By Dave Barton
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For me, applying self-tanner falls under the same category as cutting your own bangs: Things you try once in your teens, and then learn your lesson forever. I remember sitting in my bathroom the morning before some big pool party, gasping in horror at the coppery splotches that covered my pale legs. Scrubbing didn't help. I was forced to tie on a long sarong and sit under an umbrella of shame the rest of the day.
Of course, that was years ago, and friends and magazines swear great advances have emerged in the Fake Bake universe since then. Still, I've been skeptical. When it comes to DIY beauty, my user-error rate is high. But summer is here, and whenever I wear shorts or anything sleeveless, I look as though I've emerged from the Twilight town of Forks. I decided to finally give the ol' tan in a bottle another chance.
I had heard about Vita Liberata, Ireland's most popular self-tanner, which recently landed at Sephora. Made with certified organic botanicals, it's supposed to not only give you a golden bronze glow, but also nourish your skin. I tried the Tinted Self Tan Lotion in Rich ($37.50), which claims to last up to seven days.
Every self-tanning expert stresses that the key to achieving an even color is to exfoliate thoroughly. If I had the time, I would have taken a trip to the Korean spa, where middle-aged ladies in bras and underwear plop you on a table in all your naked glory and scrub every nook and cranny with Brillo-pad-like mitts. But instead, I opted for a prolonged loofah-ing in the shower. The odorless formula has a gel-like texture, rubs in easily and dries within minutes. I tried to follow the instructions as precisely as possible, applying the lotion in elongated, circular motions and wiping my elbows and knees with a slightly damp cloth. An orange-y color developed, which scared me for a moment, but after a few minutes, it faded into a very natural-looking golden shade, as though I had just returned from a trip to Cabo.
It's five days later, and after showering, shaving and sweating it out on the dance floor at my cousin's wedding, my skin still has a nice glow. I finally feel ready for summer—all these years later. . . .