There are approximately 80 billion different self-tanning products out there. Well, OK, that might be a slight exaggeration… 70 billion? You can also spend a ton of time trying them all out, and there are plenty of expensive options, so you can also spend a ton of money. But if you’re looking for something that works great and won’t bankrupt you, we’ve got your back. (Literally, like, let us know if you need us to do your back. It’s hard to reach!)
For easy application:
PROS: The benefit of a misting spray like this is that you keep your hands and fingers out of the mix. This superfine mist goes on so easily, and it’s really very low-fuss — no rubbing-in required. The color is great and streaking is minimal, if at all. Impatient girls, take note: It takes a good several hours, or even overnight, for the full effects to show.
CON: It’s almost impossible to not get any spray on your floor (or furniture), so it’s best to cover any surfaces you don’t want to “tan” with old towels or similar. No biggie!
THE SMELL: The scent is interesting … it’s kind of woodsy, or cigar-like, which sounds odd but isn’t bad. And it fades quickly!
TIP: Don’t spray your feet. Enough of the mist will land on your feet anyway.
For dark, pro results:
Cocoa Brown 1-Hour Tan Mousse (Rickysnyc.com, $14)
PROS: This is a cult favorite — you can check online for all the glowing beauty blogger reviews! A quality product for an affordable price, this light mousse formula is really easy to apply. The longer you leave it on, the darker the tan, so the first time you try it, you can kind of test it out. The color is great.
CON: Though it makes the formula flexible in terms of darkness, having to leave it on for at least an hour, and then wash it off, makes for a bit of a time commitment.
THE SMELL: It advertises a “Floral Tahitian Gardenia” scent, which is fair enough, I guess. To me it smells like someone’s roommate’s nice conditioner, which works!
TIP: Use gloves when you apply so you don’t have to worry about washing your hands.
For an instant bronze:
Sephora Collection Tinted Self-Tanning Body Mist (Sephora, $6 for 1.5 oz)
PROS: You can see exactly where you’ve applied this mist because it delivers a soft bronze glow immediately! Then the self-tanner develops over time, creating a nice, light tan. Pretty cool.
THE SMELL: Smells great! It’s quite tropical, but not overpowering.
TIP: It’s very fast-drying, which is great, but be ready with a soapy washcloth if you make any mistakes. This stuff works well to layer; start with one application and then add another the next day to go darker.
For gradual build-up:
Nivea Sun-Kissed Radiance Gradual Tanner & Body Toner (Rickysnyc.com, $15)
PRO: Great for self-tanning ‘fraidy cats (like me), this stuff works sloooooooowly and graaaaaaadually builds up coverage over time (like, over days), so you never have to worry about suddenly resembling an Oompa Loompa or someone’s crazy card shark granny in Florida. The formula is more lightweight than what you might expect from a Nivea product (it feels almost gel-like), which means it smoothes on really easily. Just wash your hands and let your color develop over time.
CON: Hmm. Not really any cons here, unless you’re looking for a fast-acting, dark tanning solution, but then you should try a different product altogether!
THE SMELL: At first it’s just a nice, light scent — almost a little tropical/coco-buttery. After several hours, I did notice a lingering scent that anyone who has used a similar type of gradual tanner will recognize, but it’s not overpowering, and I actually like it. It was gone by the next morning.
TIP: Rub this on at night, and wake up to a new glow!
For an instantly glowing face, plus SPF:
PRO: This 3-in-one product (self-tanner, bronzer and SPF 45) is an Allure Best of Beauty Winner, and for good reason. You’ll get an immediate glow, while the self-tanner works its magic, and you’ll also be protected from the sun!
THE SMELL: Like all Australian Faces products, it’s got a strong tropical scent. Cha cha cha!
TIP: Don’t go crazy with this — if, say, you’re going out to the beach for the day, bring along some regular sunscreen to use when it’s time to reapply protection.
For face, with skin care
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta® Glow Pads (Sephora, $12 for 6 pads)
PRO: Self-tanner plus anti-aging! Build up a pretty, natural-looking tan while delivering some major skin care ingredients to your face. These pads are soaked in a formula that contains beta-hydroxy acids, which exfoliate, tighten pores, eliminate blackheads and help fade existing sunspots. Meanwhile, active vitamin D gives you a sun-kissed glow while enhancing the benefits of the other vitamins and antioxidants.
CON: These might be too strong for super sensitive skin; definitely do a patch-test first. And, if you use more than a couple a week, it could get expensive.
THE SMELL: There is a faint “self-tanner” smell, but it’s not bad at all