Self Tanners: My Favorites and Reviews

I used to work at a tanning salon...for more years than I'd like to admit. Now I know better, and am 100% against tanning beds and wear sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) when I am out in the sun all day. Tanning beds not only ruin your skin, but increase your melanoma cancer risk by 75 percent, if you use tanning beds and sunlamps before 30 years of age, according to this recent report by the CDC.

75 percent- such a scary number. I haven't used a tanning bed since moving to Houston almost 3 years ago. I just don't have an interest in aging my skin and increasing my risk of getting skin cancer. I am so passionate about this subject, that I preach to anyone that will listen. With tanning beds out of the question, I had to look for other options to amp up my porcelain pale skin. I find that having a tan evens out my skin tone and makes me feel thinner and more toned. So instead of using gross, carcinogenic tanning beds, I hit the bottle.

I have found several self-tanning formulas over the past few years that have become weekly staples for me, and I will list my top picks here, so you too can achieve a gorgeous tan without harming your skin.

My number one choice for special events is to get a professional airbrush tan. I go to Kristy at
Body Brushed in Houston. Her price in unbeatable at 35$ per tan (plus tip, of course) and she uses one of the larger airbrush "guns"- the ones you are actually supposed to use for a tan, versus the tiny airbrush guns some places use that are more suited for makeup application. Tell Kristy Veronika sent you- she will take great care of you, I promise! She is located in the Galleria area at Tranquility spa.

Favorite Self Tanning Products

1. Clarins SPF 6 Tanning Milk
I use this creamy formula on my face only, and apply it after washing my face, before bedtime. Upon waking, my skin is infused with awesome, but natural looking color. Don't forget your neck!

Xen Tan
I actually got a sample of this product from the wonderful ladies at The Knot. It is a formula with the consistency of a lotion that is totally scary in the bottle-dark gray. The first time I saw it, I thought it was expired because of the color. Turns out, this formula gives an incredible, deep tan, with a brown/olive look to it (more of a "real" tan look). It also smells devine- like vanilla, which is incredible for a self tanner. You have to be careful with this formula, and wash hands in between applying to areas of the body, but other than that, it is a wonderful formula and pretty easy to use...but I would recommend this for more advanced at-home self tanning use.

L'oreal Sublime Bronze Lotion, Gel
This formula gives great color. The
gel takes really long to dry and smells awful, but the price (it is available at most drug stores) is unbeatable. Be careful with both formulas on hands and feet, if you use too much (like I have, many-a-time) your feet will look like oranges.

L'oreal Sublime Bronze Airbrush
I like this self-tanner because the airbrush is easy to use, doesn't need to be rubbed in, and dries quickly. The color is definitely not as dark as some of the other formulas, but I like to use this when I need to "touch up." I also like to use this to self tan my feet, no matter what product I am using on the rest of my body, because feet are better off with a light coat of airbrush self tanner than trying to get them perfectly even using a cream or lotion formula. I also like this for the face, though I typically use it only on my body. The smell isn't great, but like all L'oreal Sublime products, I can deal with the scent because the price is right.

5. Banana Boat Airbrush Self Tanner I tried this one recently when the L'oreal was sold out- and it wasn't bad. It gets an "A plus" for its fruity scent. I wasn't particularly impressed with the color results though- I knew a product this yummy smelling couldn't possibly give awesome color though, so I wasn't expecting much. This would be a good choice for someone who wants light color.

St. Tropez Self Tanning lotion
I used this formula for quite some time and it is excellent- gives a "just spent a week on the beach in the Caribbean" look...however, it is pricey. This formula, much like Xen Tan's is really dark, so you have to be careful when applying and wash hands in between. Another option is to use gloves, but I typically find that just washing your hands really thoroughly works well. If you'd like to splurge on a great self tanner, this would be a top choice. I remember my bottle lasting really long. I also liked to use this product, mixed with my daily moisturizer to tone its intensity down a bit, on my face. And finally, my thoughts on gradual self tanners- personally, I would rather only have to self-tan once a week so I don't have to deal with the smell. Gradual tanning lotions do smell a bit better, but since you have to apply them daily to build just seems like a lot of work to me. I'd rather use a stronger product and have a tan that lasts 5-7 days.

VS Model Marissa Miller's tan is perfection.

VS Model Miranda Kerr's ever-so-coveted glow

Carmen Electra's pretty facial tan- love the makeup here, too. A perfect complement to her glowing tan skin.


  1. Do you find that you ever get "rub-off"? A couple days after applying, it will rub off around my ankles (where my gym socks stop) or on the tops of my feet where the flipflops are. Such lovely lines. lol It's so frustrating! It happens with all different brands and I always make sure to give myself overnight to fully dry.

  2. That doesn't happen to me, but sometimes I do get areas that come off (line on the inner part of my elbow) and it just looks uneven. I think I need to work on exfoliating better. Also try using airbrush on your feet- I find it gives a lighter application, so less room for error (and rub-off) :)

  3. You know I am against tanning now too. My blog is all on that. I am so glad I stopped. I really thought I never would so it's a big accomplishment. I now just get sprayed weekly.

    You are right about the "airbrush" gun. The older technology is airbrush. The never is more "spray" it covers a bigger area in is more even. I love ours. It's Norvell and we charge 35 also. Better price means more clients and more $ overall. Eceryone is happy with it and lots of referrals have came in. I am so addicted to the Dark solution I now want to order Extra Dark. lol.

    When you go what color do you get? Our solution is Amber Sun and the Dark really isnt that dark at all...

  4. April- it is a huge accomplishment- and something to be proud of. It is not easy to stop, but when you think about the risks, it makes the choice that much easier.

    35$ is an incredible price for a spray tan! I am not sure what color I get- the girl does it with numbers. I don't think they have names, she said something like she mixes a 6 with a 10 or something...not sure how it works, but I like to go darker too because it lasts longer.

    Let me know if you have any pre-spray tanning tips and tricks- sometimes mine comes off unevenly even if I exfoliate. You should write a blog about the entire pre and post tanning process :) I would love to hear from a professional!

  5. Thanks for the review on sunless tanners. I previously used St. Tropez and loved it, but not the price. I managed to snag 4 bottles from Bath & Body Works for $4 a piece when they were clearancing them out and that lasted me a good while. After it was gone I couldn't bring myself to purchase it again. I found a great deal for a set of Xen Tan, have been using it for a month now and am very happy with it. Love your blog! Thanks!


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