Ultimate Guide to Sunless Tanning in the Winter

Get a golden shimmer, even on the darkest days.

In the heart of a snowstorm, summer is a distant memory, but look on the bright side: You don’t have to forgo bronzed skin just because it’s cold out. Here are simple solutions to keep your tan looking natural and bright even in the midst of winter.


“Maintaining a touch of tan year-round helps hide imperfections in the skin,” says aesthetician Katherine Goldman, owner of Stript Wax Bar (striptwaxbar.com), based in Los Angeles. And as many fitness competitors know, a deep skin tone can also help muscles pop onstage or in the gym.

For the best sunless tan, many swear by salon sprays because the depth of your golden glow can be precisely controlled with a high-quality airbrush gun and will coat hard-to-reach areas perfectly. Translation: no more streaky tans or timed contortions to reach difficult zones before the product dries. Plus, Goldman says that the solutions used by professionals are typically more concentrated with DHA, or dihydroxyacetone, the active ingredient that provides color by interacting with an amino acid in the skin, which means a more lasting hue.


At $25 to $50 a pop, salon airbrush tanning may cause your wallet to quickly rebel, but don’t worry. There are plenty of mousses, gels, lotions, and sprays on the market that won’t bust your bronzing budget.

Lindsay Dickhout, founder and CEO of Million Dollar Tan, says that using a buildable product is especially important if you already have a base because you can start with a light layer and build as needed. The Summer Sun Tanning Mousse ($42, milliondollartan.com), for example, is perfect for transitioning your color as the seasons change. While you may not want to be as tan as you were in the summer, you can still have a luminous glow by applying a light layer of mousse and building your color with additional layers as needed.

If convenience and affordability are top concerns, try Jergen’s Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer ($10, jergens.com). It’s available nationwide, provides gradual color, and can be used daily after showering.


The experts at Fake Bake recommend that you choose a self-tanning product with a tint and/or color guide. The tint shows you where you’ve applied product already and what spots you’ve missed so you get a streak-free glow. Fake Bake’s tinted products (from $20, fakebake.com) are favorites among celebs, including Demi Lovato and Amy Schumer, but you can also find tinted products at your local drugstore: L’Oréal Sublime Bronze Tinted Self-Tanning Lotion ($10, lorealparisusa.com) and ; Clinique Self Sun Body Tinted Lotion ($25, clinique.com) are budget-friendly faves. For the pros: Pro Tan (protanusa.com) and Jan Tana (jantana.com) offer tanning kits that help you look sun-kissed in a hurry.

So how will your home tan stack up to the salon service? “Remember a few important tips, like prepping your skin thoroughly beforehand and keeping your tan properly moisturized, and you’ll have an amazingly even glow that rivals any professional spraying,” says Dickhout.

An at-home tan should last six to eight days. See “Staying-Power Tips for Sunless Tanning at Home” on the next page to buff up your golden factor.

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