Over the years I have tried so many self tanning methods and feel like I have it down. I wanted to share the range of types from lightest to darkest, so no matter what you’re looking for you can find a good suggestion here if you want some color. My personal strategy with tanning is to get it as dark and affordable as possible because I do it so often. I’ll start with the lightest and go down to the darkest shades.
Jergens Natural Glow Wet Skin Moisturizer / This gives some healthy glow to the skin without any effort since you just put it on at the end of the shower. It makes my skin feel ultra soft so I really recommend this for anyone with dry skin. Whenever I see people complain about how they can’t find foundation pale enough, I wish I could just tell them to buy this and apply it daily to get a bit more color to the rest of their body. Probably harsh but c’mon, more pale foundation shades is the lowest priority that makeup brands should be worried about lol. Personally I like to apply this to help sustain my self tan for a few more days. The more moisturized you are, the longer it lasts.
L’oreal Sublime Bronze Towelettes / This is my recommendation for people that are not obsessed with being ultra dark. The towelette form is a really handy application method- I use two to evenly coat my arms, legs, chest, neck, etc. You may need three if you want to do stomach and back too if you you’ll be in a swimsuit. They provide a beautiful light even color that reminds me of a spray tan look. I like these a lot even though I’m into a deeper tan because they are very travel friendly and dry SO quickly. I have only seen them offered in the “medium” shade.
L’oreal Sublime Bronze Self Tanning Mist / I use this in the shade deep, but it provides a medium level in my opinion. I feel like you need to layer quite a few sprays to notice this, but it will definitely give you some color. This isn’t my favorite tan because it smells a little gross when you first spray it, but that fades really quickly.
Banana Boat Summer Color / This lotion is what I grab for that “everyday” tan. The lotion has a nice scent and can be mixed with regular moisturizer to extend it further and lighten the color a tad bit.
Tan Wise & Salon Bronze / These are Sally Beauty Supply’s self tanning methods. I stopped buying them once I started getting the spray tan liquids because I feel like it’s better and cheaper, but these are fabulous products as well. The Salon Bronze spray gun was my go to method in college. It is very helpful to have a friend or significant other available to spray you if you use this method.
Fake Bake Flawless Darker / Now we’re getting into the really good stuff. Fake Bake Darker comes in a spray bottle and a mitt, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. Sprays like this are the most efficient way to tan in my opinion. The color is so beautiful and a little more red based than others that I use, which works really well on my naturally super pink skin. It fades the best of any that I use. I recommend this to my friends that need to run to Ulta for a quick effective tan.
Loving Tan / All the Youtubers use this, and it’s amazing. I buy Ultra Dark foam, or Dark 2 Hour Express (they don’t have an Ultra Dark version yet). The color isn’t too orange, and it gives you a deep tan if you are looking for that. This is a foam tan, which is a great application method to avoid streaks.
Spray Tan liquids / This is the cheapest and my favorite self tanning method I use. You can purchase liter bottles of professional spray tan liquid on Amazon. From there, pour it into spray bottles and apply it with a mitt. If you’re just the average tan user, you probably won’t run out of these bottles for a few years. Spray tan liquids are labeled and priced by the amount of DHA percentage, which is the tanning agent that develops the dark color onto skin. The highest I have been able to find on Amazon is 16% DHA.
Mine Tan Extreme Color / This is the darkest tan I own, and I don’t recommend it for beginners. I find this one to be so dark that I like to do a coat of Fake Bake Darker or one of my other tans underneath just to have a base dark enough for it to blend well with. I do layer my tans like this pretty often, but this one actually needs it. It’s like dyeing your hair black when you’ve been blonde… you need to do an in between shade like auburn or golden brown to have some nice undertones so you don’t end up with a greyish result.
Mitt / I buy the double sided mitt by St. Tropez at Ulta. I have been meaning to learn how to clean it so I can use it more often, but right now I just replace it every few months with a new one. I just found the one I linked on Amazon and will be trying it out next for a cheaper option than the St. Tropez mitt.
Spray Bottle / I pour the spray tanning liquid into a mini spray bottle- you can get them in the travel section at most stores. I use this one. From there I spray my skin or the mitt and apply.
For daily SPF I rotate using Jergens Natural Glow facial moisturizer to make sure my face doesn’t look ultra pale against my chest.
Recently I went to a salon for a spray tan and was annoyed when the darkest level wasn’t even as dark as Fake Bake Flawless Darker, and I paid $20 for one tan. Of course being evenly coated and not having to apply yourself is nice, but I don’t plan on going in to do this again! I’m all about DIY tanning to keep costs down and wrinkles away. Any of the products I mentioned are worth it if you can cut the cost of a spray tan out of your budget by using them.
Just assume that I use the darkest shade of each brand if you are looking into buying any of the shades I mentioned, but the light ones are awesome too if you are going for a natural tan.
I’m surprised I haven’t done a post on this topic much sooner, since self tanning is definitely part of my weekly routine. I have an old post on this here that includes some bronzers that I like as well, but this one has all the best and most updated information.