Tablet Life & Arts

Fab or flub: Kardashian Sun Kissed sunless tanning system

Leave it to the Kardashian sisters to come up with not just a sunless tanner, but a three-step, five-product sunless tanning system.

If that leaves any doubt as to how serious these ladies take their celebri-tanning, Kim Kardashian reaffirmed her own devotion to sun worship in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily last year when their line, Kardashian Sun Kissed, hit the market.

“I think tanning has really been a way of life for all of us, living in California,” she told the magazine. “Especially, more recently, the need for sunless tan. When I travel, the one thing that makes me feel alive whether or not I have makeup on is a tan, especially in my face. When you travel, you can’t just go lay out. I do like regular tanning because I have psoriasis, and the tanning beds are particularly good for that. Every time I put on sunless tan before, it wouldn’t be even — so we wanted a system that was really easy but yet is a full system.”

I received all five products, nicely packed in their own compartments in a shiny gold bag, from PR folks more than six months ago, but I felt too overwhelmed (or scared) to try them until recently. I’m heading to Mexico for a wedding soon and wanted to see if perhaps I could eschew the pre-flight professional airbrush tan I had planned and go for the gold with the Kardashian products instead.

They’re available exclusively in Ulta stores and at

I like that they’re paraben- and sulfate-free, they’re not terribly expensive, and some online reviews I’d read praised them for their lack of “self-tanning odor.” (Don’t all self-tanners claim that these days?)

The test

Step 1: Prepping. There are two options — a body exfoliator ($12.99) or a color maximizer ($12.99). I used the exfoliator in the shower after shaving my legs. (Spoiler alert!) This ended up being my favorite of the five products. It’s got a nice grittiness that really sloughs off dead skin and has a pleasant citrus fragrance.

After I’d dried off, I applied the color maximizer gel (new this year: It comes in a spray.) This product is packed with vitamins that, they claim, “nourish the skin before the color is applied, allowing the pigments to latch on to skin cells while the proteins help deliver for long-lasting results.” The gel dried quickly, and it, too, had a light citrus fragrance.

Step 2: Color. There are two options, here, too — an instant sunless spray ($19.99) and an instant sunless lotion ($19.99). I used the lotion on my arms and the spray everywhere else (and reversed the order in a second trial). The caramel-colored “streak-free firming lotion” is fortified with vitamins C and E; it was thick but rubbed on smoothly and felt moisturizing. It dried quickly.

The continuous spray produced a lovely mist but sprayed on wetter than an airbrush tan. I rubbed it in well and waited a few minutes for it to dry before dressing. It was easy for me to cover my entire back with the spray. With both products, I could see a golden glow instantly. I did detect a slight chemical odor, but it wasn’t too offensive.

(Application hint: When applying a spray tan, hop in the shower so you can rinse it away easily. The first time I tried these products, I did so while standing on a bathmat on the bathroom floor. I not only had to toss it in the washing machine immediately, but I had brown self-tanner “sludge” on the floor that had to be wiped up.)

Step 3: Tan extension. A daily tan extender with bronzers ($12.99) moisturizes the skin and is designed to prolong the tan. I applied this once the lotion and spray had dried. It had a really strong fragrance that lingered.

I followed the instructions to wait at least four hours before showering. The first time I tested the products, I put my long PJ’s on and went to bed. The second time, I put on gym clothes and gave them a good, sweaty workout. I could smell more self-tan odor as the color developed, but it still wasn’t as strong as it is with some of the other self-tan products I’ve tried.

Fab or flub?

In both trials, I did develop a streak-free, pretty golden color on my arms, but my legs and feet got patchy and looked a bit jaundiced. Fortunately, I didn’t turn orange, and the products didn’t rub off on my clothing or sheets.

I got too busy to continue to apply the tan extender daily, and my color — good and weird — lasted about three days without subsequent applications.

The verdict? They’re not perfect (but I wouldn’t say any self-tanning product I’ve tried, including much more expensive ones, ever has been). But I was pleasantly surprised at the results.

I even applied the sunless tanning lotion to the sensitive skin on my face and was delighted that it didn’t cause breakouts or irritation.

As for my trip to Mexico, I don’t think I’ll cancel that airbrush-tan appointment because I do think the color will look more natural, and I know it will be streak-free and will last several days.

I will, however, continue to use the Sun Kissed products when I want a bit of a glow. And for that reason, I’ll give Kim, Kourtney and Khloe a “K-Fab.”