Truth In Aging's Anti-Aging Olympics nomination: Sun Bunny Salvation

I have a friend who is a recovering tan-aholic.  After years of baking to a bronzed crisp, she recently received a wake-up call in the form of a precancerous mole.  Unable to forego her familiar golden glow, she has set about mastering the art of the faux tan. Her medicine cabinet is now stocked with over 20 different varieties of sunless tanning products.

As the resident afficianado of a tan-in-a-bottle, she agreed to assist me in narrowing down a nominee for Sun Bunny Salvation in our Anti-Aging Olympics.  Having tested every type of formulation under the sun (pun unintended), from lotions to foams to gels to sprays to wipes, her former trials have included a mix of high-end designer and mainstream drugstore labels.  All in all, her number one pick is Neutrogena Micromist Tanning Sunless Spray, which she lent me to take a test drive.

In depressing the top button on the aerosol can, I was surprised to find a clear spray come out, coating my skin with a white film.  Without color markers to indicate exactly where the mist landed, you'll need sharp precision to get an even tone and achieve the so-called airbrush effect.  If you can find a willing volunteer, this process is infinitely easier with the help of a partner. Unlike the wake of sickening odor most self-tanners leave behind, Micromist smells quite nice at first, almost soapy, but it does seem to take on a less pleasant scent as the solution sinks into the skin.

With the cool sting that accompanies each spray, you can feel the astringent action of witch hazel water at work. Because topical witch hazel contains alcohol, you should avoid spraying Micromist over any open wounds or burns.  The main active ingredient in all self-tanning preparations today, dihydroxy acetonate (DHA), gradually colors the skin brown within 2-4 hours after application, resulting in a water-resistant tan that only diminishes as the dead cells of the stratum corneum flake off, usually in 4-5 days. DHA is considered a safe skin coloring agent, as it never penetrates beyond the dead skin surface layer.  The solution sinks into the skin easily and safely thanks to dimethyl isosorbide (DMI), which enhances the penetration of active ingredients into the epidermis.

If you have any intention of wearing nice clothes and interacting with people after applying the tanner, you should probably disregard the "no rub" and the "dress and go" instructions on the label.  Unless you want to end up with brownish splotches where the spray was more concentrated, it would be in your best interest to rub in the lightweight film on your skin, and of course, to remember to wash your hands afterwards.  I tend to be wary of leaving the home after having sprayed an invisible mist all over my body, since it doesn't allow you to anticipate potential tell-tale signs of a fake tan.  To be on the safe side, I would save the full body spray-painting session for a night that I intend to spend lounging around in ratty sweats.  Like any self-tanner, the purpose of this product is essentially to stain your skin, and common sense dictates that it will most likely have the same effect on your bedding and clothing.  Moreover, the less clothes you put on post-application, the more easily the DHA will give your skin the tan effect, as it is activated by oxygen.

My friend had an unfortunate experience with Micromist on a particularly steamy night this summer when she crawled into bed a few minutes after performing a full-body spray.  The next morning, her brand-new white sheets were covered in yellow stains.  Although Micromist seems to dry instantly as soon as it settles on the skin, it is not immune to transferring onto fabrics.  Some users recommend standing on a rag/towel while spraying so that the mist doesn't settle on the floor and later collect on the feet.  Another piece of advice is to exfoliate with a scrub or loofah beforehand to prep the skin for an even distribution of the tanner.  It may seem like a lot of work, but it sure beats repairing sun damage from trying to get a tan the old-fashioned way.

Ingredients:

Water, Dimethyl Ether, Witch Hazel Water (Hamamelis Virginiana), Ethoxydiglycol, Dihydroxy Acetone, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Dipropylene Glycol, Isoceteth 20, Methyl Gluceth-20, Glycereth 7, Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Sodium PCA, Citric Acid, Fragrance.