When it comes to self-tanning, choosing the wrong product for your skin tone or getting too much color at once can lead to drastic results. A gradual tanner is a popular way to ease into the process, getting a little bit of color each day and controlling the tint over time. Some reviewers say that it can take up to a week to see the full results. However, with gradual sunless tanning lotions, the products apply just like a daily moisturizer, which makes application simple.
While department store brands tend to dominate the instant self-tanner market, drugstore products are more popular for gradual tanning. The two products that stand out in this category based on user reviews and professional recommendations are both made by Jergens: Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer (Est. $9 for 4 oz.) and Jergens Natural Glow & Protect Daily Moisturizer Sunscreen SPF20 (Est. $9 for 4 oz) . The two are remarkably similar, but there are some nuanced differences.
When using a gradual tanner, the top priority is natural-looking color and blending. In general, most gradual tanners do a good job of looking natural, since results are so subtle, but there are some standouts. Both Jergens products are available in two shades, and MakeupAlley.com reviewers say both look natural on their skin tones. Some reviewers don't like the added shine caused by mica mineral present in the formulas, but they're happy enough with the tanning results that they're willing to overlook it.
Users also factor odor into the equation when choosing a gradual sunless tanning lotion. With Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer having a longer review history, it appears from reviewer comments that they've noticed a difference in the low-odor formula, a recent change to the product . Most users have no problem with the new scent, though some still can't tolerate it. Pro testers generally say the product is practically odorless. The same is true of Jergens Natural Glow & Protect Daily Moisturizer Sunscreen SPF20. Users agree the smell is pretty mild, though it can grow stronger throughout the day.
Most users prefer not to put on a separate moisturizing lotion, prolonging their daily routine, but moisturized skin can prolong the life of a faux tan. Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer and Protect Daily Moisturizer achieve this, reviewers say. Beauty expert Paula Begoun says both are decent moisturizers apart from their tanning results. She says Glow & Protect is a good moisturizer for normal to slightly dry skin, while Jergens Daily Moisturizer is "more emollient than most (sunless tanners)."
There is one other notable product in this category: Nature's Gate Glow Lotion (Est. $14 for 16 oz.) , which touts its use of organic ingredients and eschews potentially damaging parabens, fragrances and several other ingredients. The product receives generally high marks from consumers, although it is prone to streaking. Allure editors say the product has a "warm, nutty smell," and nearly all of the users who offer reviews agree that this formula doesn't smell like typical sunless tanner. However, some find the fragrance overpowering.
All of the aforementioned products do have drawbacks, though. For example, they take a considerable amount of time to dry -- about 10 to 30 minutes per application. Jergens Natural Glow & Protect also gets a dressing-down from beauty expert Paula Begoun, who says the lotion does not include ingredients that would provide broad-spectrum protection from the sun's UVA and UVB rays. In addition, to achieve the full SPF 20 promised, the lotion has to be applied generously, which may result in uneven tinting.
All things considered, Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer gets the nod as our Best Reviewed gradual sunless tanner because it comes highly recommended from users, beauty editors and industry experts. Since it's been on the market longer than Jergens Glow & Protect Daily Moisturizer Sunscreen SPF20, it carries more clout across the board as the best gradual sunless tanner, and delivers on all its promises.