The Best Self Tanners

Yes, it’s fall, but this is a great time to discuss self-tanner because now is when we start losing our summer glow, and if you’re like me, you want to make it last as long as possible. Plus, I have some tropical trips in my near future, so I will definitely be making use of my favorite self tanning lotion to keep my summer tan alive for a few more months.

I’ve used a lot of self-tanners over the years, but there is one that consistently comes out on top. My absolute favorite is the Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel — if you don’t mind spending a small fortune on a natural-looking tan, that is. The Clarins retails for about $36, but it usually lasts me a couple of months.

Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel

It goes on smoothly and evenly, it smells pretty good (for a self tanner) and it doesn’t turn you orange. And the thing I really like about it is, after one application, you have a fairly decent tan. With two, you look great.

It works fairly quickly too. So when you’re getting ready to go out for a night on the town, and you suddenly realize you’re legs are going to glow in the dark, the Clarins saves the day! When I feel like splurging, I always go for the Clarins.

I hear good things about St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse, but I’ve never tried it.

Best Self Tanning: St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse

If spending $30 on a beauty product makes you want to launch your lunch, there are some good quality drugstore brands available.

The one that stands out above the rest is Jergens Natural Glow.

jergens natural glow

Across the board, this seems to be the most-loved self tanner on the market. It builds slowly, so you do have to apply it in advance. It is best used on a regular basis — don’t try to use it at the last minute and expect a dramatic result. But if you use it every morning for several days in a row, it builds slowly to a nice, natural-looking healthy glow.

You can also buy it for various skin tones, which is a really nice feature. It makes it less likely to streak on pale skin if you buy the product for fair to medium skin tones. And if you have a darker complexion or a base tan already, and you DO want something that is going to, you know, show up, then the one for medium to tan skin tones will work better for you.

AND they have updated their formula so that it doesn’t smell nearly as strong as it used to.

Another brand that I have used and like is Xen-Tan. It’s also $30, but you get 8 ounces rather than 4, as with the Clarins.

xen tan

There are lots of great sunless tanning products on the market these days. I really do think the secret is in the application. Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments!

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29 Responses

  1. I’ve used several self tanners…including the Jergens you mentioned. I never had good results UNTIL I used this one: Neutrogena Micro-Mist #3. It is FABULOUS….goes on great and DOES NOT streak….which is a huge deal to me! #3 is the only one that works though. Even though it says *deep* it is the only one that seems to do the job. Try it…It is FABULOUS!

  2. I tried on this weekend I love the pads/cloth self tanners less streaks but this one was the wrong color. My legs were orange and at $32 i was not happy. Sephora said I could return it they recommended the $48 box.. for 8 pads ouch!

  3. I have been using Loreals Sublime Bronzer Instant Action lately and love it! Two applications make me look like a tan goddess lol, at the end of the week after swimming and showers I look like I have just application on. So it doesn’t fade to bad and it’s a great price $9 for a bottle.

    I’ll have to try out the Jergens one, wasn’t sure how well it worked.

  4. How long do you find these last? Between showers and swimming with the kids…is it worth it? I am, as you put it, glow in the dark pale!

    1. I am surprised how long they last. It used to be that sunless tanners sort of washed off in the pool, but nowadays they last almost a week, especially if you reapply every other day.

    2. L’Oreal Sublime Bronze lasts longer than a week. I usually reapply every weekend, but I still have a little color from the last application remaining even after scrubbing in the tub and shower.

  5. I have never used a sunless tanner. I guess maybe I would try one in the fall/winter. I get enough natural sun in the summer though. 😉

    1. The sun really will age your skin. I’m 51 and although I was never sun worshiper, I did use a tanning bed some. I am now 51 (amazing how quickly you get there) and can see the damage. I’ve decided to attempt to stay tan with sunless tanner this year and really protect my skin when in the sun.

  6. I tried Jergen’s Sunless Glow last year, and had to throw it out…the smell literally made sick. I’m pretty sensitive to smells, so anyone know of one that isn’t hideous-smelling? 🙂

  7. Thank you so much. I have inquiring everywhere about self tanners (now that we are T-Minus one week to moving to the beach!) and so many have said Jergens and Clarins. I just picked up Jergens to try first!

  8. I have never tried any of these brands but I think I’m gonna try the Jergens. My best friend also recommended it and says since it builds up you don’t have to worry (as much) about getting extra darker on your ankles and knees which is usually what I have trouble with with self tanners.

  9. Try putting a thin layer of hand lotion on your knees, elbows, and ankles before you apply the tanning lotion – that keeps it from turning orange and keeps your tan even.

  10. My skin has become very sensitive to the chemicals in the self tanners, but I have a new method that allows me to keep a little tan without going crazy scratching my legs. Hurray! I bathe and shave in the evening, and wait until the morning to apply my tanner. I bought a generic application mitt at Walmart and on it I combine some Jergens and some L’oreal Sublime Bronze. I love the little bit of sparkle from the L’oreal product!

  11. Thanks for the review! I’ve been using Clarins Liquid Bronze Self-Tanning for face and decollete. I’ve had it for a few years and there is just a little bit left and I’ll definitely repurchase it. It gives my face a natural looking tan and it’s easy to apply. I don’t remember the price at all, but, whatever the cost is has lasted me, so, it’s worth it. The other self tanner I have is new and it’s Paula’s Choice Sun 365 Foam. I’ve used it a few times, mostly on my legs. I like the colour, but, I noticed streaks probably because I didn’t apply it carefully. I’ll keep working with it because I like the colour.

  12. Tempting, but I’ve heard that self-tanners are harmful (like sun lotion that could be cancer-causing).
    Have you read anything about this, Jo-Lynne?

  13. I have yet to used any self-tanners. My perception is that they get too messy….or I just don’t know how to use it and too lazy to read the instructions. Thanks for introducing these, Jo-Lynne!


    1. Oooh, I have a good how to use self tanners post too. 🙂 Oh, I looked and found it but it is on another site I used to write for. I will definitely write one for Musings!

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