What the best self-tanner does
- Gives you a
natural tone. The biggest complaint we see about various self-tanning products is
that it leaves the user with an odd, unnatural tint -- usually orange, but
sometimes brown or green. We largely ignore those reviews (unless there are
quite a lot of them) simply because that's more than likely not the fault of
the self-tanner. Products react differently on different skin tones and not
every self-tanner will work for everyone. What turns one person's skin a lovely
shade of gold may turn another's a sickly shade of green.
- Covers evenly. No one wants to
end up with streaks and uneven color when their self-tanner finally dries. The
best self-tanners go on evenly and smoothly. Many have tints that give you
immediate feedback as to where you've already applied it, making it easier to
avoid too much or too little overlap. Gradual tanners tend to be more
forgiving, while you have to be more careful with instant tanners. Also,
practice makes perfect, the more you use the product, the better you'll get at
applying it properly.
- Applies easily. Spray tanners
are some of the most difficult types to apply and there's a learning curve to
getting them just right. You also have to be careful where you're spraying so
your entire bathroom (or any other area where you use it) doesn't end up with a
light coat of "paint." Lotions and gels are the easiest to apply,
while foams and mousses may be a bit more challenging.
- Smells pleasant. Virtually all
self-tanners have some scent, but some have scents that are much stronger than
others. Keep in mind that scent is a highly personal preference. What smells
just fine to one person may be more than another can bear. In addition, we
found many reports of people who could not even smell their self-tanner, but it
repelled their significant other.
Know before you
is your skin tone now? If you have fair skin, you'll want to choose a
sunless tanner that offers a light shade or promises a gradual tan. If you have
darker skin, you may only see noticeable results from a medium/dark shade of
tanner. We saw many comments from those with darker skin that they saw
absolutely no difference when using a gradual tanner. Spray tanners also seem
to work best for darker skin tones, according to experts.
your skin type? If your skin is dry, a gel or lotion-based tanner is best, whereas
mousses and sprays are better for normal to oily skin. Wipes can work well for
most skin types. Many self-tanners now contain a moisturizer.
much time do you have? All self-tanners take a while to dry, but some are
quicker than others. In general, mousse-type tanners dry the most quickly, with
lotions and gels a close second. Spray tanners can take quite a while -- 30
minutes to an hour or two. Be sure you have time to dry off before you dress or
go to bed or it can wear off on your tan or sheets.
quickly do you need it? Instant tanners give you a quick burst of color,
but they take a few hours to fully develop. Gradual tanners can take days to
see results. One quick shortcut is tinted tanners, which can give the
impression of darker skin immediately -- though some tints tend to look
splotchy or fake before they're washed off. Bronzers give you an immediate
glow, but they are temporary and will wash off with your next cleansing.
you sensitive to fragrances? We can't stress enough how many different reactions
we see to the scents in self-tanners. We suggest that if you have any
sensitivities to scent that you sniff before you settle.
expectations: The dollars and cents of it
Although some drugstore
self-tanners are highly affordable, most of the top self-tanners are a bit
pricey per ounce, especially when you consider how much you have to use to
cover your entire body. In addition, what works great for one person may turn
another orange -- or the fragrance may be unbearable. One way to be sure that
you don't end up with your self-tanner collecting dust in the bathroom cupboard
is to request sample sizes. Almost every department store brand has sample
sizes available; this can help keep you from paying top price for something you
Useful tips for using
- Practice in advance. Don't decide to use a self-tanner for the first time a couple of hours
before a big event. We saw many tales of woe from those who decided to self tan
a few hours before prom or a significant business event. Plan in advance and be
sure the self-tanner you choose works for you -- because they don't wash off
and will take several days to fade.
- Wash your hands. Unless you want to end up with a "tani-cure," be sure to wash
your hands thoroughly after applying a self-tanner. Even if you use a mitt or
applicator pad, users say you may not realize you have gotten some of the
tanner on your fingers, which can result in a dirty nails look that's not
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Self Tanners | Best Tanning Lotion/Bronzer | Our Sources