Ah self-tanners. The one thing in life I have always, always wanted (after world peace and a million dollars, of course) is to be able to tan. I didn’t get over the trauma of growing up with red hair (omg the teasing was outrageous) until my early 20’s. All of my friends growing up had pretty brown skin and didn’t have to hide under a pound of thick, white sludge that smelled and my mother annoyingly re-applied what felt like every 30 minutes. Their skin showed dimension, looked better in clothing, and I just plain looked, well……dead….or at the very least, sick. Self-tanner wasn’t even a thing back then and when it finally started making it’s way into the stores, it was the most awful orange color and made you smell repulsive. Also, lucky for me, the times they are a-changin’ and I will be the one –hopefully–without skin cancer or resembling an old leather boot :+)
Thank goodness those days are behind us and the beauty industry has made leaps and bounds in the world of self-tanners. I base my final “YAY” or “NAY” on a few key things:
- Smell. I want people to think this is my natural glowing brown skin –I’m a blue-eyed ginger lady and fooling no one :+) I don’t want to leave a stench in the air of chemicals that sticks with me for days. If I reek, it’s not going to work out and the self-tanner and I need to break up.
- Application. I want a product that is easy to apply. It can’t be super sticky or goopy. Also, it needs to be able to smoothly apply and not dry too quickly so I can blend it. Blending it major when applying self-tanner so keep that in mind when purchasing a product.
- Color. You shouldn’t come out of this looking overly orange. Companies have really upped their game in DHA formulation. You are looking for something ranging from a subtle glow to a nice even brown. Please keep reading below so you never end up looking like you need directions to Willy Wonka’s factory.
*These will be listed in no particular order, but you will see from my level of ‘Love It’ to ‘Screaming Fan Girl’ which ones I adore and which ones I’ll take with me even in death lol….but seriously…
TanWISE Sunless Tanning Lotion– I find this one at Sally Beauty Supply and it is the most affordable of all the options. This one comes out of the bottle sort of green. Yes I said it…greeeeeen lol. You are not going to want to put this one on and then go out or go to work because when it’s applied, you look like you have played in mud and forgot to bathe. BUT -you gotta wait for the ‘but‘- the color pay off when you’re finished percolating and showered is ammmaazzziiinnngggg. You end up having a lovely medium brown shade and it doesn’t dry your skin out. The smell reminds me of cherry almond hand soap (which i happen to love!) and it is a lotion that blends well. (Don’t dilly dally with any self-tanner application time.) I was skeptical when I read such rave reviews about this product, especially since most of the products from the line come in at under $15. When I first started using it, the line only had this lotion, but now they make many formulations, including mousse, gel and spray.
Vita Liberata Luxury Tan Mousse– This brand is a more recent discovery, as I found it only in the last couple years. I am always on the hunt for the best of the best self-tanner so I don’t have to look like Casper at the pool and scare the kiddos into nightmares. This one has a technology that works with your skin’s pH to create a beautiful golden glow that gradually fades over time instead of looking like your skin is peeling off in bulk–Mystic Tan, I’m looking at you. I love how this tan doesn’t cause my skin to dry out like a lizard and have me poufing 1000 tiny skin cells into the air every time I remove my socks—erp, super gross…I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. It also contains ingredients like aloe and grape extract to soften and moisturize the skin. This doesn’t really even have a scent to note —as I’m opening the bottle for a sniff to remind me—maybe just ever so slight DHA, but otherwise unscented. The mousse is a tad bit more on the expensive side at $54 for 125ml of perfection, plus you do get a mitt! (Yippee…happy dance!!)
Josie Maran Argan Tanning Oil– I bought this one just before my trip to Europe a month ago–can’t have all of Europe seeing me at my palest, can we? Nope!–I have dry skin and the DHA in self-tanners dry it out even further to the point my legs look like the floor of the Mojave desert. This formulation uses Argan oil so you get the yummy benefits of Argan oil and the golden bronze look of someone not leaving everyone around you with sunglasses on indoors. While I have not typically been a fan of the Josie Maran line (no judgement, but it’s pricey and I expect top notch moisturization from my prestige products—I don’t have a money tree in my house, although I have been trying to grow one for some time now—comment below if you have any tips.) Anyway, this one only comes in one option for color but the results are mild so I wouldn’t fret on it being too brown. I am quite pale and it gave me a subtle lovely glow. It also smells just like her body lotion with ZERO –yes i said Z.E.R.O. DHA scent. I know right now you’re sitting in your chair (or car, I ain’t hatin’) thinking “Did she just say zero DHA scent??” Yes I did. You come out smelling only of apricot and happiness from this one. While this wouldn’t be one to reach for if you need a tan fast in a pinch that morning for an afternoon wedding, it will be the one I go to for when I want a natural glow and I have time to prepare. This one will run you about $38 for 129ml and includes a very nice mitt.
St. Tropez Tanning Mouse– Even your grandmother knows about this one, but that’s because it works! St. Tropez has been in my arsenal for years and will probably stay there until something knocks it out of the running–remember, I am always looking for the next best tanner. It has a formulation, look, scent, and payoff of the TanWISE I reviewed earlier, but for a little more money and I can find it almost everywhere. This helps me if I’m traveling and I either can’t take a huge bottle of self-tanner due to TSA –am I going to bronze people to death? Ok, yeah…probably! —Or this could work when I already applied a few layers before leaving home and I don’t want to make myself look like I’m color blocking but only in all browns. I like my tans to match. This line also comes in multiple formulations from mouse, spray, and lotions. It also has an in-shower lotion that you rinse off after a few minutes, but I have not found that one to work at all. I also do not care for their rapid version, as I did need it pronto and all if gave me as far as color was cream. It took me from extra super white, to cream. I use the dark version of the classic mouse, which will run you about $32-$42 depending on which size you choose and you have to purchase the mitt separate at about $7. If I could give a tip to St. Tropez (it’s only a tip because they clearly aren’t reading this silly little ginger lady blog), I would say to give us a free new mitt with every regular size bottle purchase. They are disposable and it’s just the classy thing to do.
Lancôme Flash Bronzer Spray- This is one that has been around for a while but I haven’t used the spray version in a couple of years and I’ll explain why in a moment. I bought this one for the first time years ago and was super skeptical but forged on. At that time, I hadn’t really used spray-tanners, only lotions—does this give you an idea of just how long ago this was?—and I was worried I would either get it all over the place or all over me (and not in a good way). Anyway, I found it incredibly easy to use. The nozzle is the easiest to push, sprays a lovely mist, and —get this!—-even sprays upside down!!! (I just squealed internally like a little girl!) You know what I mean when you think of literally any product you have had to get just at that angle and the friggin nozzle stops spraying because it is tilted just so and then you realize you’re screwed. It’s the worst. On top of being effortless to apply, the beautiful, gorgeous, tropical, just-got-back-from-a-beach-holiday glow you achieve is remarkable. It is oily of sorts, when you apply, so watch your step to not slip, but this helps keep the product from drying you out. It is completely nourishing. This is the product I go for when I have something major coming up and I have to have the best tan of my life. You will not get but a few applications from each bottle and, at the time, it was the most I had every spent on self-tanner –I’ve completely blown this stat out of the water by now lol. While I do not think they make the spray anymore, they do still have their lotions and the color payoff is sublime.
So those are my top 5 heavyweights. Comment below with your favorite self-tanners. I am down to stalk my newest tanning jewel!