‘I Tried a Custom-Blended Self-Tanner That Promises a Celebrity-Level Glow'

<p>Imago/D. VanTinex/Future Image</p>

Imago/D. VanTinex/Future Image

Want to know why celebrities' tans look so good all the time? Apparently, it's because they have their spray tans custom-blended to best accentuate their natural skin tone. That comes at a cost. Celebrity spray tans start at around $350 and go up from there. AKA not the most affordable for us regular people.

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Illusion Bronze went viral on TikTok for filling that niche. Matthew Stevens, the founder and CEO of Illusion Bronze, was Mariah Carey's assistant for two years. In his tenure as an A-list assistant, he says he "just saw that there was something that was being done for celebrities or wealthy people that was not available to everybody else." And thus, the idea for Illusion Bronze was born.

Stevens set out to create a self-tanner that went a step beyond the average store-bought variety. "If you were to walk into a Target or CVS or if you were to walk into Sephora [or] Ulta, there [are] different brands. But the specificity of those would be light, medium [or] dark," Stevens told Parade. "And unfortunately, that doesn't look good on everybody. That's why you see so many people walking down the street who you can obviously tell they have a fake tan."

Related: Jennifer Lopez, 54, Shares Secret to Glowing Skin in Makeup-Free Video

To find your perfect color, Illusion Bronze asks customers to fill out a five-question questionnaire detailing their tanning habits, as well as their hair, eye and natural skin tone. As an avid self-tanner myself—I religiously self-tan on Fridays—I was immediately intrigued.

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I filled out the questionnaire and was matched with a tanner meant to best highlight my olive skin, green eyes and brunette hair. I applied it as suggested by using the provided mitt and waiting three hours for the tan to settle in. Warning: you will look a little crazy while the tanner is doing its thing. I recommend keeping the on-camera Zoom calls to a minimum (I speak from experience).

<p>Kelsey Barberio</p>

Kelsey Barberio

You can leave the tan on between one to three hours to set. I personally like a dark tan, so I waited out the full three. When the time was up, I took a shower and simply rinsed my skin without giving it a proper wash, per Illusion Bronze's instructions. Don't be scared! A lot of bronzer will rinse off. This isn't your tan going down the drain—just the color guard that helps ensure you've applied an even tan.

I was very happy with the results of the tan. It applied evenly and made me look like I'd just spent a week on the Italian coast. Everyone's dream—am I right? I found it to be a slightly darker tan than other brands usually give me, which I liked. Over the course of the next week and a half, the tan slowly faded without patchiness or streaking.

Related: Kim Kardashian Is 'Actually Obsessed' With This TikTok-Viral Sunscreen, and We Found It on Sale at One Place

<p>Devon Sherer</p>

Devon Sherer

While I'd consider myself to be a somewhat-professional self-tanner, my colleague, Parade Social Director Devon Sherer, is less experienced in the world of tanning mousse. Devon gave the Illusion Bronze tanner a try herself and here's what she had to say: "I was really nervous about the whole experience after a tragic tanning lotion incident in my high school years (I looked like someone grilled me on a broken fence), but Illusion's process was really easy. The formula worked great for me even though I went with my natural hair color, which I'm not anymore (yes, I went blonde for the Barbie Movie). I looked like I had gone on a dreamy vacation. My husband even kept commenting (for days!) that I looked freshly sun-kissed."

The verdict: Illusion Bronze is great for those of us without Kardashian-sized bank accounts who still want a glow that makes us look like we too just vacationed in Bora Bora. And for $44 (with multiple uses per bottle!), your tan comes out to just a fraction of the price of a tan from a professional salon.

Illusion Bronze's Tips for the Perfect Self-Tan:

  • Exfoliate! You want the tan to go on your freshest layer of skin. If it's clinging to the dead skin, that's a reason why your tan could look unnatural or could be why it fades off "patchy."

  • Moisturize every single day. If you go to the pool or into the ocean, be sure to moisturize both before and after because salt water and chlorine break down a tan faster.

  • Hands are often the telltale sign of a fake tan. After applying your self-tanner, use a baby wipe and wipe the palms of your hands, around your wrists and on your cuticles. Do the same with your toes and feet.

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