Sunkissed: Sunless Tanner Review

Sun Safety

Let me start off on my soapbox: wear sunscreen, reapply your sunscreen, wear a hat, limit your time in the sun, reapply your sunscreen again, and get a skin check annually. If you know me, then you know that I love the sun, put me at the beach, by a pool, or on a boat and I am a happy girl, but you also know that I lost my dad to melanoma 7 years ago. As much as I love basking in the sun for hours and hours, I know that it isn’t good for me or my skin, so I use a lot of self-tanner and SPF in the summer. Don’t even think about hitting a tanning bed, the risk of melanoma and damaging your skin is just not worth it.


Please Don’t Make Me Orange

In all the history of self-tanner, that is the biggest fear, turning into an orange. Less is more in the world of self-tanner, most of us want to look like we spent time on the beach and have a nice sunkissed glow. Long ago most self-tanners did leave you orange and streaky. This is why most of us headed to the tanning beds and slathered ourselves in oils and bronzers. I remember when Mystic Tan and other spray booths came out, you would pick a shade of tan based on what the girl at the desk suggested and of course add a boost to it, and then once inside the booth, it was an assault of chemical spray and a harsh voice telling you to rotate. After the spray was over your color began to develop over the next few hours and usually it was not what you hoped for, which then led to trying to exfoliate it off before your event. Thank goodness times and tans have changed!

So Many Choices

Being the great friend that I am, I took it upon myself to try out a few self-tanners on the market and give my review (I do have several more I want to try, but I also wanted to get this post out before summer is over, so save it and check back, because I will add more as I review them!).

Since I am a woman of science, I chose a very scientific method to choose and review the product, okay not really, I went to Instagram and did a poll of favorite self-tanners. The ones that were most voted on were: Jergens, Tanologist, and St Tropez. Close runners-up were Loving Tan and Beauty By Earth. My go-to is Fake Bake. I am going to use the following in reviewing them: cost, dry time, smell, rub off, appearance, and how long it lasts, all done on a 0-10 scale.

Get Your Tan On

First things first, you’ve got to set aside a few extra minutes for tan prep, in the shower get yourself a fresh razor and exfoliator to give yourself a fresh smooth palette. And once you’re showered and fresh, make sure you’ve got time to allow your fresh tan to set before you throw your clothes on.

Jergens Natural Glow Lotion

Jergens was the leader of new age self-tanning, when this came out in the early 2000’s it was the way to go and for the value, it was good for a hint of color.

Cost: Under $10 at Drugstores.

Dry Time: Less than 10 minutes from application to dressing, it is a lotion so has to absorb or it will cause streaking.

Smell: It doesn’t smell bad, but the smell is fairly strong and does smell like self-tanner.

Rub-Off: I found this to be the least transferable of all the self-tanners, none was on my clothes or towels.

Appearance: The lightest of all the self-tanners, it really didn’t give me a sunkissed feel, more of just a tint of color, and does take a few applications for the color to develop.

Long-Lasting: This is true to its name and needs to be used daily to build up and maintain a tan.

Overall score 5/10, if you’re looking for affordable and something to use daily or in-between spray or self-tan applications to maintain color, this is a good option.

Tanologist Face and Body Drops

Tanning drops are the trend this summer, so I had to give them a try. You mix as many drops (1-12) as you want the intensity of your tan to be. I did 8 drops on my legs and 6 on the rest of my body.

Cost: $20 at Ulta, also sold at Target.

Dry Time: Since you mix these drops with the lotion of your choice the dry time and absorption time will vary based on how thick the lotion is. For me, it was about 15 minutes.

Smell: These take on the smell of whatever lotion you use, huge plus!

Rub off: I did notice rub off when I washed my hands a few hours after application, also on my towel the next day.

Appearance: The color was good, but because it is based on the number of drops you use, it will vary. A few applications did leave me streaky. Tan takes about 5 hours to develop.

Long-Lasting: I applied this every day for 4 days and had a good color built up, with some streaking. The color lasted about 3 days after I stopped applying and it did come off patchy looking.

Overall score 7/10, for sure this one is easy to add into your daily routine since you mix it with the lotion you’re already using. Also, I like the ability to titrate your tan color.

Fake Bake

This has been my go-to now for several years!

Cost: $28 at Ulta, includes the mitt.

Dry Time: The spray dries quickly, sometimes I feel like it dries too quickly. I still wait about 5-10 minutes after application to get dressed.

Smell: Fake Bake tried very hard to mask the smell of self-tanner with a tropical scent, but it still smells like self-tanner, with a hint of the tropics.

Rub off: Unfortunately Fake Bake does tend to rub off, on clothing and on towels. It does wash out, but be aware.

Below is the inside of a pair of shorts.

Appearance: This leaves you with a perfect summer tan, not too dark or too fake looking. This tan is instant, sometimes I will apply two coats to get a darker color.

Long-Lasting: In the summer I use Fake Bake most every day, I will skip applying on my work stretches, but the color tends to last about 5 days past the last application.

Overall score 8/10, despite the rubbing off on clothes and towels, Fake Bake is so easy to apply and leaves a nice streak-free color.

St. Tropez Express Bronzing Mousse

This was one I hadn’t tried before deciding to do this post, it was by far the most voted on in my Instagram poll.

Cost: $44 at Ulta $7.50 for application mitt.

Dry Time: Make sure you have time for this one, it is pretty sticky once you apply and took almost 20 minutes before I felt dry enough to put on clothes. The product suggests taking a shower 2-3 hours after applying, but let’s be real most of us barely have time to catch one shower a day, let alone multiple.

Smell: Like Fake Bake, I do feel like this had a fake tan smell, but St Tropez did a much better job of blending it in with a fragrance.

Rub off: This one did not rub off on my clothes, but it did rub off on my towels, especially my hand towels, and about 3 hours after I applied I leaned in a puddle of water on the counter, and that area lightened in color.

Appearance: The color from St Tropez is amazing, a really been at the beach for a week bronze. The tan was instant.

Long-Lasting: I used this two days in a row and the tan lasted 5 days before I reapplied.

Overall score 9/10, I really loved the color and lasting effects of this self-tanner, the dry time was my only complaint.

Loving Tan 2 Hour Express Deluxe Bronzing Mousse

The second runner-up in my Instagram poll was Loving Tan, I had a friend who swears by it and she let me try it out.

Cost: $42-60 at Ulta $15 for the mitt

Dry Time: The instructions say to let it dry for 60 seconds before dressing, I felt like I had to wait at least 15 minutes and even then probably could have waited longer. Like the previous brand, this one also suggests a shower 2-3 hours later.

Smell: Loving Tan has a faint, almost non-detectable scent.

Rub-Off: This did not rub off on my clothes, but it did on my towels.

Appearance: The color was good, not as dark as St Tropez, and it did have a little bit too much of an orange color on my skin.

Long-Lasting: I applied this product once since I had just borrowed it, the tan was instant and lasted about 3 days before I felt like I needed to reapply.

Overall score 7/10, I really like the light, almost non-detectable scent, but for the cost and the way it developed on my skin, I am glad I borrowed instead of invested in this one.

Coco and Eve

I kept seeing ads for this on all my social media and then a friend told me she bought it and loved it, so of course I had to get some for myself.

Cost: $47 for the foam, mitt, and Kabuki brush

Dry Time: This one also takes a little while to dry, I let it set about 15 minutes at least before I got dressed.

Smell: I love the smell of this, it almost smells like the slight floral smell on Pirates of the Caribbean right after the ship fight.

Rub off: There was a slight rub off on my bath towel the next morning, but none on the sheets or my clothes.

Appearance: The color developed fairly quickly, it is a nice bronze color. Not orange at all.

Long Lasting: I applied two days in a row and the color lasted about 4 days before I needed to reapply.

Overall score 9/10, a little pricey, but I like the smell and color. The Kabuki brush helps get a nice even coat on the face and ankle areas.

Sunny Days Ahead

Summer is about to be in full swing and that means long days in the pool, at the beach, and on the boat, I always feel better when I am bronzed, so hopefully, this review of some of the self-tanners on the market will be helpful. Of course, because our skin tones vary, the color that develops from the self-tanners will also vary from person to person. Like I mentioned earlier, I have so many others I want to try, so let me know what your favorites are and what I should try next. Please remember to use a good SPF and schedule a skin check soon, have a safe and fun summer.

Nikki was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she has lived in Seattle and Portland. After visiting New Orleans, she fell in love with the city, and she and her husband decided to take a chance and move from the PNW to NOLA. Nikki has two kids, Amaya (16) and Tyson (13), she and her husband Dave have been married for 16 years, they live on the Northshore. Nikki works full time as a NICU nurse. Nikki and her family have fully embraced the culture of New Orleans, while they live on the Northshore, they play in New Orleans as often as they can. As a member of New Orleans Mom, she hopes to bring the perspective of the veteran mom and life with big kids and teenagers.


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