Memorial Day Weekend is just a few days away and summer is definitely here (although I’m not sure what happened yesterday with that rain storm in New York!). Presently, I’m enjoying (?) 105 degree weather in Palm Springs and so today I wanted to chat about self-tanners. I personally love being tan. I know not everyone feels the same way (and some of the prettiest people I know are pale year round!) but to me a good tan can make you look thinner, and you can skip makeup way more easily when you’re tan. That being said I’m all for safe sun. I’ll lay out here and there but always with SPF, and I think the best tan is a fake tan that no one can tell is fake.
With that, I have tried sooooo many self tanners. You know me – I love trying out new products…. it’s one of the best parts of the job! I’ve tried self tanners that smell terrible, self-tanners that turn me orange… I’ve had ones that didn’t work very well and left me looking like I had a weird skin disease after a few days. It isn’t always pretty. But we’re not talking about that today.. we’re talking about the good ones today!
First things first! Let’s talk about prep work, because you can’t just go slathering this stuff on without doing a bit of work first. The biggest thing is that you need to do a good job exfoliating before applying self-tanner. This ensures an even application, and also makes your faux glow last so much longer longer. I’ll usually exfoliate all over with a coffee scrub and use an a body lotion with fruit acids the day before, and then exfoliate with the coffee scrub and shave my legs the day or night I apply the self-tanner. You want your smoothest possible skin before applying self-tanner!
St. Tropez is sort of the gold standard when it comes to self-tanning. They’re constantly innovating (I mean, hello in-shower gradual tanner and self-tanning sheet mask!!) and the classic bronzing mousse is one of my all time favorite self-tanners. It goes on really evenly, dries almost instantaneously, and it’s tinted which means a) you can see where you are applying it so you don’t mess up, and b) you get an instant glow. It also – in my opinion – smells the best out of self-tanners. Let’s be honest, once self-tanner develops, they all smell pretty bad. The smell is caused by the DHA reacting with your skin (turning it tan) so if it doesn’t smell, it may not doing it’s job. This will get you nice and glowy and the smell is minimal. If you use the bronzing mousse, you are going to want to get the mit too as your hands will soak up the product and turn brown. Another blogger told me that she lost her mit and used a panty liner which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. You could probably also use a microfiber sock but just be prepared – the sock will be ruined!
I should mention that I have not yet tried the sheet mask but I can’t wait to! I will report back in full detail once I do. It’s happening this weekend, that I’m sure.
Every time I use L’Oreal Sublime Bronze, my friends ask me where I got my spray tan (or where I went). It looks SO good. It’s far and away one of the best self tanners out there, and at a drugstore price point, too! I started using it right after college (back in 2004) when being really tan was in but I had started to worry about skin cancer and wrinkles. It goes on very evenly (aka it’s idiot-approved) and the formula smells really good… a little bit like oranges. I like the medium one as it makes me look like I’ve been at the beach for a week. I will say that it says “quick-dry” but I usually have to hang out without clothes on for a good fifteen minutes… it can be a little sticky. For that reason, this one is best applied before bed (you can totally get away with applying the St. Tropez after your morning shower). That’s literally the only bad thing about it, otherwise it may be the best $12 you’ll ever spend.
For those looking for a natural option, COOLA’s products (70% organic) are the best natural self-tanners I’ve found. The self-tanning face serum is super hydrating (it also contains Aloe + antioxidants) and leaves skin looking super radiant. It also smells amazing (like vacation – coconut and pineapple!) For more subtle results you can mix a few drops into your daily moisturizer.
The dry oil mist (for body) smells just as good and is kind of addicting as it makes your legs immediately look really pretty… all shimmery and super-model-y… you’ll want to use it before a night out (I wouldn’t – it smells good when you put it on, but as color develops there still is a bit of odor.)
And I know I rave and rave and rave about Dr. Dennis Gross’s products but I just love how convenient and portable they are. I use his Alpha Beta Peel Pads for body almost every week. They’re kinda your one-stop shop for summer skin as they inhibit hair growth to minimize shaving, exfoliate, firm, and self-tan. And they contain anti-aging ingredients. GENIUS. He just launched these gradual glow peel pads (perfect for everyday use) and I love the super natural (but buildable) results… like Jergen’s but fancier and with anti-aging ingredients.
I don’t like to tan, but I did enjoy looking at some of your recommendations. Love the packaging of COOLA!
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
I know, it’s really pretty!
So helpful! Quick question: how do these hold up to working out? Whenever I get a spray tan, I can’t workout because I will get the craziest lines from sweat/rubbing (like sports bra tan lines). I normally only get them for special events and never thought about an at-home tan because I like to workout 5-7 days a week. Thanks!
I don’t have a problem! Honestly, I think spray tans also contain bronzer which is the problem… use a clear formula and you should be good to go!!
I’ve always wanted to try self-tanners. I’ve always loved tanning by going to the beach because catching some sun is healthy and everybody needs it but I hate that I’m constantly worried about the dangers of too much sun exposure. Besides, tanning at the beach is only fun for the first few days, then it just gets boring. Not only that, my tan would fade away quickly and by the time October rolled around, I’d be back to being a pale almost transparent shade of white haha I’ve heard amazing things about Coola and St. Tropez, I’d love to try them out.
You should give them a try! If you are really, really pale, a gradual tanner might be the best option (like the Dr. Dennis Gross pads)
The Coola options look incredible! I have been waiting for a more natural alternative to come out that actually works and these look like they might be just the thing. Will have to try!
Aw good! I love both! xx
this is awesome timing- i have been reading reviews all month!
do you use the st tropez and loreal ones on your face?
summer staples under $40 on my blog today!
I do use both on my face. I know I could use something else specifically for face but have never had an issue!
I’ve been wanting to try those Dr. Dennis Gross pads! They seem to do just about everything you’d want a self-tanner to do. However, I just got the St. Tropez gradual tanning lotion and even though I’ve only used it once so far, I’m liking it a lot. It doesn’t smell too bad and seems to be giving a good, natural glow.
Thanks for the recommendations!
Briana | youngsophisticate.com
They are amazing! Like everything you need in a pad!!! I keep hearing things about the gradual tanning lotion (you are the second commenter to suggest) and am going to have to pick up a bottle!
Great post! Have you tried tan towels? They’re my obsession. Curious to try L’Oreal’s too.
I have! I don’t love them as much as the ones I mention here but they are good too!!
Oh I’ll need to check these out! I’m naturally pretty tan, but as I get older I’m weary of spending tons of time out in the sun to up my bronze! I especially need to checkout the Coola! My mom has allergies to corn and I wonder if that one, with the organic ingredients, might work for her!
I agree. I like a little sun but will always slather on the SPF – it’s just so dangerous!!!
Ok, yes! I love your beauty/skincare posts. And also love being tan…! I always use the St. Tropez Gradual Tan Classic Body Lotion and since I am fair I use the light/medium, and have had great results. I actually just got the Dr. Dennis Gross gradual glow peel pads as a sample at Nordstrom and cannot wait to try! Xx
Oh good, I am so happy to hear that!!! I haven’t tried their gradual lotion but I love everything they make. Hope you love the Dr. Dennis gross pads as much as I do!!
Any thoughts on how long the St. Tropez mousse will keep for? I bought mine a few years back (2015) and am worried to try it again (but there’s so much product left!)
You know, I have no idea! I would probably just spot test it and see how it does BUT I don’t want to give you bad advice. I have a contact at the brand and just sent them an email. I will email you directly and comment here as soon as I hear back! xx
Okay I heard back from the brand! Her response is actually really interesting!! 🙂 Keep in mind it doesn’t technicallllly come from the brand 😉
good question! Normally on the back of the bottles you’ll see a little number which is basically their shelf life… technically we would not recommend using something that is older than that date but between you and me, if they pump the product and it comes out brown then its fine…Self tanner turns bright blue if its expired so that’s one tip but that’s coming from me, not the brand.. we always recommend doing a patch test so she should put a little on her skin and wait 24 hrs…if her skin is fine then it’s ok to use!
Hi! I just got the Dr Dennis Groth pads to try. Any tips for applying?? Thanks!
Make sure your skin is clean (and smooth – exfoliate!) and then just rub the pad everywhere. It’s pretty fool proof (doesn’t streak, etc!!) you shouldn’t have any issues! Happy tanning! 😉
love this post, grace. i too love a faux tan and get airbrush tans in the summer quite frequently. i want to try the coola products – they sound incredible. although pricey, my current favorite self-tanner to prolong my airbrush between visits is la mer’s gradual tanner. the benefits of la mer but with a very subtle and build-able color!
I have heard great things about the La Mer! xx
Great article! I absolutely love self tanners. St. Tropez is one of my top as well! Those are all pretty great brands- If you’re interested in testing out some others, I have a bunch of suggestions for my favorites on my site!! Check them out if you’re interested. 🙂