Self-tanners offer summer tan without the damaging rays

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Dr. Sapna Parikh on the best self-tanners. (WABC)

If you're craving a summer tan but worried about those damaging ultraviolet rays, a self-tanner might be just the thing. Consumer Reports ShopSmart recently checked out six popular tanning sprays and lotions, ranging from $8-$35, to see if they offer a golden glow.

To test, a panel of volunteers wore patches so the skin underneath could be used as a reference. Then tanning sprays or lotions were applied to their arms. All the products contained dihydroxyacetone, a chemical that reacts with the skin's outer layer to create a darker color.

"It takes about four hours to really get the full effect," says Sue Byrne of Consumer Reports, "And then you need a second follow-up application about a day later to get the deep tan you really are looking for."

When the patches were removed, Consumer Reports experts compared the results. Popular brands like the Banana Boat Summer Color Lotion and the Neutrogena Micromist Sunless Tan Lotion didn't do too hot. Both products gave panelists a slightly lighter tan than the others, while the Banana Boat lotion resulted in an orange color that was streaky or blotchy.

But testers did find a favorite: L'Oral Sublime Bronze Self Tanning Mist in Medium Natural Tan. They say it gave the most natural-looking results. The product sells for around ten dollars a bottle.

It's important to note that sunless tanners do not protect you from the sun, so buyers still need to wear sunscreen over their sunkissed glow. Some people might also be allergic to dihydroxyacetone, so try the tanner on a small area first to see if you react before applying it all over.

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