Beauty Buzz: Self Tanners

Figuring out what self tanner is best for you can most definitely be a scary thing; just ask our staffers. We went ahead and tested over a dozen products in order to give a very honest opinion of what worked, and almost more importantly, what didn't. We tested a variety of brands at different price points, broke them into a face and body categories, pros and cons, and listed them ascending by price. We hope you enjoy our commentary, and learn from our little mishaps and successes so you know what to look for when buying self tanning products.

For the Body:

Dove Energy Glow Beauty Body Lotion

Pros: We love Dove products with a passion, and were relieved that we feel the same way about the Dove Energy Glow Beauty Body Lotions ($7.99-$9.99, Available in two shade options (fair to medium and medium to dark), we were quite pleased with the gradual results of this product. We saw visible results after slathering it on two days in a row, and by day 4, we had a deep glow that made us feel slightly less self-conscious in our high-waised short shorts.

Cons: Because this is a lotion, you really have to rub it in, and hang out while it absorbs into the skin. It is a tinge greasy, but tolerable, however we would never apply it and put clothes on immediately afterwards, for fear of staining them. Despite this, overall it's still a pretty effective, inexpensive option and there's plenty in the bottle to last you until the leaves fall off the trees.

Kiss My Face Instant Sunless Tanner

Pros: We thought it was pretty cool that this Kiss My Face Instant Sunless Tanner product included walnut shell extract ($9.99,, and followed in the company's mantra of no animal ingredients, artificial colors, or unnecessary chemicals. We were surprised to notice how deep the brown color of the sunless tanner was, and we were impressed with how quickly and how well it darkened our skin.

Cons: Because this product tinted our skin rather quickly, it has the tendency to also result in stained fingers and streaks on your various body parts. We recommend using a self-tanning mitt or sponge of some kind to apply it. If you're a newbie to the self-tanning category or are extremely pale, the results of using this product for the first time can err on the "blatantly obvious that you used self tanner" side if not applied very carefully.

Avon Skin So Soft Satin Glow Body Firming Moisturizer for Medium Skin Tones

Pros: The Skin So Soft Moisturizer ($10, has a nice subtle aroma, and we noticed that our skin looks well-moisturized and was glowing after only a few uses. Plus, for the price, you get a lot of product, which is really great (8.4 ounces, to be exact)!

Cons: Even if your fair-skinned we would recommend buying the product for medium skin tones because a greater difference is noticed. We tested the one for Fair Skin Tones, and the changes were so extremely subtle that it was very hard to notice on even our palest of staffers. If you're hesitant about using the darker of the two, try a test area first to see how your skin reacts.

True Blue Spa Strike Gold Self-Tanning Lotion with Bronzer

Pros: As someone who is certifiably afraid of self-tanners, we found this True Blue Spa lotion ($15, Bath & Body Works) to be a pleasant surprise; it's extremely light, so you can gradually color your skin, and it's almost impossible to slather on too much at once. Plus, the shimmer and initial tint make it clear where you've already applied, which means your skin won't resemble a leopard after use.

Cons: Serious faux-tan people may find the gradual tanning a bit irksome, as you will have to layer it on several times to achieve a dark color. Aesthetically, we didn't love the shimmer but it was useful for application and ultimately goes away.

True Blue Spa Glow and Steady Daily Moisturizer and Gradual Self Tanner SPF 15 for Body

Pros: Glow and Steady ($15, Bath & Body Works) builds toward a tan, opposed to instantly turning your skin four shades darker in a day (which is a good thing because the point is to make the tan look natural)! Give it some time and don't give up after the first day because eventually you will see glowing changes. We loved the fact that this self tanner did not have a bad smell, overpowering Banana Boat or chemical smell; in fact it actually smelled pretty darn good! Additionally, the product works as a sunblock, which means your tan will get a dose of double duty!

Cons: As mentioned above, it does take some time for the changes to take effect, so be patient. Besides the gradual effects, we really think it's a great product. Just remember to put regular lotion around your ankles, elbows etc. so that they don't get too dark (read: obvious that you haven't been spending all of your time in the sun).

True Blue Spa So Aglow Tan-Enhancing Shimmer with Monoi Oil

Pros: We were at first fearful when we saw the So Aglow Tan-Enhancing Shimmer ($17, Bath & Body Works) – it seemed a little too "tan overkill" for our taste, and nobody wanted to be covered in sparkles Thankfully though, this product is not as oily or greasy as we'd anticipated. The fragrance is light (a mix of coconut and orange), perfect for lazy days and post-beach days. The nice thing about it is that any skin tone can use this it and its mission is to just make the color you already have slightly more golden! Cons: There are just a ton of sparkles! If you dig sparkles or they don't bother you, go for it, but we felt that it wasn't so age appropriate for the above 18 crowd. Otherwise the product was great (Bath & Body Works – can you make us a sans-sparkles version please?).

True Blue Spa Shade to Order Select-a-Shade Gradual Tanning Body Lotion

Pros: This item ($18.50, True Bath & Body Works) is customizable and is an excellent body moisturizer, containing aloe vera and vitamin E – which made our skin feel well-nourished after a day of being in the sun. The lotion is white in color, which is a nice break from various shades of brown, and makes us feel more comfortable also using it on our face.

Cons: Once again, it can be a bit difficult at first to select the right shade for your skin tone with the customizable products, and we ended up going too dark! Also, it took a little while to absorb – good thing a new episode of Project Runway was on so we had something to do while we waited! We wouldn't recommend putting on this product and going out for the day – especially since it doesn't contain any SPF.

Bare Escentuals Faux Tan

Pros: This gel-like sunless tanner ($22, Sephora) gives you immediate color; there's no waiting around for your skin to develop like a polaroid. You know as you apply whether the color is right, just like makeup. The actual tan is also the most realistic I've seen. There are no hints of orange whatsoever.

Cons: The gel's ability to deliver on the pros is probably what gives it its only cons. Because of its immediate color, your hands will unavoidably be a mess if you apply without gloves. And, because the color is more brown than golden orange, the gel itself is frightfully mucky looking. That's only a momentary con though, because as soon as you slather it on, it's divine.

Solerra Sunless Tanning Mit

Pros: When we found out about the Solerra Sunless Tanning Mit, (8 applications for $36, it seemed like the perfect solution to self-tanning -- a smooth application of the stuff without getting your hands all discolored. Plus, we discovered that it had been allergy tested and included anti-aging essential nutrients. There was barely an odor to it, which we liked, and at first we felt like maybe we weren't getting enough tanning product since the mit was more like a wet wipe, compared to the self-lathering we had done with the other lotion/moisturizer-like products. Plus, you can swipe this on your face, a rarity in the world of self tanners. The end result? A seamless, smooth application, without any streaks and definitely noticeable, but subtle enough to look pretty darn close to natural!

Cons: Although this product did dry extremely fast, we were left feeling a bit sticky. This was a little unpleasant, so we recommend using the product before going to bed in order to avoid feeling like some Pepsi had spilled and dried on your leg in public.

Nars Body Glow

Pros: The Nars Body Glow ($59, Nordstrom) is made of Monoï de Tahiti oil, which comes all the way from (you guessed it) the South Pacific. It also includes pure coconut extract blended with the bud of the tiare flower. When we first heard the word oil we were a bit apprehensive, but actually It feels as if the oil is moisturizing your skin the second you apply it. Don't worry though about looking or feeling greasy -- the oil quickly dissolves into your skin and shortly afterwards your skin is glowing! It definitely does enhance your natural skin tones –- we swear by it!

Cons: Although the bottle gives the illusion that the product is shimmery and sparkly, it is infact not at all once applied. We were relieved at this too, since we are thoroughly anti-sparkle here at stylenotes! Also for the price, we would only use this sparingly and on special occasions; there's no way we would use it on a daily basis, which is a bit unnessary since its more of a rich oil instead of a self tanning lotion.

For the Face:

Avon Anew Rejuvenate Dial-A-Glow Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 15

Pros: The ANEW Rejuvenate Dial-A-Glow Anti-aging Moisturizer SPF 15 ($32, serves so many purposes, we can hardly count: sunscreen, moisturizer, anti-aging, and sunless tanning! We're one of those people that layer these products, so to have it all combined into one made us super excited. Plus, the dial a glow feature lets you customize your tan. Since it would pretty obvious if we went too dark on our face, we went for more of a modest shade (choose from one to four, four being the darkest), and noticed a very slight difference. Our face, which is normally dry, felt nice and moisturized, and we didn't break out from it in the upcoming days.

Cons: Sometimes with these customizable self tanning products its difficult to select which shade you should choose, which may take a little trial and error. When in doubt, go a little lighter than darker, and try it at that level for a few days to see how you like the effects. The bigger con in our eyes was the scent of the product; we found it to be way too overpowering for the face, and could smell it throughout the day. To us, it smelled like a mix between baby powder and suscreen lotion, which unfortunately lasted a few hours and made us want to either use less of the product next time, or give our wrists an extra spray of our favorite perfume to rival the smell.

Dior Bronze Sun Powder Spray

Pros: The Dior Bronze Sun Powder Spray ($60, Sephora), is by far our priciest option, but if you take self tanning seriously, you may find this to be the perfect product for you. The spray application results in a flawless finish, and the product is lightweight and absorbs easily into the skin. Available in two shades, we prefer the lighter one (light tan) as it's a safer year-round shade to use for our skin tones.

Cons: You'll need to do some "prepping" to use this product; you should pull back your hair with a headband and put a towel over your upper body to make sure none of the spray gets on your clothes. Because this is a spray, you can use it up rather quickly – which would be okay if it wasn't $60 for 2.3 ounces!

Now that you've heard the verdict on the latest sunless/self tanners, pick a few of the most-suited ones for your needs, and "get glowing"!

-- Stylenotes Staff

Note: there may be a way to make the items mentioned above an even better bang for your buck -- remember to search stylenotes for special promotions and coupon codes that may be applied to your order.

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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