I basically called my mom for help. Except when I say mom, I mean an esthetician.
I've never used self-tanner before in my life, but for the past few weeks I've been on an epic mission to find the perfect drugstore option. It took a few weeks because I wasn't smart enough to think of doing swatches like Danielle did, but in the end, I finally found the perfect one.
The perfect self-tanner has to be even with no streaks, easy to apply, and turns out brown—not orange.
My goal was to be tan enough to feeling confident wearing a white bikini for the first time. In the past, if I attempted this, I was so pale that it looked like I was wearing nothing at all.
I also went into this hoping that a tan would help hide the blotchy redness on my face from rosacea.
Here are my face and legs before. I'm not wearing any makeup to change my complexion in any of the following photos. (And obviously, these were taken before I shaved my head.)
I made sure to follow the rules of self-tanning: exfoliating in the shower first, then applying lotion to all of my dry parts (elbows, knees, ankles, etc.), and doing my best to apply sparingly to those places.
These are the self-tanners that stood out to me, for better or for worse.
This was my very first introduction to self-tanners, let alone tanning towelettes.
It didn't go well.
I liked how fast and easy it was to use, with no mess and not much smell. Plus, it dried almost instantly. I also like the inclusion of AHAs.
That said, I woke up with streaky arms and legs the next morning. I managed to get it right the third time, but it's tricky because you can't see where it's going while applying since there's no guide color. Plus, one towelette really isn't enough for your whole body; you'd have to use two towelettes for two or three days to get a decent tan (there's six per package).
So as excited as I was to try tanning towelettes, I'll probably only break these out for quick touch-ups while traveling or for a light, mess-free tan in the winter or when I'm in a rush.
Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse (Deep Bronze), $13
This mousse was so much better to work with than the towels. By the way, I used an ULTA Sunless Mitt ($5) to apply this and the other two tanning lotions, and I can't recommend it enough. It is essential.
Anyway, this was extremely easy to apply and dried quickly. I woke up the next morning with no streaks and an even tan. I only needed one application (definitely get the Deep Bronze shade).
It may have leaned a little bit orange, though. I thought that could just be because I'm not used to seeing myself so tan, but my brother actually asked me why I was orange. Insert sad trombone sound here.
L'Oréal Sublime Bronze Tinted Self-Tanning Lotion (Medium), $12
I felt like this one leaned a little orange on me, too, and the application wasn't as easy as it was with the Jergens mousse (although it was still much better than using the towelettes).
It dried quickly and left me with an even tan. I did notice that this tan turned quite splotchy near the end of the week, though.
One note about this lotion: It has a ton of shimmer in it for some reason. If that's your cup of tea, then great! Personally, I wasn't in love with being compared to an orange disco ball (it doesn't show in photos, but it's noticeable IRL).
I had a rough start with this one because I originally tried the lotion variety instead of the mousse. Big mistake. It was so much work to apply and was impossible to rub on evenly. Then I went back to Sally Beauty Supply for the mousse, and the heavens sang.
You still have to work a little to spread it on evenly, but it's worth it. The guide color is a dark greenish-brown that will make you look dirty, so I wouldn't plan on going out after applying it. You have to wait four to six hours before showering, but then the guide color washes right off, and you're left with a perfect tan.
I applied it two nights in a row (just to see how dark I could get) but once a week is probably enough for a deep, natural tan that's not streaky. It even has a nice scent.
One big downside, however, is that this stuff comes off on sheets and clothes. It left a rusty-colored mess behind in my bed, and I am not happy about it.
That said, the Tanwise Mousse wins as my favorite affordable self-tanner. I'm excited to use it all summer long. It even works well on the face.
I'm happy with my tan because now I don't feel the need to cover up my rosacea with makeup, my teeth look a little whiter, and yes, I can finally wear my white bikini.
- What's your favorite affordable self-tanner?
- Have you tried Tanwise (or any of the others)?