Getting a faux glow is essential for a fresh, sun-kissed look during the warmer months without damaging your skin. Deciding on what type of product to use can be tricky because of the numerous options. The first step in understanding what will work best for you is knowing the difference between self-tanners and bronzers.

Both types of products vary in the amount of time each stays on the skin and their ingredients. Bronzers and self-tanners affect the skin very differently and are used for different reasons. Understand some of the fundamental differences between these beauty picks before you shop.

Self-Tanner: Ingredients

Self-tanners include DHA, an active self-tanning ingredient that reacts to the skin’s keratin and darkens the pigment like the sun, without causing damage from ultraviolet rays. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to be safe for use on the skin. One of the drawbacks of self-tanners is the smell, but there are many options to choose from whether you select a gradual tan builder, or an immediate bronzing cream.

Staying Power

Self-tanners last up to seven days. There are self-tanner lotions, creams and sprays. The more frequent the product is applied, the longer it will stay on the skin. For gradual tanning creams, you can apply them every day to achieve the color you want and then reduce application to every other day to maintain the tan you want.

Proper application of self-tanning lotions is important because they can streak and stain the skin. If this happens, exfoliate your skin to reduce the pigment of the streaks. In fact, if you exfoliate before using self-tanner, your skin will absorb the DHA more evenly and the tan will last longer.

Bronzer: Ingredients

A bronzer is an iridescent powder with warm tones meant to mimic a tanned look. Ingredients may include mica, talc, iron oxides and some may contain mineral oil. This is similar to what is found in any powder makeup, but there are many options for bronzers that contain antioxidant ingredients or other natural elements to help your skin glow even more.

Be sure to read makeup reviews online and to try them out before you purchase them. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to shop at beauty supply stores with a return policy, that way if the product doesn’t work for you, you can take it back!

Staying Power

Bronzers are meant to stay on skin for the duration of a few hours, to a full day. They are easy to apply and you can control how much color you apply on your face without risking streaks or making yourself too orange. Bronzers are easily washed away with soap and water.

Shades of Bronzers & Self-Tanners

There are typically a few different shades of bronzers: light, medium and dark powders. Some have a glow or dewy effect on the skin with tiny reflective particles that add a glimmer, while others are matte. Self-tanners have longer lasting formulas and usually come in a variety of shades within the range of light, medium and dark tones, but there are more options than bronzers.