The 14 Best Self-tanners
Photo: Courtesy of the vendors
Self-tanner is one of those categories in beauty that can either make your life much better or much worse.
Traditionally, the process is time-consuming (waiting hours to shower), takes commitment (weekly maintenance), and requires patience (splotches, bad odors, and a general mess are far too common), and runs the risk of turning you orange.
But the latest body tanners promise to develop fast, smell better, and keep your towels, sheets, and bathroom clean in the process — while giving you a realistic faux tan.
In pursuit of transforming my own pasty limbs, I experimented with self-tanners both new and old. I discovered that lots of modern formulas have some kind of scent, but most were innocuous, especially once I showered. I’ve found the drying times to be quick, the color natural, and the application processes pretty seamless.
The bottom line: There is something for everyone, whether you wish to wake up golden bronze or prefer to gradually build up your glow. Keep reading for the options that deliver (almost) instant sun-kissed skin, no UV rays required.
Disclaimer: Un facial tanners, which often contain pricey anti-aging ingredients, bronzing the body is about covering surface area. Just as you have to use different moisturizers for your face and your body, you should do the same with self-tanner. These products are for below the neck only.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Water Mousse
L’Oréal Paris’s coconut scent is good, and the product delivers quality results at a fraction of the price.
The water-based liquid pumps out as a white mousse and sinks in quickly without streaking or sticking to dry skin.
It takes about eight hours to fully develop, so I used it before bed and was pleased with a subtle glow in the morning. In warm weather I’d definitely apply this daily for several days to build up the color.
James Read Tan Coconut Melting Tanning Balm
This solid coconut balm smells tropical heaven, transforming from a thick paste into an oil the moment it hits the skin. Be sure to read the fine print on the tub advising to “Apply sparingly.
” I over-applied and had to blot the excess with a damp paper towel before I could get dressed. While the formula does not contain a bronze color guide, the clear glossy sheen ensures you don’t miss a spot.
The color took about six hours to show up, and the deeply moisturizing blend left my skin with a supple glow that’s usually reserved for vacation.
Jergens Natural Glow Wet Skin
This self-tanner works double duty delivering very gradual color and hydration to skin simultaneously. Apply the moisturizer to wet skin (this is important) before you get the shower; once it’s rubbed in, gently pat dry and you’re done.
The formula looks a moisturizer and feels one, and you’ll recognize the scent if you’ve used Jergens products before. Don’t expect noticeable color until day three, though. If the goal is to take your body a full shade darker, plan on using it for a week.
It’s definitely more of a commitment, but worth it if you are a beginner or have fears of waking up too tan.
St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mist
While no self-tanner smells as pleasant as James Read’s coconut oil, St. Tropez’s new continuous mist is a close second.
That’s because the company called upon the fragrance noses at Givaudan to create a floral powdery aroma that doesn’t make you want to hold your breath until it’s time to shower.
After misting and blending it with a mitt, you wait one to three hours before rinsing it off for a light, medium, or dark tan, respectively. It dries instantaneously so feeling sticky was never a concern.
I waited the full three hours, showered, and eight hours later my legs looked tan without a single streak — my own skin, only healthier. I would use this one when you want to look really tan all over your body. Since it’s a mist, it makes it easier to reach back areas, which are difficult with a lotion.
Coola Sunless Tan Dry Body Oil Mist
Coola’s self-tanner checks off all the boxes: zero mess, no strong odor, streak-free, and the color is noticeable and natural after one use. The oil formula is very dry and extremely lightweight, so it absorbed quickly without leaving behind a slick coating on my skin. Un St.
Tropez’s continuous mist, this one sprays out in little bursts, but also requires blending in circular motions with a mitt. It’s best for a short-lived glow as it only lasts up to three days, but considering the simple application process, reapplication isn’t a deal-breaker.
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad for Body
New York dermatologist Dennis Gross’s wipes are equally travel-friendly, but are specifically designed for use on the body (the brand makes separate ones for the face).
They offer exfoliation with the help of lactic acid and willow-bark extract and deliver a believable bronzy color that looks natural on even the palest limbs, mine. Apply the wipes in a circular motion and the color begins to develop in an hour.
In addition, the wipes have other beneficial claims, too, firming skin and slowing down hair growth. There’s a slight DHA-smell to them, but that disappears after the first shower.
Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel
Self-tanner junkies who have tried them all rave about Clarins’s gel for its natural, long-lasting, streak-free color. Rather than rely solely on DHA, this formula also contains another ingredient called erythrulose.
Whereas DHA darkens skin within hours, the latter develops two to three days later, helping to prolong a fake tan. What I d most about this gel is that it feels extremely hydrating while applying it, without feeling sticky some lotions do.
And it gets extra bonus points for being one of the few you can use on your face too.
Neutrogena Build-a-Tan Gradual Sunless Tan Lotion
If you’re already an olive-y skin tone, but want to take your glow up a notch, consider a gradual tanner this lotion from Neutrogena.
Un Jergens’s gradual option, which you apply in the shower, this one is a traditional lotion used on dry skin, so it is a little less messy.
The formula is quick to develop with coverage that you can see in two hours and dries in minutes. It’s easy to find in your local drugstore, and at $9, won’t break the bank.
Vita Liberata Invisi Mousse Foaming Tan Water
Vita Liberata’s foam transformed my legs several shades darker in one use. The full glow takes eight hours to develop, but once it does, the result lasts a week and fades evenly.
Thanks to a water-base and hydrating botanicals ( organic raspberry), there’s no need to moisturize before application.
With minimal prep and long-lasting color, this is a pretty low-maintenance option that’s made with 90 percent organic ingredients.
Pradas Glow Sol Solution Sunless Tanning Mousse
Kristyn Pradas was the pro responsible for giving Victoria’s Secret models their bronze bodies for the brand’s annual runway show (RIP). The color develops in one hour for a light radiance and can be left on for up to four hours to achieve a dark tan.
It also contains caffeine to tighten skin along with aloe and oils to give skin a glistening boost. Despite it being used for the Angels, it doesn’t make you overly dark. I didn’t feel a V.S. model, unfortunately, but my skin was a nice glow-y bronze.
Isle of Paradise Glow Clear Self-Tanning Mousse
Reviewers and fans of Isle of Paradise’s mousse to compare it to St. Tropez for its natural color. It’s available in three color-correcting shades: peach for a light glow on fair skin, green for a medium tan that counteracts redness, and violet for dark bronze sans sallow tones.
As someone with fair skin with pink undertones, I chose the green. I wasn’t sure about the “color-correcting,” but in my experience, the color was bronzy and natural, lasting for several days, albeit fading a bit uneven. My only major issue: The cucumber eucalyptus scent won’t remind you of DHA, but it’s strong, almost a Mrs.
Meyers cleaning product I use in the kitchen.
Tan-Luxe The Butter Illuminating Tanning Butter
If you’re looking for a self-tanner with benefits, this lotion from Tan-Luxe also claims to combat the appearance of cellulite. The buttery texture is courtesy of a blend of raspberry seed oil, aloe vera, and vitamin E.
As for the illuminating finish — a slight shimmery effect that you can see in natural light, users either love it or hate it. I thought it was very subtle.
My (very) dry skin was Über-hydrated after one use, and the glow I achieved looked subtle and realistic.
Sephora Tinted Self-Tanning Body Mist
It’s true that clear formulas won’t transfer or stain your clothing. Tinted formulas, on the other hand, ensure you don’t miss a spot. Sephora’s tinted option is also a continuous mist, which makes hard-to-reach spots your back achievable.
The application process is quick and the product goes on evenly as long as you spray it a continuous motion. Blend any areas that feel wet with your hands or a mitt. The results are deep and bronzy.
My skin appeared as if I had just returned from a long beach getaway, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Clean Tan Quickie Concentrate
Clean Tan’s self-tanning drops allow you to customize the process by controlling the amount of color along with the mechanism for delivery (i.e., body oil versus lotion). Follow the brand’s guidelines for one of four outcomes: light, medium, dark, or max, by mixing the directed ratio of drops to moisturizer.
The plant-based ingredient list includes black, white, and green teas along with cocoa, beet root, and caramel pigments. I mixed several drops into one of my go-to drugstore body lotions. I expected medium color, but in reality the tan showed up extremely light. The good news is, this is a safe bet for beginners or those with doubts about self-tanning.
And for those confident in their abilities, feel free to go for the extra drop.
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Amalgam Trend Spotting Archives – Kline & Company
As simple cleansing and conditioning of the hair is no longer enough, consumers are demanding a broader range of benefits from their hair care regimen. Hair care products with benefits such as hair hydration, scalp treatment, and fuller hair are on the rise, according to Kline’s digital beauty tracking service, Amalgam.
Colorful concealers, primers, and powders across the color spectrum, while not new products, are regaining momentum in the second quarter of 2018, according Kline’s digital beauty tracking service, Amalgam.Continue reading
Products that claim to provide instant results to satisfy the on-the-go consumer continue to climb the charts of Kline’s new digital tracking service, Amalgam, during Q2.
Many of the products that make an appearance in the top 500 of their respective product categories highlight the count of seconds or minutes it takes to see results in their product names, and virtually all of these products improve their score and rank from Q1.Continue reading
As consumers continue to integrate facial masks, particularly sheet ones, into their skin care routines, marketers are exploring new textures in their products. Jelly- products appear in the facial masks segment in Q2 and improve their score and ranking from Q1, according to Amalgam, a new digital tracking service by Kline.
Products offering glowing skin and sun-kissed, beachy hair sans days spent in the sand move up the ranks in Q2 according to Amalgam, Kline’s digital tracking service.
One of the top trends revealed by Amalgam is tanning waters, a new texture in self tanners. Several appeared for the first time in Amalgam during Q2, including Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water, St.
Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse, James Read Gradual Tan Coconut Water Tan Mist Body, and Vita Liberata Invisi Foaming Tan Water with Mitt. Ten tanning waters rank in the top 600 in sun care in June, up from just one in March.
Overall, the entire sunless tanning segment improves the score and ranking in Q2.
One thing stood out to our team as we walked the show floor at Cosmoprof North America last week—there were so many brands we had never seen before! As a firm that has been tracking the beauty industry for nearly 60 years, we had once prided ourselves on being in the know on every single brand.
Those days are long gone, as the sheer number of unknown brands seems to increase exponentially each year, not only on the show floor but also in the digital beauty space, as identified by Amalgam, Kline’s new digital beauty tracker.
Clearly entrepreneurship and innovation are alive and well.
The U.S. music festival season, which starts in late spring and goes into the summer, draws much attention in the beauty industry for inspiring some of the most talked about trends of the year.
Many beauty marketers are using the occasion to launch products specifically for these music festivals. Glitter and bold colors are among the makeup trends that are observed leading up to the 2018 festival season.
In 2018, Kline’s digital tracking service Amalgam finds that some of these new products are also some of the best-selling products online. Continue reading
Detoxing can be good for your body and hair! Hair? Yes, if you think about it, your hair is exposed to a number of things that affect its health: air pollution, hard water, chlorine, styling products, and even your daily shampoo. So, what can be done to rid it of these harmful elements and restore its luster? One answer is by using a clarifying shampoo.
What is a clarifying shampoo? It is a “super” shampoo with the ability to deep clean and cut through all the build-up. The frequency of usage will vary based upon how you treat your hair.
If you are a product junkie, use a lot of dry shampoo, or are exposed to water with chemicals then it might make sense to use clarifying shampoos once a week.
However, if you have color-treated or dry hair, using clarifying shampoo once a month may work best for you.Continue reading
The results for April have just been released from Amalgam, Kline’s new e-commerce tracking service. Several beauty items landed at the top of the charts for the first time. Here are some that caught our attention:
Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay has been inching up the charts since it first debuted in Amalgam last June. In April, it joined the top 10 for the first time, ranking #2 in facial skin care and #1 in masques.
This 100% natural calcium bentonite clay is said to be the “world’s most powerful facial.” Most recently, we’ve found this item only at Amazon among the sites monitored in Amalgam; in prior months, it was also found among Walmart’s top sellers.
Several professional skin care brands have products ranked among the top 100 sunscreen items in March 2018 reveals Amalgam, a new service by Kline.
EltaMD is a key performer in the sun care space with its UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 and UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 in the number two and three spots, respectively. Sun care products from brands Colorescience, Dermalogica, Murad, Dr.
Dennis Gross Skin Care, and SkinCeuticals also appear, including SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 and Dermalogica Solar Defense Booster SPF 50.
In March 2018, all of these products improve their rankings in the sun care segment compared to the month prior, with the exception of EltaMD’s UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40, which remains in the number two position for the third consecutive month.Continue reading
Go with the Faux: All You Need to Know About Spray Tans
05/01/2019 by azspagirl
The Spa Girls Faux-11 on everything NOT under the sun you need to know for a healthy faux tan.
Most trend spotters point a manicured finger at Coco Chanel’s fateful French Riviera trip for the fashionably tan craze. I blame Malibu Barbie circa 1971 (yes, I know I’m showing my age!).
Role playing with a deeply tanned, platinum blond bombshell made a lasting impression on my moldable mind, and I was among the early adopters to sport my orange QT tan with pride.
We’ve come a long way since then (hallelujah!) and today’s faux glow treatments and self-tanners would make even Malibu Barbie slather on the SPF.
Behold, your faux-11 to everything you need not under the sun for a bona fide faux glow.
Faux Glow Treatments
Not handy with a self-tanner? Leave your tan in the hands of the bronzing masters at these beauty spots.
- Organic Spray Tanning Treatment at Joya Spa at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia in Paradise Valley. This paraben-free self tanning spray is made with essential oils and natural healing ingredients. The custom tanning application gives your skin a natural, flawless finish.
- Airbrush Tanning at Bronzeology in Phoenix. No time to slip away for a tropical vacay? Look you did with a St. Tropez sunless tanning treatment from these tanning titans. Another top tanner: Arizona Airbrush Studio in Scottsdale.
- Sunless Spray Tan Booths at Bronzmopolitan in Scottsdale. Step in the high-tech tanning booth and step out a bronzed goddess. The system hydrates, bronzes and dries the skin in minutes.
Know Before You Faux
Spray tanning DOs and DON’Ts.
- DO exfoliate the day of your appointment and use only a light body lotion or skip it altogether.
- DO wear loose fitting dark colored clothing to your treatment.
- DON’T workout after a spray tan.
- DO bring a towel to sit on if you have leather car seats (trust on this one!).
- DON’T sweat (if at all possible!).
- DON’T shower for 6 hours after the treatment or better yet, sleep on it.
- DON’T panic. The spray tan solution can rub off around waist bands, sleeves and toes depending on the type of shoes you wear. But remember that most tanning solutions have a bit of bronzer in them, which will wash off.
- DO moisturize skin liberally after your spray tan to prolong the color.
Faux Home Products
With a little practice, self-tanners can build the tan of your dreams minus the streaks and orange hues of yore. Products to ponder:
- L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Clear Self-Tanning Gel. Spray it on, massage it in and your tan starts to develop in less than an hour. New from L’Oréal, this citrus-scented clear gel is paraben free. Pick it up at most drug and mass market stores for $10.
- St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse. Infused with aloe vera and a trademarked fragrance technology, this velvety mouse gives you subtle color without a hint of self-tanner aroma, $30 at sttropeztan.com.
- Anthony Logistics For Men Self Tanner with Anti-Aging Complex. This unisex, fool-proof formula nourishes skin with antioxidants and fruit acids while building a handsome glow, $30 at sephora.com.
- Hampton Sun Sunless Tanning Gel. For the discriminating sunless worshiper, this rich gel develops into a golden glow while leaving skin smooth and delightfully sniff-able, $32 at hamptonsuncare.com.
- Jane Iredale Tantasia Self Tanner. Apply this naturally tinted bronzer on face and body for a surge of hydration and touch of color that illuminates gradually with daily use, $36 at janeiredale.com. Read our review.
- GlowFusion Micro-Nutrient Face and Body Natural Protein Tan, Sunless Self-Tanner. No streaks, no stains, no odor and no greasy residue – just a rich subtle color that lasts up to two weeks without fading, $58 at sephora.com.
More self-tanning products.
Flawless Home Faux Glow
Follow these steps for a flawless self-tanner application.
1. Polish. In the shower, prep skin with an exfoliating body scrub, paying close attention to knees, elbows and ankles. Look for a body buffer or a non-oily scrub rather than a sugar or salt scrub, which tend to dissolve before you’ve thoroughly exfoliated. The more moisturizing the scrub, the more residue is left on your skin and the less the bronzer will absorb.
2. Pat. Dry off thoroughly and unless your skin is super dry, skip your daily body lotion application so the tanning product absorbs.
3. Practice. Self-tanner application takes practice. Apply the tanner in a circular massaging motion, working it over skin as evenly as possible. For fast-drying formulas, wash hands frequently between body areas or wear latex gloves.
Use a daily gradual self-tanner if you want to build a subtle, more natural tan and avoid streaks completely. If you’re a newbie or want the instant gratification tan, try a product with a touch of bronzer so you can see where you’ve applied product.
4. Buff. After application, wash the palms of your hands with soap and water. Use an old, dry towel to swipe around my feet, heels, toes, ankles and elbows where the tanner tends to accumulate.
5. Stay Dry. The worst time to apply a self-tanner is when you have any chance of sweating or getting caught in the rain before the formula dries. A safe bet is to apply your self-tanner is before bedtime. This gives the product plenty of time to dry and do its job. Slip into a loose-fitting tee or sweats and when you shower off the next morning, your tan is ready to roll.
6. Keep Calm. If you awake to streaks or blotchy spots, don’t panic. One quick trick is to mix the juice of half a lemon with 1 cup of water and dab the mixture on patchy areas with a soft cloth to lessen their appearance. Another option is to apply a second layer of self-tanner, focusing on blending around the patches or streaks.
Faux Tan Enhancers
Extend and enhance your faux glow with these product finds from sephora.com.
- Prep your skin with Dermadoctor’s KP Duty body scrub ($44). The creamy formula banishes dead skin cells with a chemical and physical exfoliant and leaves skin free of any oily residue.
- Extend your tan with a daily dose of Too Faced Tanning Bed in a Tube ($25), which has a slight bronze shimmer or St. Tropez Everyday Gradual Tan for Body ($30), which is clear.
- Enhance your summer tan glow with Laura Mercier Body Bronzing Makeup ($38), which has a touch of color and shimmer to bring out your glow.
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