Slow Glow: The Best Gradual Self-Tanners to Help You Transition From Summer to Fall

The benefits in these formulas go way beyond a building a subtle glow.
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Publish date:
August 18, 2015
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self-tanners, dr. dennis gross, Jurlique, Gradual Self-tanners, James Read

As summer winds down (saddest face), I'm hovering near the color of my work boots, nearing KFC drumstick territory, and I ain't mad at it! We use this silly as-seen-on-TV hose to get a shower-like sprinkler on my roof, and my tan has been on the up and up ever since. Don’t worry—I use SPF and try not to sit out before 2pm when the rays are OD, but I definitely get some sun.

To keep it optimal tan levels, one must follow certain procedures of exfoliation and moisturization, which luckily I do anyway because I am OCD about internal and external hydration, but one thing I throw in the mix to stay rolling with the Snookis is use gradual tan products two or three times per week to boost the glow factor. I do enjoy a good temporary bronzer, self-tanner, or spray tan, but I find the absolute best way for me to tackle artificial tan is gradually.

Gradual tans have all the good stuff that helps deepen a natural tan through maillard reactions, but without an extra-precise application, that can be a pain unless you have someone to spread it on your back.

Here are three lines that are killing it right now in the gradual glow department.

Want less acne AND gradual tan? Dr. Dennis Gross has what you need. I love this line of "glotions."

Put it this way: when you apply self-tanner right after a shave, you’re really rolling the irritation dice. Imagine if you could get a both the bronze look and also prevent razor bumps and ingrown hairs, all while undoing sun damage in one single step. BOOM! That's what this does.

It's not the most bronzing, so it's slightly more suited to fairer people, but it's still amazing. You can also use this if you are heavily tattooed to even out places where you wear extra SPF, and the AHA/BHA combo will help brighten the appearance of your ink.

I like the body version a bit more than the face version, but I do like to use the face edition on days I’m using AHA serum; it helps keep your tan while you simultaneously slough it off.

When I got to try James Read’s Sleep Masks I was hella excited, and it ended up being a reallly great option. Typically, I avoid white clothing because of my clumsiness—a T-shirt may last one single wash before I spill coffee or salad dressing on it—so tanners and white shirts were the ultimate test for me.

With these luxurious gels, you really get a potent tan and it doesn’t rub all over everything like most of my bronzing products. If you follow the instructions, you get a perfect and deep bronze overnight, and you can control how dark you get with a few tricks. When I want to tone it down, I will mix a pump of this in with my lotion, or skip exfoliating beforehand. To get it extra-dark, exfoliate and avoid lotion.

Twice a week on face and body is enough to really get a power tan even without the sun. I also like to use the Sleep Mask Tan Face to help even things out when stronger face SPFs cause a discrepancy.

Last but not least, we have an all-in-one product from superfly natural friends Jurlique. Sun Specialist self-tanner is a gradual in my opinion, but that’s one of the reasons it’s so great!

Jurlique differs from others in their pursuit of combining synergistic botanicals that not many others combine. FFS, they make a gel moisturizer with rose, turmeric and witch hazel, and it’s not even an acne-specific product! Respect, seriously.

Not every tanning product is also hydrating, but Sun Specialist is next-level hydrating. Natural oils like safflower and extracts of six different flowers and three berries sink in while their threefold tan complex gets to work. If you use this consistently, you can really go up a few shades, but I would tell anyone of any skin tone to use this to brighten up, as licorice extract helps balance out discoloration, and the secondary tanning ingredients such as caramel and erythrulose are suitable for everyone and even faces.

  • Fav gradual tan recommendation?
  • Do you prefer full strength faux tanning products or gradual ones?

Photos: Maria Penaloza