Is Using a Makeup Sponge the Key to Streak-Free Self-Tanner?

We gave it a whirl and here are our results.
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Maura Brannigan
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We gave it a whirl and here are our results.
Expertly bronzed specimen Candice Swanepoel at the 2014 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in London. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Expertly bronzed specimen Candice Swanepoel at the 2014 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in London. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Self-tanner — and, you know, anything that contains the word “tan” — gets a bad rap these days, but I’ll admit that I have been known to apply the stuff every once in a while. I bring it out of my medicine cabinet cyclically, first at the height of my winter blues in mid-February and again in August, usually in an attempt to preserve any color I’ve (safely!) built up throughout the summer.

I wouldn't consider myself a self-tan junkie, but rather a fair-weather fan; my bottle of Jergens is always there, fragrant and familiar, when I need it most. I may not have mastered its application, but I do know the basics: rub it on in a circular motion, let it dry fully and always, always wash your hands when you're done. It's easier said than done, though: Even when following protocol, I tend to walk away from the experience with carrot-colored palms and a streak or two around the ankles. That's all par for the course, I suppose, when you're using a lotion that literally transforms the color of your flesh.

Earlier this summer, our beauty guru Cheryl asked me to test Beautyblender's latest creation, the Bodyblender ($28, available at Beautyblender), as a potential solution to my woes. The tool, according to the company, promises “controlled, even coverage and super-soft, streak-free blending.” She also handed over a snazzy four-piece set of Jergens Natural Glow collection ($41.96, available at Jergens) that includes in-shower scrub, daily moisturizer and not one, but two different shades of mousse.

I was sold, and dutifully accepted my assignment. Here's what I was working with:

Photo: Maura Brannigan/Fashionista

Photo: Maura Brannigan/Fashionista

Step one: Take a shower, you filthy animal! You need to prepare your body for the metamorphosis it is about to endure. As instructed, I used a mid-sized squirt of the primer scrub to buff my body. There would be not one bit of un-exfoliated skin on my skeleton because — say it with me — un-exfoliated skin can lead to streaky skin, and streaky skin is bad skin.

Soon enough, I was ready to get started. After soaking and wringing out the egg-shaped Bodyblender, which is much larger and flatter than its facial counterpart, I pumped some of the sunless tanning mousse (in “Light Bronze”) and began dabbing away. Per the instructions, I blotted the foam tool in small circular motions, even on the more troublesome ankle and knee areas. I was able to cover both my arms and legs with just eight pumps of the mousse, which was essentially scentless and felt light and airy, like a soufflé. I did the same on my face with one large dab of the tan extender daily moisturizer. Both products dried quite quickly, and I was changed into my pajamas just less than 20 minutes after I first got into the shower.

The set-up looked a little something like this:

Photo: Maura Brannigan’s iPhone/Fashionista

Photo: Maura Brannigan’s iPhone/Fashionista

I now understand why we're dissuaded from applying self-tanner with our bare hands. Not only did the Bodyblender fit comfortably in my palm, I also walked away from the experience with the same pale fingers I had prior to my experiment. Between the lightness of the mousse and the efficiency of the blender, I just don't see myself going back to a hand-to-lotion self-tanning regimen anytime soon.

While the application process was as lovely and streamlined as can be, I may have been too cautious with the mousse — or perhaps I should have opted for the darker “Deep Bronze” tint this late in the summer. This uncertainty, of course, is a great sign: With nary an orange smudge in sight, I have every reason to believe the color is as natural as a tan gained after an hour spent in the sun under the protective guide of SPF 50.

Isn’t that the whole point of all this, anyway?