I was never the girl that could catch a good tan and I would like to personally thank my Eastern European heritage for this amazing gift, haha.
When I was in middle school, spray tans hit the market. Back in the day you would go to the tanning bed (I don’t think I ever called it a tanning salon lol) stand in this booth butt naked, and this machine would tell you where to put your feet and when to turn. THEN this ultra fine mist that smelled like goldfish would spray you from top to bottom. Back then, the only color options were Cheeto orange, red clay, and “did it even do anything?”. This was also the same time that Neutrogena Micromist became a thing. I will say, I used this stuff constantly and in excess it was gross, haha. Back then it smelled horrific and don’t even think about waking up in the morning without your sheets looking like a bag of Cheetos exploded.
It wasn’t until years later that I feel like brands started to figure out just what the heck-n-bob they were doing with the smells and shades. Now, the formulas may have changed, but my inability to curate a natural tan has not. Therefore, I can say with confidence that I have tried almost every self tanner under the sun (this might be an exaggeration but you get the dealio). So with that said, I am going to share with you this wealth of very important knowledge including some self tanner application tips and tricks!
Tips & Tricks
Put lotion on your ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and hands AFTER you apply the self tanner. Why? It basically blends it all together. Lotion does not work the same way a “buffer” cream used to work in the Mystic Tan booths! I used to put it on beforehand, it didn’t work and my knees looked like they had faces.
Exfoliate really good the night before, apply your product in the morning and let it sit alllll day. Then, rinse it off at night because you don’t want to go to bed with any residue.
Now let’s move on to the fun stuff. Here is what I have to say about some of the most popular self tanners, the best (and worst) of what I’ve tried so far!
Self Tanner Breakdowns
Sol by Jergens Water Mouse – My 100% Favorite!
- Color: BEAUTIFUL bronze color and is buildable without getting patchy – with most self tanners, you need to completely remove the first layer before applying another or else it looks patchy
- Color Range: Medium, Deep
- Scent: Smells like heaven. Period. It has a super light perfume smell but absolutely ZERO self tanner smell
- Consistency: It is a water mousse so it’s super light weight and clear, plus there is no residue so you wont transfer to your sheets and you won’t watch half of it come off in the shower
- Price: Budget friendly – on Amazon now for $15! (usually $20)
- Final Thoughts: I usually apply a full body layer and 2-ish days later apply another layer and the color is beautiful, sooo bronze and natural. I seriously use this stuff like three times a week. This is a great go-to option as an every day self tanner perfect for all seasons but especially during the colder months when you don’t want to look unnaturally tan considering you’re not laying out in the sun every day
L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Water Mousse – second favorite
In general, this performs almost identically to SOL by Jergens but wanted to call out a few differences:
- Color Range: Medium only
- Smell: A bit more of a self tanner smell but still faint
- Price: Budget friendly – only $11
St. Tropez Express Bronzer + Bronzing Lotion – Favorite combo
- Color: Beautiful color, a super natural bronze with just one layer. Has instant bronzer in the mousse so you’ll notice a more tan appearance instantly
- Color Range: Medium, Dark and offered in an Ultra Dark shade which is great
- Scent: Light self tanner smell but not too strong but the bronzing lotion does have a more harsh self tanner smell
- Consistency: If you don’t like that sticky feeling that some lotions leave on your skin, the bronzing lotion might NOT be the option for you because it is stick and stays sticky
- Price: $30-$44
- Final Thoughts: With this one, I usually exfoliate the night before, apply a layer in the morning and shower that evening to remove residue. For the next couple of days I top with the bronzing lotion and usually use this combo heavily during the Summer/Late Spring. The combination of bronzer and lotion is beautiful and perfect for Summer when you’re out in the sunlight a bit more often. QVC offers a bundle so the tanning mousse + bronzing lotion for $54!
Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Clear Mousse – Major favorite
- Color: Really pretty with nice deep coverage, only a slight orange tint but it’s not bad
- Color Range: Light, Medium, Dark
- Scent: Still a heavier self tanner smell but not NEARLY as bad as the lotion and drops, this actually smells really pretty. Plus, the different shades come in different scents which is cool
- Consistency: Another clear water mousse which I love because it’s sooo light weight.
- Price: $29
- Final Thoughts: I would say this is a higher end dupe for the SOL by Jergens and that the color lasts a bit longer before I have to reapply another layer. So this is great for year-round wear but especially for when you’re heading out on vacation or away from home for a week. You know, you want to keep your tan but also don’t want to take the time on vacation to have to reapply, let it dry, etc. I love this stuff and would definitely recommend!
- Color: The foam itself is tinted so you immediately get an idea of the color. This is a super pretty bronze color but I do think if you don’t have a bit of color on your skin to start it can appear a little bit orange
- Color Range: Medium, Dark
- Scent: Heavier self tanner smell but not too bad
- Consistency: Tinted foam that will transfer to your sheets if you don’t wash off the initial layer
- Price: $60
- Final Thoughts: I loved this, in fact this was my favorite until I discovered St. Tropez and the only reason this moved to second place was because of the smell and transfer. But, I would use this in very similar circumstances to St. Tropez so Summer/Late Spring. For me, it’s not a year-round type of gal.
- Color: Uhhhh, I personally was not impressed. The color was there but in the shade medium I didn’t notice a big woohoo. BUT, I have seen pics of girls using this in the shade Dark and it is very pretty so I wonder if it would have performed better had I gone that route
- Color Range: Light, Medium, Dark
- Scent: STRONGGGGG self tanner smell and this is 99% of the reason I am not a fan of this. The smell is just so strong like super fake self tanner. Which is interesting because the reason I scooped this up in the first place was because I was influenced on Instagram by other bloggers raving about how great it smelled and how it didn’t smell like self tanner. No ma’am.
- Consistency: This is a lotion and drop combo, so you add the drops to the lotion. So the consistency is lotion, haha
- Price: $50
- Final Thoughts: I don’t use this, haha. BUT if you can get past the smell and purchase the dark, I think its genius because you can control how much coverage you want by how many drops you apply to your lotion. So for example, I gave it a two week test and would squirt some of the tinted lotion into my hands and then drop 2-3 tanning drops to the lotion. Then you just apply like lotion. The downside of this is that if you forget to wash your hands you’re screwed because you’re applying this directly into your hands and not on a mit. The other cool thing about the drops though is that you can apply them to your daily face lotion and it can be used to tan your face. HOWEVER, the smelllllll y’all. It’s right under your nose and it’s so intense. My final thoughts? Not worth the hype whatsoever.