Okay it’s summer, so what ever is a pale girl to do!? I still want to be golden bronzed for the hot months, but without having to lay out in the sun. My solution? Sunless tanning.
Being an esthetician, I know better than to lay out in the sun (especially knowing how my skin behaves), so I resort to sunless tanning. Whether it’s spray tanning or self-tanning, I’m all about the faux bronze.
Being a consistent self-tanner, I have experienced my fair share of AWFUL tans. I think I actually have fucked them up so many times that I’m starting to become a pro. #LearnFromYourMistakes. But with awful fake tans, comes awful fake tanning products. I’ve come up with a list of some of the most popular drugstore and high-end tanning products, and I’m going to tell you which ones are my faves, and which ones you should avoid.
Let’s jump right in since we have a lot to cover. Here’s my list for the best (and worst) self tanners.
Oh and also… I use a mitt like this to blend in all of these products, except for the Jergen’s Moisturizer and the St. Tropez Face product.
ST. TROPEZ EXPRESS BRONZING MOUSSE | $44
This product is an Allure Best of Beauty award winner and Allure Breakthrough winner.
TONE | I like the olive tones of the St. Tropez mousses – when they’re freshly applied (before showering). I do find that for me, the tone changes once I shower off the color guard (the guide color).
APPLICATION + FORMULA | St. Tropez is one of the best known self-tanning brand and grew a great reputation really quickly for having awesome olive-toned tanning products. All of their mousses blend pretty well and are easy to work with even if you’re a beginner.
DOWNSIDES | I truly love the color of this mousse when it’s freshly applied, but once I shower, I swear it just looks so yellow and I don’t know why. I always feel the need to reapply another coat in the mornings to fix the tone, but it just starts to look more yellow with each shower and the color that remains.
FINAL THOUGHTS | Don’t get me wrong, I like St. Tropez the brand, however something about this product and their mousses lately just haven’t been working the best for me. I honestly would reach for St. Moriz over this one, which makes me feel guilty because it was $44. I can’t say I’m going to repurchase this.
SCORE | 3 / 5
ST. TROPEZ CLASSIC BRONZING FACE LOTION | $30
TONE | The tone is there. It’s olive toned, but not too olive, and doesn’t look yellow at all.
APPLICATION + FORMULA | I typically use two pumps of this product and rub it in between my fingers and apply it directly to my face. I don’t tan my face usually, and with constantly washing it and applying makeup, my face is always lighter than my body. This product is more of a thicker cream, and has an olive color-guard. It actually looks similar in color and consistency to the Banana Boat Summer Color.
DOWNSIDES | Well, for one, I don’t notice anything. I don’t notice a tan at all. I put it on every night before I go to sleep, and wake up and hmmmm my face is still white… I just don’t feel like it does anything at all, which is a huge bummer because this shit was NOT cheap.
FINAL THOUGHTS | Honestly, don’t waste your money. I could not believe this was $30 (I found out as I was purchasing it). For $30 for that tiny of a product, you better be able to work some magic. No magic here. Though I like that it’s formulated specifically for the face and is non-pore blocking, it doesn’t do much good to have a $30 face tanner that doesn’t actually tan your face. Save your money.
SCORE | 2.5 / 5
ST. TROPEZ IN-SHOWER SELF TANNER |$25
I actually already have an entire post dedicated to this gradual self tanner, which you can read here.
BANANA BOAT SUMMER COLOR | DEEP DARK COLOR | $7-$9
TONE | The tone is on point for a drugstore self tanner. Usually drugstore tanners are very yellow and lack the olive tones that you typically find in a higher-end product. I would say this is smack-dap in the middle of an olive shade and a yellow shade. It’s a nice tone.
APPLICATION + FORMULA | It has a slight tint to it, so you can see where you’re putting it. It’s also a lotion rather than a mousse and blends out very easily. Typically with lotions I just apply then with my hands, and with this one you definitely could, but I tend to prefer to apply the tinted products with a mitt.
DOWNSIDES | The only true downside to this product is that it’s light. The shade I always use is the Deep Dark Color ( I believe there’s also a Medium shade), and it doesn’t make too much of a difference on me. It seems more like a gradual tanner that has a slight tint to it (and you’ll learn how I feel about gradual tanners shortly).
FINAL THOUGHTS | I honestly feel like this is one of the best drugstore self-tanners there is on the market right now, especially for the price. This would be a really great product for someone who is new to self tanning.
SCORE | 4 / 5
JERGENS NATURAL GLOW + FIRMING MOISTURIZER | Medium/TAN | $9.99
TONE | I like the tone of this product. It’s certainly not an olive tone, so just keep that in mind and avoid this product if that’s what you’re going for. It’s very sheer and even the Medium/Tan shade on me barely shows up after a week of application. I would recommend this product for those who either wan’t only a tiny hint of color, or who already have a great base tan. This product isn’t going to turn you from a printer paper shade into a bronzed Latina goddess, so just keep that in mind.
APPLICATION + FORMULA | This is one of the products that I don’t typically use a mitt to apply (although you can). I usually just smooth it over my skin when I get out of the shower or before I go to bed like I would my usual moisturizer. You just have to be sure that you are applying an even coat, and not neglecting any areas to avoid streaks since there is no color guard.
DOWNSIDES | A big downside for me (and with any gradual tanner really) is the fact that they don’t get dark enough. Gradual is great, but by the time I can actually finally start to see the color on my skin, I feel like the stuff I applied previously is already awkwardly fading off.
FINAL THOUGHTS | If you enjoy gradual self tanners (which I don’t), you’ll like this product. I also like that it has the added firming properties (does it actually firm? Who knows). Especially for the price tag, I think this is a great option that not only gives you a little wash of color (and I mean little), but still moisturizes your skin at the same time.
SCORE | 3 / 5
BONDI SANDS SELF-TANNING FOAM | ULTRA DARK | $24
TONE | This one is a close second to the St. Moriz Fast Tanner above. The tone of the product looks nice on the skin. It’s pretty olive-y, but not overly so to the point you look green if you’re very fair like me.
APPLICATION + FORMULA | I’ll just tell you right off the bat that this product is a little tougher to work with. Actually the very first time I ever applied it, I hated it and washed it off immediately. The second time I tried it, it wasn’t so bad, and now I think I’m getting the hand of it. It’s sticky… so just a head’s up. The directions tell you to work in long strokes instead of circles.
DOWNSIDES | The product itself is hard to blend and if you’re a single person who doesn’t have a nice and kind boyfriend to apply the product to your back, then good luck. I also felt like as I was blending, I was blending product away that was already on the skin.
FINAL THOUGHTS | Though I did enjoy this product, I just don’t think I would go out of my way to repurchase it online. I also purchased a back applicator and it was no help whatsoever. This product is truly best applied in upward or downward stokes, and not blending in a circle. It goes streaky very easily and then the streaks stick around once the product is dried. This is a tricky one, so if you’re new to self tanning, steer clear of this mousse.
SCORE | 4 / 5
ST. MORIZ INSTANT SELF-TANNING MOUSSE | DARK | $12.99
TONE | The one is okay. It’s pretty olive-y… I actually started mixing this tanning mousse with the Fast Tanning Mousse that has the tone that I like better just to use this one up.
APPLICATION + FORMULA | Similarly to the Fast Tanning Mousse, this product blend out pretty easily. I am able to apply it to my back and blend out the streaks unlike with the Bondi Sands.
DOWNSIDES | The tone is really the downside for me. I even feel like this self tanner stays on longer than the Fast Mousse (damnit) and doesn’t just wash off in the shower, but I always have to mix it with something else to avoid looking green (and dirty honestly).
FINAL THOUGHTS | I can’t use this product alone in the morning before putting on my makeup because no matter how hard I try, I just cannot match my makeup to the insanely olivey shade that is this self tanner.
SCORE | 3.5 / 5
ST. MORIZ INSTANT SELF-TAN LOTION | DARK | $12.99
TONE | I will warn you that St.Moriz’s products do not all have the same tone. I just recently learned this. Some of their tanning product are much more olive/green toned, and some have hints of more of a red olive tone (which I like better). This product, along with the Instant Self-Tanning Mousse have that more green/olive undertone which actually looks pretty unnatural on me since I’m so fair. It actually makes me look green.
APPLICATION + FORMULA | Now, it’s OKAY. For some reason I found the lotion (which I thought I would actually like better than the mousse) to be more streaky than the mousse St. Moriz formulas.
DOWNSIDES | I found this product harder to apply and it went on more streaky than some of the other formulas listed here. I also don’t like that SUPER olive tone. It makes me look too green and it is also incredibly hard to match to makeup (don’t forget to consider you have to match your face and your body!)
FINAL THOUGHTS | I’d avoid this if you can and try the mousse instead. If you are going for that severely olive undertone, go for the St. Moriz Instant Self Tanning Mousse. But if you’re more fair like me, I’d give the Fast Tanning Mousse a try.
SCORE | 2.5 / 5
ST. MORIZ PROFESSIONAL FAST TANNING MOUSSE | $12.99
Okay I can’t hide it. This one is my favorite. But it has it’s downsides too.
TONE | Out of all of the self-tanning lotions I have tried (and that’s a lot of them), this one has my favorite tone. It’s not too yellow, and it’s not too olive (where you start to look Green and then it fades to yellow), but instead, it almost has a hint of red. Now don’t freak out…it’s only a hint. But to me it makes the tan look WAY more natural. It’s an olive tone, don’t get me wrong, but that hint of red makes it look so much more real.
APPLICATION + FORMULA | This is a mousse formula and it’s incredibly easy to blend. Well…more so than any of the other products listed here.
DOWNSIDES | Okay I told you there was going to be a downside to this product even though it’s my favorite. I don’t feel like it stays on. What I mean by that is, I usually apply it in the morning after I get out of the shower an it looks great all day (until I inevitably sweat it off during my evening workout) but when I shower more than 10 hours after applying it, I feel like there isn’t any tan left. Like, it all washed off. I wish I could apply it in the evening, sleep with it on, and then wash it off in the morning and have a beautiful deep bronze afterwards. No such luck for me. This is one I have to build up for several days (applying a layer each morning) to get a color I’m happy with. Then by that time, the product beneath it is usually starting to wear off.
FINAL THOUGHTS | This sunless tanner is definitely my favorite that I’ve tried so far, especially for the price. I love the tone and how easy it is to apply with a mitt to the body. It’s easy to blend and looks like a very natural tan. I do with that it stayed a little better on me so that I didn’t have to apply it to often.
SCORE | 4.5 / 5
ST. MORIZ INSTANT SELF TANNING MIST | DARK | $12.99
TONE | The tone of this product is great and it looks a lot like the St. Moriz Fast Tanning Mousse that’s been my favorite so far. I’m not sure why St. Moriz has two tones (one having a tint of red – which I like – and the other being more olive) of its products, but this one has the tone I prefer.
APPLICATION + FORMULA | It’s pretty easy to apply, don’t get me wrong, but the I also wouldn’t say that it’s a super fine mist. I either spray the product directly on my body and then blend it in with the mitt, or I’ll spray the mitt before applying it to my body. Either way, you have to blend this stuff in.
DOWNSIDES | I just wish that the St. Moriz line lasted a little longer on the skin. I find myself having to apply it just about daily to maintain my color, because it seems to just wash off in the shower. I typically reach for mists when I don’t want to blend something in, but with this, it’s not fine enough to the point where you can just spray yourself and go. You’ll look like a leper.
FINAL THOUGHTS | I’m happy that this product has the same tone that I like in the St. Moriz line, however I was pretty bummed that the mist wasn’t more fine and I still had to blend it in with my mitt. This product does make it really easy to get a quick tan.
SCORE | 3 / 5
ULTA BEAUTY BRONZE GLOW SELF-TANNING TINTED MIST | $10.99
TONE | It’s very yellow. There is nothing olive-y about this product. If you already have an olive skin told or a deep skin tone, I think you would be able to get away with this, but for my pastey ass, it’s too yellow looking. I look like I have jaundice.
APPLICATION + FORMULA | It’s very easy to apply, and the mist is very fine and not splotchy. It also has a weird self-tanner smell to it. I often prefer if the self-tanner is scented with something that way you aren’t walking around smelling like DHA all day long.
DOWNSIDES | IF you haven’t already figured it out, it’s the tone of the product. I’m always hesistate to pick up any Sephora or Ulta branded self-tanners because I just don’t feel like they every get the tone right.
FINAL THOUGHTS | This product is meh. The price is nice, but I just am not a huge fan of this product and I was kind of bummed out when I tried it. It doesn’t match the olive tone of my other self tanners, so I rarely ever reach for this one. It did explode in one of my moving boxes a few weeks ago and at that moment, I was actually thankful it wasn’t darker like the rest of the products I’ve mentioned so it didn’t create that much of a mess, but for a self-tanner, avoid it. Just pay $2 more to get the St. Moriz if you’re in a pinch.
SCORE | 2 / 5
Phew – that was a long list! Glad you made it until the end!
Which self tanning products are your favorites?
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