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Self-Tanners (Tried, Tested and True)

I was a recovering daily tanning bed-aholic after 10 years and in 2006 started to experiment with self-tanners so my white legs wouldn’t get lost beside that darling white-picket fence.  Needless to say; and positive I am not alone; that when shopping for a self-tanner it is very overwhelming!

So the sampling began and from streaky looking legs when lying beside the pool to looking like a pumpkin face at the next family wedding, I became insanely obsessed in finding at least ONE tanning lotion that I could call THE ONE.

Self-tanners have developed a long way even since 2006 and just in the last 2 years, what a difference gradual lotions and instant tanning have come!  If you are new to this self-tanning business, let me break down the difference and how certain self-tanners work.  Save you some grief girlfriend!  This is only opinions from my experiences and if you’re using a certain brand, please keep in mind this is not about YOU, it’s about the products!  I find learning from someone else’s experiences good or bad gets you to where you need to faster!

Gradual Lotions – your daily moisturizer that has a built-in tanning agent that over a period of several days develops into a tan.  Couple of my favorites that I liked and found didn’t have a “stench” to them are in the following order of best to least:  Jergens ® Natural Glow Firming Daily Moisturizer.  The bonus and key word is “firming” and I enjoyed the way it blended nicely around my elbows, knees and feet.  Olay® Quench Plus Touch of Sun Body Lotion – Medium/Dark was second best if they were out of the above.  Runner-up was Dove® Energy Glow Daily Moisturizer.  Only problem is you would have to start using these lotions a week before that engagement or wedding you’re attending that weekend!  Usually after day 5, if you’re a runner like me…. your ankles and tops of feet are looking a little “muddy” as the sweat is melting your tan off.

Instant Tanning Lotions– not a daily moisturizer.  Repeat: NOT a daily moisturizer. This is a tanner that has a built in color to see where you are applying and then showers off within 4-6 hours leaving behind a beautiful-well blended tan.  My absolute favorite is Fake Bake® Tanning Lotion.  Apply like a heavy duty crème with gloves, work a little of your daily moisturizer around the elbows and knees to soften the tan there, let air-dry for 20 minutes, dress into comfortable and baggy sleepwear  and it shouldn’t rub off on clothing or sheets ( unless you sweat in your sleep!). Rinse off in the morning. My absolute favorite at this moment!  Don’t have to wait for a few days- only a few hours and has zero smell.

Tanning Gels/Mousse – I have YET to find a gel that blends so amazing and doesn’t end up streaky.  My worst experience gel was Clarins Paris Self-Tanning Instant Gel and I never wanted to show off my legs in shorts for that summer of 2006!  But it has been years so it’s up to you for a trial session!

Instant Tanning Sprays – These tans usually last 7-10 days unless you’re a sports enthusiast or swimming too much, it will for sure be lesser days! I have had 3 different types of a spray tan.  #1 would be having a professional spray the tan on which I enjoyed as you can control how much color you want here and to add more there.  So for those white legs, I usually get them to spray the legs once more than the rest of my body.  #2  Do-it-yourself from an aerosol can in your bathroom.  We used the Fake Bake Airbrush Tan a few times. After spraying one back, we were choking on the heavy film in the air AND it left a brown film in every corner of our spa-white bathroom!  But the tan looked pretty good!  #3 would be a tanning machine at a tanning salon such as TanFx. State of the art equipment and if your shy about having someone hose you down then this is perfect for you.  Before I found the first two listed, I would pay big bucks to go stand naked, barefoot on a cold floor of a spray tan machine where the spray would move up and down in between you changing directions so the tan would get every angle.  During those sessions, the fumes from the spray tan were so thick and holding my breath in between the spray cycles, I always left with a sore throat.  Small price to pay to look that great afterwards!

Whatever sunless tanning option you choose be sure you follow the instructions that are provided.  My rule of thumb is exfoliating day or two before any sunless tanning application, apply a nice heavy unscented moisturizer hour or two before the sunless tanning application (that goes for the gradual tanning lotions too!)  Always moisturize that tan and take care of it, especially around the elbows, knees, ankles and tops of feet. Continue to hydrate your skin morning and night once the tan has settled in. Nothing worse than a crackling tan in weird spots!  Never exfoliate right before your sunless tanning session as you may end up with sensitivity and break out with tiny bumps everywhere…… I have experienced that too!

Good luck and Happy Sunless Tanning!


Trena Laine Makeup Artist, Skin Care Expert

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