Dermatologists Review Sunless Self-Tanning Lotions

May 23, 2017

Although we know the summer sun’s rays are strong, we also know it’s tempting to want that summer skin glow. Instead of baking yourself in the sun and absorbing harmful UV rays, why not try a sunless tanner this summer instead?

Of course, not all sunless tanners are created equal — and we certainly don’t want any of you to walk around with orange skin! So we’ve put together this review of six of the leading self-tanning products. We did a blind test, taking home samples of each to try without knowing which brand was which, making the reviews even more compelling!

Depending on how dramatic of a color change you’d like, you can choose from gradual lotions or go straight for the tropical look.

Fast, Dark Color

If you want a quick, dark color, look to Fake Bake Flawless, costing $26.50, or Xen-Tan Premium Sunless Tan, priced at $40. Both offered a professional-looking color with an almost immediate color change. One difference, though, is that Fake Bake Flawless offers a spray bottle with an application mitt, while Xen-Tan Premium Sunless Tan is a lotion and can be harder to apply evenly. Neither had an unpleasant smell, but Xen-Tan had a noticeable, dessert-like sweet smell.

Quick, Bronze Color 

For a less dramatic and more subtle immediate color, you can look to St. Tropez Self-Tanning Bronze, costing $18, or L’Oréal Sublime Bronze Luminous Bronzer, priced between $7 and $12. St. Tropez offers an easy-to-spread foam, and L’Oréal Sublime Bronze is very similar to a body lotion. Our dermatologists and staff commented that the L’Oréal bronzing body lotion had quite a shimmer to it and left a lingering smell of DHA (dihydroxyacetone).

Buildable Color

If you’re feeling more hesitant or looking to build a tan over time, we also tried out Neutrogena Micro-Mist Airbrush Sunless Tan, costing around $11, and Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer, priced between $6 and $10. They had 2 very different application processes, but both offered a discreet first impression. If you prefer to spray your tan, we recommend Neutrogena’s Micro-Mist Airbrush Sunless Tan. It had a nice color, but you may want to apply in an open area as the smell is a little much but fades over time. However, it doesn’t offer the control of a lotion.

If you want to have greater control during application when building your tan, try Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer. Less experienced sunless tanners may prefer this method as it’s more forgiving. The smell isn’t harsh, and it was easy to apply, but we suggest you allow for drying time as you would with a thicker body lotion.

Overall Favorite 

There are many factors to consider when choosing your sunless tanner. We learned that price doesn’t always dictate the perfect color and a lot varies on your desired application process. The products we tested can all be purchased from ULTA Beauty and some can also be found at your local convenience store. That said, our overall favorite was L’Oréal Sublime Bronze Luminous Bronzer.

It may be intimidating to try a new product and see how it turns out, but it’s far less risky than exposing yourself to harmful rays. Enjoy the outdoors with a hat, sunscreen, and protective clothing, and know that you can more safely achieve your desired summer glow from a bottle.

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