News & Politics

Feel Good Look Good: Tanning

Your skin hasn't seen sun in months, and you can't get away to the Caribbean. A sunless tan will take you there in spirit. But there are hazards. Some products leave you streaked or orange. To keep you from channeling George Hamilton, we tested a few f

Treatment: Tanning massage

Where: Bluemercury, 3059 M St., Georgetown; 202-965-1300;

Price: $125

What it is: I'm gently massaged with salt scrub, then slathered with Darphin tanner.

Time: The treatment takes one hour, but you'll wait a few hours more for the tan to fully develop.

Effect: Shimmery and subtle bronze–but I'm the only one who notices.

Pros: Michelle is friendly and a talented massage therapist. She packs me a bag of samples to take home.

Cons: The exfoliator makes my skin itch. Michelle doesn't tan my face, though she gives me products to do it myself. And it's expensive.

How long the tan lasts: Starts to fade after three days, is gone after five.

Verdict: I'd go back to Michelle–but spend my money just on a massage.

Treatment: St. Tropez Whipped Bronze

Instant Self-Tanning Mousse

Where: privacy of your own home

Price: $22.50 through

What it is: a muddy brown mousse that instantly dissolves into your skin

Time: five minutes

Effect: Very subtle tan. The color is supposed to deepen over the next three hours, but it never changed on me.

Pros: Easy to rub in and you see color instantly, so there is little risk of streaking. Not a trace oforange.

Cons: The mousse looks a little scary–like hair dye–and left a faint stain on my palms. You may need to layer it on to get a noticeable bronze.

How long it lasts: gone after two days

Verdict: A fast, easy fix for winter skin, but as the color sets so quickly–and tan palms are a giveaway–it's wise also to buy St. Tropez Self-Tan Remover ($15).

Treatment: Solaire All-Natural Tan


Where: privacy of your own home

Price: $17.49 for 60 capsules through

What it is: an herbal supplement containing vitamin E and a "bronze oil blend" that promises to "jump-start your skin's melanin production"–even if used without sun exposure

Time: two pills daily for ten days, then one pill daily as long as desired

Effect: None on my fair skin. A company spokesperson says Solaire may work better on darker skin tones.

Pros: No synthetic carotenes, so it won't turn youorange–if it works on you at all.

Cons: It hasn't been approved by the FDA.

How long it lasts: not applicable

Verdict: My skin looked no different after one month's use–a waste of money.

Treatment: Mystic Tan UV-Free Tanning

Where: Solar Planet, 2130 P St., NW; 202-293-4895.

Price: $24.

What it is: I stand naked in a eight-by-eight-foot booth and am sprayed for 30 seconds with a mist of self-tanner. The color deepens over the next 24 hours.

Time: in and out in five minutes

Effect: There are three levels of bronze to choose from. The lowest gave me a deep, golden tan.

Pros: I could see color right away, which gave me a chance to smooth out streaks and wipe off areas that were too dark.

Cons: Skin feels chalky for a few hours, and the tanner's butterscotch smell lingers. Despite using barrier cream on my palms, they still tanned.

How long it lasts: five to seven days

Verdict: For quickness, cost, and ease, I found this the best treatment.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.