Come summer, nothing makes us feel quite as confident as glowing, radiant skin. But the truth is, we don’t always have the time (or energy) to spend on the perfect faux tan. That’s why we tested the latest and greatest bronzing techniques and found ones that will accommodate any busy schedule, whether you have a week to prep for a special occasion or just a few minutes to fake a sunny getaway (yes, it’s possible).
From a timed self-tanner that promises sun-kissed results in just one hour, to a genius face mask that will get you J.Lo’s golden complexion overnight, click through our gallery to find out which method will best suit your needs.
1. If You Have a Night
Hey there, Sleeping Beauty! Thanks to overnight formulas like James Read's Sleep Tan Mask Body ($60; net-a-porter.com), Queen Bey isn't the only one who can say she woke up like this. Simply smooth on the aloe-rich formula before turning in for the night, and let the mask work its magic while you catch z's. The lightweight emulsion will immediately absorb into your skin, meaning you don't have to worry about bronze-streaked sheets, and you'll be left with the most gorgeous J. Lo glow after you rinse it off in the morning.
2. If You Have a Day
Getting a sun-kissed tan between your lunch hour and happy hour is possible with the help of time-release tanning formulas. Our favorite is St. Tropez's Express Mousse ($44; ulta.com), which develops in as little as one hour. Leave the formula on for three hours to create a deep, just-back-from-vacation tan, two hours for a medium tint, or one hour for a healthy, radiant finish.
3. If You Have Five Minutes
No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you—getting a beach bunny finish in five minutes flat is possible with the right tools. While your initial thought may be to pick up Make Up For Ever's Body Kabuki ($43; sephora.com) dipped in your favorite bronzer, the effect isn't as long-lasting, and could potentially rub off on your summer pastels. Instead, try Vita Liberata's Self Tanning Bronzing Minerals ($45; sephora.com). The loose powder can be applied as easily as a bronzer, but is actually infused with glow-forming DHA to produce a bronzed goddess tint that won't quit for up to 5 days.
4. If You Have an Hour
When time is of the essence, you need a self-tanner that gives off immediate results, and continues to develop over the course of the day. Spray-on versions allow you to see exactly where you're placing the color, and as an added plus, the airbrush applicator allows you to contour and define certain areas (hello, insta-abs!). We're obsessed with how natural Rodial's Brazilian Tan ($45; nordstrom.com) appears, and how easy the liquid is to buff out with a BodyBlender sponge ($28; beautyblender.com) to reduce the risk of zebra stripes.
5. The Necessary Prep Tools
Regardless of your deadline and formula of choice, your prep method remains the same—exfoliate all over with a gentle scrub like LaLicious' summery Sugar Tiare Flower ($25; drugstore.com), then give your legs a quick pass with a razor to create a smooth base for the color to adhere. For an ultra-close shave, sans cuts, we love Schick's Hydro Silk Trimstyle ($14; ulta.com).
6. Protect Your Tan
Steer clear of any scrubs, and use a towel with a light hand—any excess exfoliating could strip your skin of its tawny, vacation-worthy hue. Seek out a gentle cleanser like For All My Eternity's Tan Saving Shower Gel ($20; forallmyeternity.com), which won't remove the color or your skin's essential oils, and can prolong the life of your faux glow with hydrating ingredients like aloe vera and naturally-derived glycerine. Once you're out of the shower, smooth on a layer of Archipelago Botanicals' Soy Milk Body Lotion ($25; archipelago-usa.com) or your favorite ultra-rich formula to lock in moisture, prevent flaking and fading, and slightly neutralize the telltale DHA aroma.
7. Quick Fixes
For those of us who can't deal with the commitment, preparation, and upkeep of a faux tan, a temporary option like Too Faced's Royal Oil ($32; toofaced.com) or Pacifica's Bronzing Body Butter ($18; ulta.com) would be the way to go. Each formula is infused with natural-looking pigments and slight shimmer, but can be removed in the shower. A thin layer of body bronzer can also intensify your existing tan if any premature fading happens.
8. If You Have a Week
When you have a special event on the horizon where you want to glow, we recommend picking up a gradual self-tanner like For All My Eternity's Gradual 10 lotion ($28; forallmyeternity.com) to apply every day over the course of a week. This allows you to slowly build the color of your tan, and creates a more-natural effect, especially on fair tones who have trouble sporting a faux glow. Those who are new to the self-tanning game in particular should try this method, as it allows room for mistakes—when the formula doesn't spread evenly, it's nothing a handful of body scrub and an extra layer of lotion can't fix.