Meg: Do or Don’t: Self Tanning

I will openly admit that as a senior in high school I regularly tanned in a tanning bed. Thinking back on it, the month or so I spent fake-baking would never be worth some of the consequences we know result from those harmful UV rays. As a fair skinned and freckled girl, I should have known better. When I look at my prom pictures from that May in 2008, I laugh at how crispy brown I was. But as the sunny weather begins to creep up on Arizona in the next couple of months, I don’t want to be stuck wearing jeans for fear my legs will blind the world! The safest/most practical solution I could come up with: self-tanning. 

I can honestly say I know next to nothing about self-tanning, so I did a little research and wound up on Cosmopolitan’s website. Their magazine just happens to be a favorite of mine, so I figured they’d be a pretty credible source 🙂 Self-tanning is typically much more affordable than spray-tans. Not to mention, my last spray-tan left me a strange shade of Oompa-Loompa-Orange. Not cute.

In order to get a lovely spring glow in time for “shorts weather” I figure starting now gives us all time to try out a product or two and find something that works for each of us.

Here are three products that especially caught my eye. Their benefits vary, of course.

For a more natural product, Nature’s Gate Glow lotion is a great choice. This will give you a fairly gradual glow. Nature’s Gate is a lotion, and you would just apply daily as you would any other lotion. Again, this process is gradual, so if you wanted to go from pretty pasty to bronze goddess in one day, this is not your go-to. (All below photos borrowed from Google Images).

Photo 1

If you’re looking for something more temporary and easy to wash off, Victoria’s Secret Flawless Airbrush Beach Sexy spray is a great option. It’s also only $12! It washes off easily with soapy water. One YouTube review said it leaves little to no residue on your hands. This sounds perfect if you only need a temporary glow.

Photo 2 1

Lorac Self Tantalizer Body Bronzing gradual Self Tanner can be found at Sephora and is said to give you the perfect natural bronze look. A major up-side to this one would be the mitts it comes with. They help you to buff out the product leaving perfectly even! Pretty amazing.

Photo 3 1 

My favorite product recommendations ALWAYS come from your comments! So please, let me know what you’ve tried. What has worked/failed/kind of worked? Or should we scrap this idea and get a spray tan?

Life’s tough decisions, eh? 😉


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  1. Lindsey Giles on January 12, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I really like Jergen’s Natural Glow Daily Moisturizing Lotion. Only downside is it has little glitters in it which I’m not a fan of. But I really like the color and it only takes a few days to get a bit of color.

    • Amanda M. on January 14, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      I like the Jergen’s too, but it has a weird smell to it for me.

      • Fitnessista on January 14, 2013 at 5:10 pm

        same. i use it, but i hate the smell

  2. Laura on January 12, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    My favorites are either origins the great pretender which has a little sparkle in it or st.tropez self tanner, which can be a little pricy!

  3. Jenn on January 12, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    St Tropez Bronzing Mousse is the best, and I’ve tried almost everything!!!

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 12, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      I agree with a few others: The St. Tropez line is the BEST I’ve come across so far. It smells wonderful and doesn’t streak. I haven’t used it during my pregnancy, as it (as well as most self-tanners on the market) aren’t natural in composition. If anyone finds a chemical/paraben free tanner that actually works and doesn’t smell horrific, it would be a miracle!

      I must admit, I have tried the Victoria’s Secret shown above and was sadly not a fan! Although it smells great, I found it to be really thick and comes off on clothing.

      • Staci on January 12, 2013 at 10:03 pm

        St.tropez tanning mouse is what i use!!! I love it and I use the mits to apply. It is a bit pricier than some but worth it for sure…make sure always exfoliate before. I use st.ives apricot scrub

  4. Kali on January 12, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    Strike Gold by True Blue Spa (sold at Bath and Body Works) is the BEST self tanner I have ever used. I use to dance in college and the coach required for us to be tan at all times for games, appearances, and competition. I tried every sunless I could get my hands on. This one smells good and is nearly impossible to apply streaky. They no longer sell it in stores, but I stock up on it using Ebay (and for a better price) And for quick, temporary tans, I use Sally Hansen’s Airbrush for Legs (works well all over though). It hides flaws like minor scars, broken blood vessels and even bruises.

  5. Lauren on January 12, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    My favorite self-tanner is definitely Tan Towels, I buy them at Ulta or HSN (for a better price) and they do a really great job of giving a natural tan that matches everyone’s own skin tone (I’m super pale and a lot of bottled self tanners leave me unnaturally tan and people notice..not in a good way). I also definitely use the daily/gradual lotions like Nivea or Jergens on a regular basis in the summer. And Sally Hansen’s Airbrush for days I forget to tan and have somewhere special to be!

  6. Amelia on January 12, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    St. Tropez mousse is my favourite!

  7. catherine c. on January 12, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    I like Dr. Dennis Gross skincare self-tanning towels and Kate Somervilles! Both available at Sephora and both are GREAT for your skin!!! 🙂

    • Sarah&makingthymeforhealth on January 14, 2013 at 11:24 am

      I love Kate Somerville tanning towels. They are great on your feet where it is so hard to get even color. I just wish they weren’t so expensive!

      • Allie J on January 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

        I’d agree- Kate Sommerville tanning towels are awesome! Realistic looking even for someone who typically only gets a darker shade of white in the summer 🙂

  8. Abby on January 12, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Nivea actually makes a self tanner that I love! It gives you a nice glow but more importantly it doesn’t stink!

  9. Michelle on January 12, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Love this post! I too was a fair-skinned freckled tanning junkie in high school and have already had some precancerous spots removed. I stopped fake baking years ago and have tried tons of self-tanning alternatives. I have to say, although St Tropez is popular, I did not like it at all. It was way too brown for my fair skin (literally it looked like dirt).

    I wandered into ULTA a couple of years ago looking to try a new self tanner and at the advice of a salesgirl I walked out with a Banana Boat product ( even though I was prepared to spend more. I can honestly say it’s my favorite tanning product. It is really creamy, rubs in like lotion, doesn’t smell terrible, and the color lasts for almost a week and fades really evenly. Also it’s only $6-7. Another tip: I get the medium/dark and it’s not too dark for my fair skin.

    Good luck!!

    • Maggie on January 19, 2013 at 4:28 pm

      I agree! This Banana Boat product is what I use (when I can find it) smells fresh as well! I also use Loreal sublime bronze, but it can streak if you are not paying attention.

  10. Amanda on January 12, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    I’m afraid to stray from my jergens self tanner. I love it so!

  11. Rachel on January 12, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    I too spent many hours in a tanning booth loving the golden brown I was turning so quickly… But have sine stopped and haven’t been in over a year. I have tried the Victoria secret tanner but I would advise you to mix it with your regular lotion because it can sometimes be a shade orangey.

  12. Sally on January 13, 2013 at 12:24 am

    I use Nature’s Gate and love it. The medium shade is perfect for me, and it’s not too orange. It adds good color without smelling terrible.

  13. Kate on January 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Meg – you have beautiful pale skin – embrace it!

    I too have pale freckly skin and unfortunately used tanning booths and would let myself burn just to get a nice glow. As a result, two years ago I had stage 3a melanoma at the age of 30. Our culture is so focused on being tan and how that indicates looking healthy when in reality any sort of tan is bad for your skin. I say us pale skinned girls embrace it and be proud of our skin color – you don’t need to be tan to be beautiful!

    • Meg on January 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      Preach it! I hope you are fully recovered. It’s hard when girls are young and think they are invincible. Pale is beautiful, too!

  14. Cassie on January 13, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I have tried Jergens and am not a huge fan of the logon and thought it was too streaky. L’oreal sublime bronze is a spray that I’ve been using and really love for the price, but I only use on legs so far. Great to hear everyone else’s experiences!

  15. Sarah on January 13, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Jergens ALL THE WAY. I get super dark, super quick & it lasts for weeks on me!

  16. Bek @ Crave on January 13, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Join the club- i’m a pastey white girl with freckles. I rely on fake tan because sun burns me and I can’t go to a Solarium and do that to my body. Plus who can afford professional fake tans all the time?
    I use a Dove gradual tanner for moisturiser and a gradual tan. Palm’s Cocoa Butter is also good for this and is a bit darker because it doesn’t have different shades for different skin types.
    For fake tan that is the real deal I use Le Tan, I really like the foam.

  17. Liz on January 14, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Do you use any self tanners on your face, or do you just stick with bronzing powder? I’m never sure whether I should apply my jergens to my face…I don’t want to break out but I also don’t want to be mismatched.

    • Bonnie on January 14, 2013 at 9:33 am

      Jergens actually makes a self-tan product for use on the face (I think it’s called Natural Glow Face). I haven’t tried that one, but I think it is designed to not cause breakouts.

      • Katie on January 14, 2013 at 7:58 pm

        i LOVE the natural glow for face! i have mixed feelings about the body lotion.. but i put on the face moisturizer every other night before i go to bed and it keeps my face from looking like casper’s!! if i use it regularly i don’t even need bronzer.

  18. Natalie @ freshlifefindings on January 14, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Ha you talking about your high school tan days reminded me of mine 🙂 I totally regret the times I did in high school and college! Sooo orange, haven’t used self tanning cream yet so definitely want to try it 🙂

  19. Kath on January 14, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Please please please post your reviews once you have tried some of these. I would love to hear what you think!! I have only triend the Jergens and I hate it… smells terrible and after a few days I just look like a dirt ball. I have been too scared to try anything else!

  20. Jessica on January 14, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Or we could all try to embrace our natural skin tones. Those of us with creamy complexions shouldn’t be made to feel like we have to tint our skin to be considered attractive, any more than people with darker skin tones should ever be made to feel that they have to use bleaches and lighteners. I fail to see what self-tanning has to do with healthy living.

    • Brigid on January 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      Amen! Ain’t no shame in being pale, and it certainly beats skin cancer or applying chemicals to your body.

  21. Dani @ Live Lightly Everyday on January 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I used to go to tanning beds three times a week in high school and I totally regret it now! I too am super pale with naturally very dark hair, so the pastiness is definitely a downside! I have used Jergens tanning lotion before, and that is probably the best one I have used. Although, I am not a fan of the smell. I also do spray tans when needed, but again…the smell isn’t the best. I always just try to get out in the sun as much as possible to get some sort of natural color before summer really kicks in!

  22. Carrie on January 14, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Hi there! Take a look at Clinique Self Sun. It’s a really good department-store self tanner that’s actually reasonably priced. I basically use this year-round.

    I found out about it at They have a bunch of good info and reviews on self tanners.

  23. Lesli on January 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I am super pale, and after a long search for the best self tanner, I found Fake Bake Flawlesss. I love it! It is a spray, and comes with a mitt and gloves, which makes it super easy to apply. It looks very natural and a little goes a long way. I bought mine on Amazon.

  24. Marysa on January 15, 2013 at 2:23 am

    I LOVE Lorac’s Tantalizer. It’s worth the price tag. You will notice an instant glow as soon as you put it on. At the same time, the product is light enough that you don’t need to worry about looking streaky or missing a spot. I’d highly recommend it!!

  25. Yvette on January 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I like Faux Tan by Bare Escentuals. They have two products. A regular self tanner that you apply and have an instant tan. It is a very natural looking tan — not orange. It lasts almost a week and fades away very naturally. Some other fake tanners sort of begin to look like threadbare fabric and don’t fade evenly. Speckly color is not pretty.

    They also have a Faux Tan moisturizer that is similar to the Jergen’s product, in that it slowly adds color each time you use it. It also creates a nice, natural tan that is more subtle. I find this is better when you just want to tone down the glow-in-the-dark syndrome on an as needed basis or at the beginning of the season. However, if you want to go for the tan look, it is more high maintenance to apply it every day than to just go for the instant tanner.

  26. Stephanie on January 17, 2013 at 1:13 am

    Rock the beautiful pale skin you were given. All of those chemicals in self tanners are not good for our bodies, and the need to conform to some absurd beauty standard isn’t good for our psyches. Focus on exfoliation and intense moisturizing and you’ll be rocking gorgeous creamy skin that is just as enviable as a tan. Scratch that! More enviable. Much more.

  27. Carrie R. on January 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    L’oreal Sublime Bronze in Medium works for me…I only use it on my legs, as I don’t like to bake in the sun, but I like to wear shorts without scaring people lol. I live in Florida, and I don’t use it all the time, but sometimes I like a little more color.

    It is a bit glittery/tinted, but it helps application-impaired people like myself to make sure we put it everywhere…the glitter washes off with your first shower, but the color gets a little darker, and on me it typically lasts 3-4 days. It smells pleasant going on.

    The most important thing is to exfoliate and wash your hands as you go…I scrub them with liquid soap mixed with a little epsom salts so as not to have tan mitts… 🙂

  28. Karen Barnett on November 5, 2015 at 1:21 am

    That is great list. I like self tanner. I found any self tanner on : There a a lot of informartion and reviews.

  29. Trista on May 6, 2017 at 5:49 am

    I often take self-tanning with the Lorac Self Tantalizer Body Bronzing. It’s quite safe and I really like the feeling when applying it. Thanks for giving more helpful information!

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