best self tanner

One of the most asked questions I get from you guys is… about self-tanner! I’m very open about using tanning products basically all year long. I live in California, therefore having some color in October isn’t unusual around here.

I have some of my favorite products in the FAQ of this blog (lots of helpful info there!), but I wanted to dedicate a full blog post to the topic because I still get asked pretty regularly.

Judging by this assortment, which is literally just what I have on hand… you might say I’ve tried quite a few brands. First, I do want to share that I have olive skin. These products work well for me on olive skin. If you are fair or have never tried self-tanner, I would definitely read reviews first to try to pick something mild to start out with.  One of these products I would definitely recommend for you but more about that below!

loreal sublime productsjergens gradual glow foam self tanning product


If this ain’t your first rodeo:

L’Oreal Sublime | My girlfriend, Emily Loftiss, was the one who got me hooked on this stuff. She is a TV host and always has the best glow. One time I literally thought she had just gotten back from vacation and she told me it was L’Oreal’s self-tanner. I’ve been hooked ever since! I use the towelettes, lotion and airbrush spray. Love all three.

Tarte | I tried this for the first time after getting a free sample and loving it. This stuff works really well, but I would definitely make sure to use a mitt! I once used it without one and even though I washed my hands well, I still had those awesome streaky hands that really reveal what you were up to.

Bondi Sands | I just connected with Bondi Sands recently and received and amazing goody box with all kinds of products to try! So far, I really, really love it. Because I’m olive skinned, sometimes self-tanners just don’t feel like enough color. I’ll have to apply two nights in a row to get the color I’m going for. Not this stuff! I applied just one night before bed and was bronzed all week. I really love the foam tanner, but all of their products are the real deal.  Also available on Amazon!

If you’re dipping your toe in the self-bronzed world:

Tanning Mitt | If you’re not experienced in applying tanning products, you must get a mitt. Honestly, I consider myself a pro and I still prefer using this mitt. It even comes with a baby one that I use for my face! After a few applications, I just it throw it in the wash with my dark clothing.

NKD Skin | This is a great gradual tanning lotion that I would definitely recommend to beginners. A natural, slower building tan that is pretty much fool-proof.  They also now sell a pre-shower tanning product that looks really interesting!

Jergens | I feel the same about about this product as above. Great for someone who is a little more fair-skinned to build natural, gradual color.

Kate Somerville | I love their tanning towelettes. I will cut one sheet into four sections and use one section at a time for my face.  I am ALWAYS wearing a hat or will apply SPF30 to my body and SPF50 to my face, so my face is always a shade (or two) lighter than my bod. Enter a great towelette to solve that problem.

St. Tropez | There’s a reason this is so many people’s #1 tanning product of choice. If you just glance at the reviews, you’ll see that it’s a great product. I have it in both full and travel-size, and it’s also a great foam application (use your mitt!).

And that’s my self-tanning diary revealed!  I hope this deep dive into my tanning drawer was helpful to those of you looking to get some color at a fraction of the time AND without any sun damage to your skin. I mean, call me Mariah Carey, but I literally thank God that there are so many tanning products available to us now.

My mom use to use Sally Hansen on her legs when I was growing up… because that’s all there was. Now we have SO many options, and we can get that summer color without stressing about SPF levels, sunburns or skin cancer. I’m all praise hands to the self-tanner game, y’all.

If you have a tanning product you love and swear by, I’d love to hear it! Thanks so much for reading and sharing – XO –

48 Comments|See Comments

48 thoughts on “Guide to Self-Tanner

  1. This is super helpful! Question, does the Loreal one come off on your clothes? I love to wear white tops and sometimes, self-tanners I have used in the past rub off on to my clothes and I hate that. Looking for a self tanner that doesn’t do this. Thanks so much! xo

      1. Re: Loving Tan :: The 2hr express is no bueno, but the Deluxe Bronzing Mousse in “ultra dark” is eeepic. Dries fast as so you won’t stick to the bed if you use it at night, ya feel? It’s an Australian brand so we know it’s La G. Stoked to do the face towelette cut into four squares trick. #Brillz

  2. Great post! I love how in depth and detailed you got in this post. I’ve never tried any tanning lotions before but I have my eyes on the Jergen’s. I’ve heard a lot of great things about it.


  3. I’ve tried the L’Oreal towelettes before but got them all over my hands. How did you avoid this?

    1. Oh no! I just wash my hands afterwards and have never had a problem. Maybe you need to use a stronger soap to wash your hands?

  4. These are great, thanks for sharing! Do you have a favorite that you feel doesn’t smell (or smells the least like self tanner)? That’s always my biggest issue with self tanning.. I’m super sensitive to smells. I have used loving tan for the past few years and love it for special occasions! I would definitely recommend trying it if you haven’t already. I switch between the 2 hour express in dark or the 8 hour in ultra dark 🙂

  5. You’ve got to try Eco tans self tanner products!! They’re certified Organic and vegan and give an awesome color. They’re also great spray tan extenders that I recommend to my clients. Before you move to SF you need to come get an Organic Beauty Spray Tan ❤️

  6. Thank you! Have been dying for this post! Question: how often do you use the towelettes on your face? xo

  7. Have you tried the Rodan and Fields one? A friend sent me a bottle recently and after trying (almost) everything else this has been my favorite! No streaks & builds within 2 hours! My go-to, especially when I forget until the last minute lol
    Love this post though, v great tips!

  8. If you have applied the self-tanner and then you go on vacation within a few days of applying the tanner, do you use regular sunscreen or a tanning oil? Do you reapply the self-tanner on the trip?

    1. I think you can apply any sunscreen and be fine. I’ve never seen an issue! I think tanning on the trip is just a personal preference. I’ve never done that but there’s no reason you couldn’t –

  9. Hey!
    Do you ever use a mitt when applying the L’Oréal spray? If not, does it ever get streaky on you?

  10. I have pretty fair skin and I noticed your reccos for us pale folk are Jergens & NKD skin. Personally, I don’t prefer the smell Jergens leaves on my skin…. Does NKD smell good?

    1. I’ve found that every self-tanner I’ve ever used has a smell. It’s just one of the cons of tanning products… but some people here have said Loving Tan has less of a smell!

  11. Love this post! I also use St Tropez and L’Oréal Sublime, but I do get nervous with applying to my face. Do you recommend spray, foam or towelettes for face tanning? Any other face tanning tips? Thank you!!

  12. You always look flawlessly tan! I live in waaaaay southwest Arizona and it is literally too hot to be outside so self-tanner is my best way to get some color in the summer. I tried the L’Oreal towelettes the other day and I did a very streaky job. Any magic tips for using the towelettes and not leaving random pale patches?

    1. I’ve heard someone else say that too. Unfortunately I’ve never gotten streakiness from it before so I don’t have any great tips. I just make sure I’ve covered all of the area and it usually works out well!

  13. 2 that I have used for a long time and LOVE are banana boat gradual self tan lotion and there are 2 different colors depending on time the time of year and I using. Second is Fake bake flawless self tan liquid It is the most believable dark tan color and is easy to use. Thank you for your post! I can’t wait to try some on your list!

  14. Love this post! Such great information, I have been self-tanning for a few years now and have yet to try a mitt – it is now in my cart! I’ve tried a few of the self-tanners in this post and have similar sentiments. I will add that I LOVE the Ulta brand spray tan. It comes in a foam and gel as well. The foam and spray will give you the best lasting color. They recently introduced a mitt as well, again, I am a rookie when it comes to mitts but I am on it!

  15. Loving tan has been my go to for a few years now. I get the 2 hours dark express foam. It is so convenient to not sit around in fake tan all night like the good ole days. I want to give the L’Oreal one a try! So many people with an amazing looking tan are using it!

  16. I recently tried the St Tropez “ultra dark” mousse and I also have olive skin. All the other ones I have tried were too light. I’ll definitely have to check out the Loreal Sublime one. Thanks for the recommendation.

  17. Any tips for just using the tanner on areas that rarely see the light of day?? I tan easily so I don’t want to add self tanner to the rest of my body but I don’t want it to look patchy. I just wanna get rid of these horrible tan lines. I’ve also got olive skin and there’s a big different in the color between my tummy and my arms.

  18. Thanks for the list — long time reader, first time commenter!! I’m a total St Tropez loyalist. However lately I’ve been trying to get into clean beauty products, etc. Do you know what ingredient lists are like on these self tanners? Any “clean” ones you reccomend?

    1. Someone has actually recommended one in the comments above, I believe! And thank you for taking the time to comment – I always love hearing from you guys!

  19. I have never used self tanner before. I have darker skin and I tan really easily (I rarely lay out to tan) but I’ve noticed that my legs are like 10 shades lighter than the rest of my body. I’ve been thinking about using self tanner for a while. There is one question I keep coming back to : what about my back? Do you use self tanner on your back? If so how do you apply it ? If not, does it matter ?

    Thank you for such a great article. I’m totally going to jump into self tanner this summer!

    1. I don’t use self-tanner on my back but I’ve never noticed a big shade difference and it’s never been a problem! I think if you have darker skin you’ll be the same.

  20. Hi! Love this post. Do you purchase your L’Oréal sublime online or can you find it cheaper in the store?

  21. Thanks for the tips! Having such a fair complexion it is so hard for me to get a self tanner to last. I try to prep my skin. But I’m not sure if I’m using the right products…any recs for best way to exfoliate and best moisturizers?

  22. THANK YOU! We just got back from Hawaii, and I’m trying to keep this tan going!!!

    P.S. thanks for all of the amazing Hawaii recs. You went a couple weeks before we did, so all of your tips were so helpful when planning our trip! 🙂

Comments are closed.