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What Is Instant Bronzer?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 21, 2024
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An instant bronzer is any one of a range of cosmetic products designed to artificially give the skin a suntanned look. Most of the time, bronzers come in the form of lotions or creams, but can also be sprays, gels, and mists. Using these products gives the illusion of having sunbathed or gone tanning. Results are usually temporary, and will either rinse off or fade as time passes. They do not usually protect against the sun, but neither do they harm the skin the way the sun’s rays can.

In many parts of the world, people consider tanned skin desirable. Instant bronzers, which can also be marketed as sunless tanners or self-tanners, provide a way to get a sun-tanned look without sun exposure. Most medical professionals recommend keeping the skin well shielded from the sun to minimize damage. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can harm skin's cellular composition, which can lead to cancer and other ills.

Many consumers consider instant bronzer a health-conscious way to get a tan. Not all bronzing products are the same, however. The safest tints are usually very temporary and come in the form of powders or creams that leave a shiny, tanned residue on the skin, but will wash off immediately. More permanent tanning products usually contain chemicals that react with the skin on contact. Some of the most heavily debated bronzers in the medical community come in the form of all-over sprays, which can be damaging if inhaled or accidentally applied to the eyes, inner nostrils, or other orifices.

Different people have different reactions to instant bronzer products. Most of the time they work well, and users come away with a natural-looking glow. A lot depends on individual skin composition, as well as the overall quality and ingredients of the product.

People with sensitive skin or allergies to certain chemical compounds often have a hard time with instant bronzer applications. Some of the more common bronzing cream complaints include patchy, uneven, or bright orange discoloration. Achieving good results usually requires a careful adherence to all of an instant bronzer’s directions and use specifications, as well as pre-testing to determine skin sensitivities or negative reactions in advance of all-over application.

Skin that has been tanned naturally usually builds up some sun defenses, which often means that it does not burn as easily. These benefits are not usually a part of the instant bronzer package. Most of the time, the sole purpose of a bronzing spray is to temporarily change the skin’s tint. When the skin has only been dyed, it has not actually had a chance to build up a tolerance to the sun. It is therefore crucial for people with this sort of bottled tan to remain diligent about sun protection, and continue wearing sunscreen when outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

By serenesurface — On Jan 15, 2014

I've decided to read reviews of instant bronzers before I invest in one. I've heard too many horror stories about how instant bronzers make skin look too dark and unnatural. I have fair skin and I just want a sun-kissed look. I don't really want to look tan.

I actually want a bronzer that doubles as a skin moisturizer. I want to be able to apply it after my shower for a nice glow. If it lasts until my next shower, I will be happy.

By bluedolphin — On Jan 15, 2014

@ysmina-- I know exactly what you're talking about. Everyone who uses an instant bronzer regularly faces this problem.

May I ask what type of instant bronzer you are using -- spray, cream or gel? If you are using the spray type, I recommend trying the cream or gel because I think that creams and gels apply more evenly and look more natural.

Also, remember that you want to go easy with the product and not apply too much. Take a small amount on a makeup sponge and apply it on your skin in a circular motion with the sponge. It will go on evenly and help the product dry in the process.

By ysmina — On Jan 14, 2014

The biggest problem with instant bronzers is that they can dry in streaks and look uneven. I have tried three different instant bronzers so far and none gave me the even, bronze tan that I want. Either they dry too quickly or too slowly. Both of these issues causes uneven results.

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