaks, they’re pretty unnoticeable, and I imagine the next tan I give myself will be more even. Practice makes perfect and all. Like I said, though, the natural color of Sephora’s Express Self-Tanner is the real draw, and I’ll take natural and a litttttle uneven, over streak-free, dirty-lookin’ like, say, these celebs. Nicaragua, here I come! Now, where’s my lariat necklace…

Rating: 4.5/5