I Found This Self-Tanner on Amazon Years Ago, and Now It's the Only One I Use

POPSUGAR Photography | Michaella Saffer
POPSUGAR Photography | Michaella Saffer
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For as long as I can remember, I've always been the "fairest of them all" — and I don't mean that in an adorable fairy-tale way but a palest-person-in-the-room way. Growing up in South Florida, it seemed as though all of my friends had a natural tan from wearing tank tops and shorts every day in the hot sun. For me, however, going outside without slathering on SPF 30 seemed like a death sentence. I could never get the color I wanted unless I subjected myself to days on end in the blistering sun, and I knew that wasn't good for my skin (or for preventing wrinkles in the future).

I was in high school when I first discovered self-tanner. A product that could give me a glowing appearance without damaging my skin? Sign me up. Over the years, I have tried every sunless option under the sun (no pun intended) — from gels, lotions, and foams to overnight tans, clear formulas, and one-hour express tans, I've subjected myself to many experiments. Some have turned out great, while others, well, let's just say I've closely resembled Garfield in the past. The one product I keep coming back to, though, is the Miami Gorgeous Self Tanning Mousse ($20).

I originally stumbled upon this product while in an Amazon rabbit hole. As a college student on a shoestring budget, I could no longer rationalize spending $45 on self-tanner. I thoroughly researched 15 different tanners before deciding on Miami Gorgeous. Formulated with lots of hydrating ingredients — like argan oil, vitamins A, C, and D, coconut oil, olive oil, and jojoba oil — I knew I would be moisturizing my skin instead of subjecting it to the harsh chemicals found in some other tanning products I had tried in the past. The hundreds of five-star reviews convinced me I should see for myself what the hype was about, and at $20 a bottle, it was worth a shot.

Miami Gorgeous is a tinted mousse, which I personally prefer over clear formulas, because it's easy to tell if I have missed any spots when applying. I also appreciate that the product doesn't have that overwhelming "fake tan" scent. The foam provides an instant glow that gradually develops over eight hours, so I apply it at night and hop into bed wearing long sleeves to avoid any excess tanner on my sheets. I am always pleasantly surprised when I walk into the bathroom the next morning and see a bronzier version of myself, ready to take on the day and feel good doing it. Normally, I apply two coats to my body, but when I want a deeper shade, I opt for three. When I keep my skin moisturized, the tan usually lasts around four days.

Three years later, Miami Gorgeous is still my go-to self-tanner for when I want to feel like I just got back from a Caribbean vacation. Even during the shelter-in-place mandate, and although I'm not attending any weddings or happy hours, I've been using it once a week to keep a base tan. It's still important for me to feel good about myself even if no one else is seeing me, and this self-tanner does just that.