not a professional. just crazy.

The Body Makeup I Use to (Convincingly) Fake a Tan

Rio Viera-Newton showing her tan before and after using body makeup
The strange tan, before and after body makeup. Photo: Rio Viera Newton

You may have noticed some posts from our friends at the Strategist on the Cut. They’ll be dropping in every now and again, sharing their expertise on the basics you don’t have time to research and the weird and wonderful things you don’t yet know you need.

The other day, I experienced an unusual wardrobe hiccup: A horribly uneven tan prevented me from wearing a new dress that I was excited about. I had spent a day in the sun, and most of my body was nice and tan, but certain areas (my back, shoulders, and upper thighs) had weird pale streaks thanks to a pair of denim cutoffs and a strappy bikini top.

To make sure, I tried the dress on for a friend, and she agreed that my stripy tan was distracting and strange. “You must know of a body product you can use to even the tan out,” she said. I was startled to realize that, in fact, I did not. Surely, there were products out there that would make my skin look shiny and sun-kissed all over. The conversation launched a thorough investigation into the subject, and I’ve since crowdsourced, researched, and watched what felt like a million YouTube videos. Below is the resulting comprehensive guide on the best body makeup to fake a perfect tan (or even out a super weird one).

The body makeup I tried

A few people I knew recommended this product to me, so I decided to order it immediately on Dermstore. I am very wary of self-tanning products and anything that resembles them (I tried one in high school and looked like a clown). This, however, is not a self-tanner. It’s a BB cream for your body that washes off immediately, yet somehow does not get all over your clothes. This product is the most amazing wash of color, and applied conservatively, it will buff and blend out any tan lines so that your body appears to be one even shade. It also has aloe vera and shea butter in it, so it can double as a light moisturizer. I can’t say enough good things about this product.

The second product people recommended was this, from Dermablend. It has more shades than the BB cream, which makes it easier to color match to your exact skin tone, making it a better candidate for precise correcting than for an all-over tint. I have really horrible eczema and psoriasis, and my scars and marks have made it difficult for me to comfortably show my legs during the summer. But this product covers them up, and makes me feel totally at ease in a dress.

This product is really light and more of a shiny wash of color. Because of that, it’s less effective at evening out tan lines and better for when your tan is fading (because, say, you’ve been stuck in your office for a month) and you’re trying to chase that glow. It’s shimmery, but not too glittery, and it’ll give your skin a really nice, healthy look to it.

And body oils to go with the makeup

For those who can’t resist the luxury that is Tom Ford, this oil is the most incredible way to lock your body makeup (listed above) into your skin while simultaneously adding a little extra shimmer, like the tough-to-fake sparkly quality that your skin gets on vacation.

I have never used this product myself, but it was recommended to me by several different people, who all said that if you want your body to look glowy and radiant, especially in photographs, this is the best product on the market. Needless to say, it’s now in my cart. As someone in the Sephora reviews put it: “I’ve been looking for a product like this for so long. I’ve tried all the body bronzing products I could find and not a single one has come close to this one! It gives your skin the most amazing glow. One of my biggest pet peeves with body bronzer is glitter. There is always so much glitter! But this has the most gorgeous shimmer to it. It gives you the best bronzed, I’ve-been-on-vacation-and-my-skin-looks-perfect color.”

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The 5 Body Products I Use to Fake a Tan