People are always surprised when I tell them I’m not good at certain beauty practices. They assume that because I’m a beauty editor, surely I must be at least passably adept at things like painting my nails or creating an updo. On more than one occasion, however, I’ve had to explain the difference between someone who performs beauty tasks for a living and someone who writes about them — totally different skill set. I put my self-tanner on one blotchy streak at a time, just like everyone else.
In fact, self-tanner is probably the skill in which I’d score lowest in a bizarre nightmare where I’m in the Olympics but all the events are parts of a beauty routine. No matter what’s been promised to me about foolproof even coverage, I make liars of marketing copywriters by coming up with laughably unnatural-looking, splotchy results every time. Needless to say, I rarely use the stuff largely for this reason.
I tan easily and darkly when given the opportunity, but I never take that opportunity because I’m in a neverending skin-tight cocoon of sunscreen even when I’m indoors, which is usually. I do miss the look sometimes, though, and I’d much rather attempt to achieve it in a non-damaging way, so when a self-tanner seems especially promising, I force myself to forget how bad I am at applying it and give it another shot. Recently, the St. Tropez Ultimate Glow Kit looked like it had low screw-up potential, so I found myself alone with it in my bathroom.
There are only two items in the kit: Self Tan Luxe Whipped Crème Mousse, a limited-edition formula created in collaboration with St. Tropez brand ambassador Ashley Graham, and a super soft application mitt. I had never applied self-tanner with anything other than my hands, so I was looking forward to seeing if this simple tool made a difference.
But before I could do that, I had to prep, which meant showering with a thorough exfoliating session using a non-oil-based scrub. “Exfoliating before the application is extremely important to ensure even application,” board-certified dermatologist Shari Marchbein previously told Allure, adding that oils “could interfere with the binding of DHA to the stratum corneum.” The DHA of which she speaks is dihydroxyacetone, the ingredient all self-tanners rely on to create a darkening effect.