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Your Official Sunless Tanner Guide [5 Tested & Compared!]

June 5, 2018

By:

Erin Schrader

sunless tanner guidesunless tanner comparisonThe amount of requests that we have been receiving here at LIY for sunless tanners has been off the charts. Apparently, we all want to have that nice golden glow as we approach summer without exposing ourselves to all of the UV-Rays. Up until this experiment, I had never personally used a sunless tanner in my life. They scared the heck out of me and had me convinced that sunless tanners only turn people pumpkin colored, leave streaks everywhere and smelled like your senior year prom. It turns out that I didn’t know a thing about them because well, I’m a sunless tanner junkie for¬†life now and a believer through and through. Either sunless tanner has come a long way or I’ve always been naive to its power.

To be able to properly answer your question of “which sunless tanner do you recommend?!” we found it necessary to try five different sunless tanners on both fair/light and medium/dark skin tones across five different bodies for five weeks to answer accurately. We take our work quite seriously around here ūüėČ We tested drugstore brand sunless tanners all the way up to more expensive beauty store brands and found quite interesting results. In today’s post you’ll see the five different brands we used, the exact products tried and the results on both fair/light and medium/dark skin tones. We’ll be sharing our thoughts on the color tone, smell, longevity, ease of application and more.

Before we begin, I do want to say a few very important things when it comes to sunless tanners. I think the majority of how well your sunless tanner goes on [regardless of the brand] and stays actually lies in the preparation, application and the maintenance of it. Here are a few tips/tricks we learned along the way for your ultimate sunless tanner experience:

  • Always exfoliate and shave 24 hours in advance to applying your sunless tanner. I used St. Ives Apricot Scrub all over my body to exfoliate before applying. This helps smooth rough areas [especially elbows and knees] and allows the tanner to go on more evenly. While it is advised to exfoliate 24 hours in advance, there were a couple of times that I ended up exfoliating the same day of application and it worked just as well.
  • All five of us used a sunless tanner application mitt to apply and I would absolutely recommend always using one with whatever sunless tanner you are using. I used the same mitt for each of the sunless¬†tanners I tried [so yes, you can reuse the same mitt!] Start with the mitt on one hand and do the majority of your body that you can and then move the mitt to the other hand to finish [I would allow the hand that you applied sunless tanner to dry before moving the mitt]. I recommend this mitt to use! You’ll simply spray your tanner directly on the mitt and then apply to each area of your body in a circular motion with the mitt. This allows for the sunless tanner to be applied evenly without streaks!
  • If you have really dry areas [knees, elbows, etc] apply a little bit of lotion to those areas before applying your sunless tanner. Otherwise, you should be moisturizer free at the time of application!
  • We all applied our sunless tanners in the evening before bed [it’s amazing how quick most of these dry – within 60 seconds!] and then simply rinsed off in the shower the following morning. I have been advised not to use Dove Soap after tanning applications so I typically just used a gentle body wash and then patted dry with my towel.
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! It is highly recommended to use a body lotion regularly [1-2x per day] to extend the longevity of your sunless tanner and to avoid it fading in a streaky manner.

Alright, let’s dive into this fun and glow-filled experiment! Starting with…

  1. Fake Bake // For the fair and light skin tones we used the Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tanning Liquid and for the medium/dark skin tones, we used the Fake Bake Flawless Darker. For our face, we both used the same Fake Bake Platinum Face Tanner. This brand was a little on the pricier side of the range coming in at $28-$30 per bottle. Here were the results and our thoughts:

fake bake flawless sunless tanner before and afterBody Before Sunless Tanner / Body After Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tanning Liquid // Face Before / Face After Fake Bake Platinum Face Tanner

Tone: I felt like I was glowing- in a good way! Very natural looking!

Ease of application: I found it super easy to apply. It came with a mitt that worked well. The only difficult part was getting those hard to reach areas like back and shoulders! One note I would add is that the tanner is very sheer when applying. It was difficult to know if I was applying evenly or overdoing it. Make sure to rub it in really well and try to get every part of your body so it doesn’t appear patchy! Less is more!

Smell: It didn’t smell nearly as bad as I had anticipated! I would compare it to a tanning lotion, which came off after a rinse in the shower!

Finished appearance: I felt pretty even for the most part; a little dark on knees and elbows, but that was my own fault. A little patchy on my face due to dry skin. BE SURE TO EXFOLIATE AND MOISTURIZE before applying!

Longevity: It did not last long! Two, MAYBE three days. I would have applied more coats to achieve my desired color!

Price: Not terribly pricey; in the $30 range. I felt like it would last quite a while since there was plenty left in the bottle after just one use, so you get a lot of bang for your buck!  

Sensitivity: I felt like this tanner did leave a bit of a greasy residue, but it didn’t cause my skin to break out like I expected! I would definitely suggest applying it in the evening before bed to allow it to soak in overnight then be sure to rinse off in the morning!

Would you use this again? Yes

Is this one your favorite? No

fake bake flawless sunless tanner before and afterBody Before Sunless Tanner / Body After Fake Bake Flawless Darker // Face Before / Face After Fake Bake Platinum Face Tanner

Tone: I absolutely loved the color! Very natural looking and not too orange at all! 

Ease of application: Like Claire mentioned, this spray doesn’t have color so it is a little difficult to know if you are covering all of the areas. Otherwise, it was quite easy to apply with the mitt! I love that it dried very quickly as well and I could apply clothes with no problem within a minute or two of applying without it getting on my clothes.¬†

Smell: I didn’t notice much of a smell with this one and the smell I did notice I liked!¬†

Finished appearance: I had absolutely no issues with streakiness with this sunless tanner! Very even thanks to the mitt! 

Longevity: After two days I felt like I could notice it fading away. I did apply the Fake Bake Platinum Face Tanner two days in a row as my moisturizer and that kept the natural glow alive for several days! 

Price: For the¬†Fake Bake Platinum Face Tanner¬†I would absolutely pay $30 again, for the¬†Fake Bake Flawless Darker¬†I don’t know if I would only because I found a drugstore brand for less money that I liked equally as well!¬†

Sensitivity: No issues at all here! 

Would you use this again? Yes [especially to the Fake Bake Platinum Face Tanner]

Is this one your favorite? For my body, no. For my face, yes! 

Next up on the list of sunless tanners, we have…

2. St Tropez // For the fair and light skin tones we used St Tropez Classic Bronzing Lotion and for the medium/dark skin tones, we used the St Tropez Extra Dark Bronzing Mousse. Both used the same face sunless tanner which was the Classic Bronzing Face Lotion. This was the most expensive sunless tanner we tried ranging from $30 Р$45 per bottle. Here were the results and our thoughts:

St Tropez Bronzing Lotion before and afterBody Before Sunless Tanner / Body After St Tropez Classic Bronzing Lotion // Face Before / Face After Classic Bronzing Face Lotion

Tone: Very natural! 

Ease of application: It went on very easily with the foam and the mitt!

Ease of application: It went on very easily with the foam and the mitt!

Finished appearance:¬†Overall, very even! It wasn’t streaky at all, except for one little spot on my arm that I accidentally missed. It didn’t get extra dark around my elbows or knees. I forgot to apply a little lotion to my hands before application, and they did turn out a little strange, but I think that would have been completely taken care of had I followed the directions about moisturizing them.¬†

Longevity: It began slowly fading after my 2nd shower, overall it lasted for about 4-5 days.

Would you use this again? Yes!

Is this one your favorite? Yes!

St Tropez Bronzing Lotion before and afterBody Before Sunless Tanner / Body After St Tropez Classic Bronzing Lotion // Face Before / Face After Classic Bronzing Face Lotion

Tone: Natural. I did notice that after applying the tanner I was VERY dark, a lot darker than I was expecting. Once I showered in the morning, slept with it on, a decent amount washed off and the end result looked really good! Everything was a really even tone and I didn’t think I looked orange at all!

Ease of application: The mitt definitely helped the application process!! Because the tanner was so dark the mitt made everything nice and even!  It did say on the instructions that you could put clothes back on once it was dry to the touch however it got all over my clothes

Smell: It didn’t smell bad, nicer than a normal spray tan!

Finished appearance: Very even and it looked really good!

Longevity:¬†It didn’t fade well as it ended up being very streaky and splotchy and it was hard to exfoliate off.

Sensitivity: I didn‚Äôt react anywhere on my body to it and I really loved the face lotion sunless tanner, it didn’t make my skin oily and I didn’t break out!!

Would you use this again? I would use it again but I would wear dark clothing to sleep in and be more cautious about my hands and feet when applying. I loved how even it looked! I LOVED the face lotion and would use that again!! It was a strange color but once I applied it, it dried quickly and was very even! 

Is this one your favorite? While I did love the face lotion and certain aspects of this tanner, I don’t think it was my favorite. 

Now, time for my biggest [and best] surprise of them all….

3. Jergens // We used the Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Mousse in Light Bronze for our lighter skin tones and the Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Mousse in Deep Bronze for our medium/dark skin tones. For the face, we used the Jergens Natural Glow Healthy Complexion Daily Facial Moisturizer in Fair/Medium and then Medium/Tan. The price on this ranged from $9.99 – $12.99 making it a less expensive option. Here were the results:

Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Mousse before and afterBody Before Sunless Tanner / Body After Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Mousse in Light Bronze// Face Before / Face After Jergens Natural Glow Healthy Complexion Daily Facial Moisturizer in Light to Medium

Tone: Very natural, not orange at all! 

Ease of application: Very Easy! No standing around in the bathroom afraid to touch anything until you’re supposed to get dressed. This baby dried in 60 seconds (or maybe even less!) as promised! The foam was nice and light and spread evenly and easily with a mitt.  

Smell: I did not notice much of a smell when applying before bed, however, I did feel like I smelled like tanning lotion when I woke up. I thought the face moisturizer had a pleasant smell to it! 

Longevity: I was happy with the color after one application and noticed fading after two days. The tan was mostly gone by day 5. The Natural Glow Face is meant to slowly build over time when used as a moisturizer (SPF 20!). I noticed a color change after the second use. I felt that the moisturizer went on well and liked the way my skin felt after using it. 

Finished appearance: Even! The only minimal streaky areas were spots I clearly missed applying and was completely inexperienced user error, not the sunless tanner.

Price: I love that this is under $15! 

Sensitivity: No reaction

Would you use this again? Yes!

Is this one your favorite? Yes! 

Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Mousse before and afterBody Before Sunless Tanner / Body After Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Mousse in Deep Bronze// Face Before / Face After Jergens Natural Glow Healthy Complexion Daily Facial Moisturizer in Medium to Dark

Tone: Very natural! I thought the color was perfect! 

Ease of application: LOVED applying this! The mousse was great and I loved that I could see it as I applied. It rubbed in very well and dried super fast! I had no problems with any coming off on my clothing or bedding at night. 

Smell: I noticed a little bit of a tanner smell the next day, but nothing that bothered me too much. 

Finished appearance: Very even! I was so pleased with the end result of this! 

Longevity: I felt like it kept my tan for 3-4 days. For the face moisturizer, it is a slower build and after using it two days in a row I noticed a slight difference in skin tone. 

Price: You can’t beat it! Multiple uses for only $12.99, I can get down with that!¬†

Sensitivity: No reaction

Would you use this again? Yes, absolutely! 

Is this one your favorite? Yes! This will be my new go-to body sunless tanner. While I like the Fake Bake face tanner more for instant color, I did enjoy using the Jergens moisturizer as a daily moisturizer for a nice looking glow. 

Fourth up, we have…

4. Tarte // For both skin tones, we used the same Tarte Brazilliance Plus and for the face, we used the Tarte Brazilliance Face Tanning Towelettes. The price for this is $39 for the body and $10 for 5 towelettes. Here were the results..

Tarte Brazilliance sunless tanner before and afterBody Before Sunless Tanner / Body After Tarte Brazilliance Plus // Face Before / Face After Tarte Brazilliance Face Tanning Towelettes

Tone: I do think the product was a bit too dark for my lighter complexion since there was not more than one skin tone choice. For the face wipes, the color was very natural! 

Ease of application: The appearance of this product definitely threw me off! The consistency is kind of a gel-like lotion and it is VERY dark brown. The other sunless tanner I tried was a foam, between the two I felt the foam application was a smoother process. Directions say to wait 10 minutes before getting dressed. While I did not like that long of a wait time, I did feel like it was entirely soaked in after that long and did not worry about it rubbing off at all. The face wipes are so easy to use! I really liked the way they went on and felt that the size of the wipe was perfect Рnot at all wasteful by being too large but definitely big enough.

Smell: There was a slight smell to the lotion, but it was not unpleasant.

Finished appearance: The appearance after the 10 minute waiting period was splotchy and dirtier or overly brown than tan. However, after a shower the next morning the finish mostly evened out (with the exception of a spot near my knee that would not accept the color even after I reapplied it there) and appeared less like dirty on my skin, but was still more of a brown color than a natural tan glow. 

Longevity: The tan was very faded by the end of day two and almost entirely gone by day 3. For the face wipes, my color lasted 4-5 days! 

Price:¬†For the price, I didn’t find it to be the best!¬†

Sensitivity: No issues! 

Would you use this again? No, for the body,  however, I would definitely use these wipes again! 

Is this one your favorite? No, for the body. Yes, for the face wipes! 

Tarte Brazilliance sunless tanner before and afterBody Before Sunless Tanner / Body After Tarte Brazilliance Plus // Face Before / Face After Tarte Brazilliance Face Tanning Towelettes

Tone: Natural! 

Ease of application:¬†Very easy to apply the color of the lotion helped significantly with the application process.¬†There wasn‚Äôt any transfer to my clothes or bedding sleeping in it, however, I didn’t like that I had to wait 10 minutes before putting clothes on. I LOVED the face wipes!!! They were so easy to use, didn‚Äôt smell bad and it made applying to my face so much easier!

Smell: Smelled like a spray tan [not a bad smell though!!!]  

Finished appearance: Even 

Longevity:  1 week

Price: I would pay this price for both body and face products! 

Sensitivity: Not sensitive! I had minor breakouts prior to applying and the breakouts didn’t get worse and new ones didn’t come through!

Would you use this again? Yes! 

Is this one your favorite? Yes! 

Last, but certainly not least…

5. L’Oreal¬†// We used the L’Oreal Sublime Glow in Medium for fair/light skin tones and L’Oreal Sublime Bronze in Medium for medium/dark skin tones. For the face, we both used the L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Serum in Medium. The price on this is $8.49 – $9.99 making it the least expensive option we tried. Here were the results…

loreal sublime glow before and afterBody Before Sunless Tanner / Body After¬†L’Oreal Sublime Glow in Medium // Face Before / Face AfterL’Oreal Sublime Bronze Serum in Medium

Tone: I was pleasantly surprised by the natural color! My only complaint would be the ‚Äúshimmer‚ÄĚ effect. I felt like Edward Cullen.

Ease of application: Easy as pie! Just apply like a normal everyday body lotion, but be sure to wash your hands afterward!!

Smell: This was probably my biggest complaint about the lotion. It did smell of tanning lotion, but since you wear it as an everyday body lotion, you’re stuck with the smell all day instead of rinsing off like some of the other options.

Finished appearance: I felt totally even and not streaky at all! It helped that the tanner was similar to an everyday body lotion making it easy to apply evenly. It is a gradual tanner, so it took about 2-3 days to see results vs. immediately like some other options.

Longevity: This one lasted a lot longer than the more expensive brand I tried previously! I ended up exfoliating it off because it did become a bit patchy after I stopped using it; I guess you could say that’s a good AND bad thing.

Price: For the quality, you can’t beat this price! Right around the ten dollar range and I was very happy with the results.

Sensitivity: I have extremely sensitive skin so I was nervous to try any of these tanners! Fortunately, I have zero complaints in the sensitivity compartment (whoop whoop)!

Would you use this again? Yes! 

Is this one your favorite? Yes! 

loreal sublime bronze before and afterBody Before Sunless Tanner / Body After¬†L’Oreal Sublime Bronze in Medium¬†// Face Before / Face After¬†L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Serum in Medium

Tone:¬†Keep in mind while looking at the photos above, I did incur some natural sun from Memorial Day weekend and pool time, however, I loved the natural looking sunkissed color this sunless tanner provided. I didn’t love the shimmer that it had but thankfully that rinsed off in the shower the next day.¬†

Ease of application:¬†This was easy to apply, however, it is a clear lotion which made it a little tricky to know if I was applying it evenly. Thankfully the mitt had my back and got it all over! It felt a tad sticky for a few minutes after applying, but dried pretty fast overall and didn’t transfer to my clothes or bedding.¬†

Smell: I did notice a tanning bed scent with this. 

Finished appearance: I was very happy with the end look of this sunless tanner [minus the shimmer that was all over my body]! The color was quite natural for both the body and face. 

Longevity: I felt like both the body and face lasted 3-4 days! 

Price: For $10, I would totally buy this! 

Sensitivity: No issues! 

Would you use this again?¬†Because I loved Jergens so much and they are the same price, no, I wouldn’t choose this one.¬†

Is this one your favorite? No. 

PHEW. And that’s a sunless tanner wrap. I’ve never been more sun-kissed or glowing than I have been over the past month but I can’t say I hated this experiment. To recap, I think the biggest surprise to all of us was that the drugstore brand options were just as great and natural looking [if not more] than some of the expensive options! Hopefully, this comparison helped you find a sunless tanner or two that you’re willing to give a try! Which one[s] do you use and love?! Drop us a note so we can put it on our “must try” list someday! Cheers to a better way to glow all summer long ladies!

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