I’m going to go ahead and admit it: I used to go to tanning beds. I did for many years for a reasons. First, I liked getting a “base tan” so I didn’t burn so easily. If I already had a decent tan going, I knew that I wouldn’t fry when I went out in the sun. I still used sunscreen, but I think we all know that even with sunscreen, you can still burn. Second, it made me look good, and feel good. I think I look better a few shades darker than my natural, pasty white skin. Darker skin appears toner and having that summer time “glow” always made me feel good.
Since I am inching my way closer to 50 and knowing the dangers of exposure to UV rays (not to mention the wrinkles it can cause!), I committed to myself this year to stop “fake baking” and switch to sunless tanning products. Sunless tanners have come a long way since I was in high school and all we had was “QT” which made you orange. The products out now produce much more natural looking results. Additionally, there are many options when it comes to type of product: lotions, sprays, mousse, and drops which can produce instant results or gradual results.
One of the things I hate (and I think I can safely say everyone hates) about sunless tanner is the smell. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about. The smell results from DHA (Dihydroxyacetone) reacting with your skin to produce the tan. The same chemical reaction that makes your skin tan, makes it smell weird, too. The good news is it fades, but the bad news is it’s hard to mask. There are a few products out there that make a really good attempt at masking the smell, but I think I’ve come to accept that it is what it is.
I have mostly relied on reviews to help me choose products. I find the reviews on Ulta, Sephora, and Amazon to be helpful, but as with any product some people will love it, some will hate it and you ultimately don’t know unless you try it. Below are the products I’ve tried and a short review of each, if you are looking for an additional opinion! Post below if you have a favorite tanner – I’d love to try it!
Jergen’s Natural Glow Firming Daily Moisturizer and Instant Sun Mousse
Jergens has a few different products to choose from in their line of sunless tanners. I’ve been using the Daily Moisturizer for a few years now, and I really like it. It doesn’t provide a dark tan, but like the product says, more of a “natural glow.” It’s a nice, thick moisturizing lotion. The initial scent is okay, but not my favorite, and as the day goes on the dreaded tanner smell does eventually develop, but it’s not overpowering (either that, or I’ve just become used to it!). What I like about this product is that it is a moisturizer, and really does help my skin from becoming too dried out and ashy looking.
I recently starting using the Mousse and I like it because it gives you almost instant results and doesn’t produce quite as much of an odor. The nice thing about instant results is you can see where you messed up right away! Additionally, it dries almost instantly, however I have found that it leaves my skin feeling kind of dry, so I end up putting the lotion product on as well. It also produces a more natural looking glow versus a tan. Both products come in travel-size bottles, which are great to throw in your suitcase on vacation.
Perfectly Posh Fake It Til Ya Make It Gradual Tanning Body Creme
I reviewed this in one of my Favorite 4 posts last year. I actually forgot about it until I started exploring tanning products and remembered how much I liked this one. It has a pleasant, almost fruity scent which is described on their website as “light, airy peach.” Out of all the products I’ve used, this produced the least amount of DHA smell, because (according to their website) they use less of it and mix it into shea butter. It takes a few hours before you see results, but the results are natural looking, like the Jergens lotion (but with a better scent). Again, it’s not going to produce a deep, dark tan but will give you a nice summer glow. Now that I’ve typed this out, I think I’m going online to order some more!
L’Oréal Self-Tanning Water Mousse
L’Oreal actually has several different products including this mouse, a hydrating lotion, a serum, a spray, and towelettes. I haven’t tried all of them yet, but I gave the mousse a whirl last night, and so far I really like it. Unlike the Jergens mousse which produces instant results, this takes a few hours to develop. I put it on before bed and while it did dry fairly quickly, it left me feeling kind of sticky. The bottle claims it will not transfer onto clothing, but just to be safe, I work pajama pants to bed so I didn’t get it all over my sheets (which happened with the next product I review below). Again, like the others I reviewed, it produces that “natural” looking color without making you overly tan. I know with most of these products if you apply it daily, the color will intensify as you build it up (it’s not a one-time shot). The color did not fade after my shower, but my skin did feel a little dry, so I made sure to moisturize as well. I am definitely trying the Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Serum next and will update this post afterwards, as it has a lot of positive reviews online.
I was so excited to try this, and so disappointed with it. After searching online for sunless tanners with the least amount of odor, NKD SKN came up on a list. Apparently, they use some sort of “odor removing technology” so you don’t get that DHA smell. Verdict? Not entirely true. First, it has a rather odd scent right out of the bottle. I don’t even know how to describe it. The first day I used it I definitely noticed that there was no dreaded tanner-smell. However, the second time I used it, I could smell the DHA after several hours. I’m assuming the more you build up on your skin, the more you are going to smell it. But that wasn’t what disappointed me.
What made me want to return this stuff was the fact that it came off on my clothing and all over my sheets! I’m not talking just a little bronze here and there, more like there was some sort of weird crime committed in my bedroom! I applied this on a Thursday night, a few days before Easter, and did not shower until Friday morning. After my shower, I noticed that most of it had come off, so I was a little disappointed. I applied it again on Saturday evening and did not shower Saturday or Sunday, to ensure I had a tan for Easter. Saturday night, I wore pajama pants and a long sleeve dark shirt to bed, to make sure I didn’t get tanner on my white sheets. Sunday after Easter, I noticed that a fair amount of it had rubbed off onto the inside of my Easter dress, mostly in the back where my legs would be if I was sitting. I put stain remover on it and didn’t give it another thought. That night, I wore shorts and a white t-shirt to bed, and let me tell you how horrified I was when I woke up in the morning and saw it had covered my white t-shirt! It looked like I had sprayed tanner directly on my shirt (and it was my favorite Addidas t-shirt). I immediately went to my bed, pulled back the covers and couldn’t believe what I saw: tanner all over my white sheets. If it had been red, you would have thought a murder had happened there!
Luckily, a combination of Shout stain remover spray all over the stains, plus adding OxyClean to the detergent in my washing machine cleaned away all traces of the stuff. So, while it comes off your skin easily, it also comes off your clothes and bedding easily! I will not be using this stuff ever again.
Coola Gradual Tan Dry Body Oil
I wanted to try this out because it has lots of good reviews on Ulta’s website, and because I have been mainly using lotions and mousse products, I wanted to give a dry oil a try. I almost picked up the St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse, but again decided that trying the dry oil would give me more variety and also they are about the same price point. The first thing I noticed was the packaging. It comes in a heavy glass bottle that is packaged in heavy box, indicative of a higher-end quality product. It has a nice sort of tropical scent and the spray goes on lightly. I already had a “base tan” established from the other products I had been using, so I cannot give an adequate review of how evenly it goes on but judging from the feel of the oil and the smooth application, I would imagine it probably produces a streak-free result. I usually use a mit when applying my other products, but I was concerned the mit would absorb too much of the oil, so I used my hands instead. I washed them as soon as I was done and didn’t have any problems with orange palms. This did produce a little bit darker color than the other products I have been using but still not overly dark. I really like this, but I think long term, based on the cost, I would probably go with a less expensive product. This is a nice splurge, though. And, it’s organic!
Origins Faux Glow for Face
This came in a gift basket my daughter gave me for my birthday, so it’s a small sample size bottle. I’m always nervous about applying tanner to my face, so first I tested it on the inside of my arm to see what kind of color it produced. The first thing I noticed was the smell – not good. It sort of smells like a burned vanilla, and not the sort of thing I really wanted to be smelling all day long. It does produce a nice color, but instead of applying it directly to my face, I have been mixing it in with my daily moisturizer in the morning. This method has cut the scent, but has also made the color very faint and gradual (which is what I wanted). I probably wouldn’t buy this once it is gone, however I don’t think Origins is still making it because it’s not on their website and it’s listed as sold out on Nordstroms and Macy’s.
My daughter is a big fan of the St. Tropez line of self-tanners. They have several different products including a variety of mousses, lotions, mists, gels, in-shower tanners and more. They also sell mitts and primers as well as tan enhancing moisturizers and body polish. And, they have kits with samples of several different products if you want to try more than one. She likes this line of products because of the dark color guard that allows you to see where it’s going when you put it on for an even application. She also told me that it has a green undertone, so you get a natural bronze color without the orange. She also likes that it lasts so long – up to two weeks before needing to reapply. I haven’t tried this line because I’m relatively fair and I’m worried about looking too dark, but my daughter has assured me that I won’t so I may have to give this one a shot, too.
Do you have a favorite self-tanning product? Please share below!