Self-Tanners I Use

It’s summer and by now we all know a faux glow is best! Self-tanner is truly one of my favorite “beauty products” to try out. Some give a nice light glow for one or two nights {see Bondi Sands} while others are perfect for going on a week-long trip, like my Express Bronzing Mousse. I think self-tanner gets a bad reputation because 10 {even 5} years ago formulations weren’t what they are today. Self-tanner used to mean streaks galore and an orange-ish mess. And while I have had MANY bad experiences trying them out for the blog, when you find one that’s easy to apply and great for your skin, it can be easier than attempting an at-home salon blowout. Below are my self-tanners that I use without fail throughout the month!

Best for Photos or First-Time User: Bondi Sands

Bondi Sands is the newest self-tanner in my bathroom drawer but it deserves many praises. This self-tanner won’t streak or catch around your wrists or ankles. It’s perfect for if you just want some color for family photos or a wedding you are attending.

  • Pros: If you’ve ever been nervous to try a self-tanner because you don’t want tell-tale marks on your feet or streaks, you want to try Bondi Sands! This has a green undertone and gives the most beautiful natural hue when it dries. You can also shower off fairly quickly after application if that is important to you. It has a “tackier” feeling when applying, but I think that helps some apply and know where you may need to rub in more. Out of all the self-tanning I do, this one is pretty much foolproof when it comes to feet and ankles. There’s no streaks or blotchy spots where it didn’t fully rub in. I always see people say they are nervous about trying a self-tanner for the first time before a big event, but if you use this one I think you are 100% safe you’ll have no mess ups and no one will be able to tell you self-tanned. They’ll think you just got a touch of color!
  • Cons: While I’ve only used the light/medium shade, I don’t find this to be the longest lasting self-tanner. However, if you’re using this for an event or photos, that probably wouldn’t be an issue! In the summer with lots of swimming, chlorine in pools, and scrubbing off sunscreen in the shower, I’d say I get a solid 2-3 days of wear with this. This does transfer off to my sheets, but comes off easily!

Best for Weekly Color: St. Tropez

St. Tropez is the self-tanner I repurchase the most often as I think it gives the most beautiful color payout. The regular St. Tropez is absolutely perfect, but there are 3 items from the brand I love to use in the summer months, as well. The classic is on sale in the large bottle for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, so it’s a great time to get it.

  1. St. Tropez Express: If I’m going on vacation I like to use this because the longer you leave it on, the darker it gets. You can rinse this off quickly if need be as well. I’ll apply this, sleep on it overnight and rinse off in the morning. This gives you a darker, professional spray tan look that will last your entire week-long vacation. The large size is currently on sale!
  2. St. Tropez Whipped Marshmallow: I know what you’re thinking. Artificial marshmallow scent mixed with self-tanner smell? I’ll pass. My mom bought this for me after reading dozens of online reviews and y’all, don’t skimp on this. The marshmallow is just a more sweet scent but totally masks the self-tanner aroma. We all have those days where we need to apply self-tanner but may have to go somewhere before we can shower it off. I’ll use this because no one will ask me, “Did you just get a spray tan?
  3. St. Tropez Purity: This is my pick for sensitive skin or if you hate self-tanner getting on your sheets! It’s their Purity line, so if a cleaner ingredient approach is important to you, try this one. This one doesn’t ever irritate my eczema and it’s what I use when I’m having major skin flare-ups.
  • Pros: I would say that St. Tropez is the self-tanner that grabs the most compliments on my skin in terms of people liking my self-tanner. I also love how it dries down. I really don’t like going to bed with that sticky feeling, and this dries like a true mousse so it’s not sticky when applying and you can throw on pajamas quickly. St. Tropez also has a pretty powerful longevity and will last a good 5-6 days even through all the pool time we have in the summer. St. Tropez Purity is great for sensitive skin and also won’t come off on your sheets.
  • Cons: You’ve got to watch your ankles and wrists! Now, I normally wouldn’t have even mentioned this as a con as I think that’s just common with self-tanners. However, after trying Bondi Sands, I can really see the difference. I’ll share below what I use to make sure I don’t have splotches in those areas.

Best for Daily Lotion: Kora

If it’s Goop approved, you know it’s good. If you’re a Jergens lover, but want a gradual-self tanner that is organic, try this one. I apply this during the week after my showers to get a subtle glow as you can control the color with the application. This is also perfect to take on vacation to extend your self or spray tan.

  • Pros: The scent is subtle and I love the ingredients. I’m a huge rosehip oil fan and this is in it! It also blends and dries down so easily, so you aren’t going to bed with a sticky lotion feeling. If you are intimidated by self-tanners, this is also a lovely option since it is buildable. If you applied it every night for 3 nights after your shower, you’d have a great color. If you apply just once or twice a week, it helps extend your self-tan if you have one or just gives you a beautiful glow without streaks.
  • Cons: For a gradual lotion, this is on the pricier side. However, I think at-home self-tanners are far more reasonable than getting them done professionally. One bottle of this will last me for a good 5-6 months. You also want to blend in with my blending trick {will share below} on your feet even though this is a lotion.

Best for No Color Transfer: Tan-Luxe Hydra Mousse

Tan-Luxe is a buzzed-about brand that I always see on Instagram. People are utterly obsessed with the line! I’ve tried the drops a few years ago, but don’t think I did it right. However, I purchased their Hydra Mousse this year and see why this is such a beauty brand favorite. This is my second bottle that I happily repurchased once I saw how this doesn’t transfer!

  • Pros: If you are worried about color transfer, grab this one! This won’t’ transfer on your sheets. It won’t transfer on your white denim. It’s summer safe for those moments you think, “My self-tanner can’t sweat off right now!” It’s also formulated to match your skin tone and give you a glow that’s best for your skin.
  • Cons: This is probably the stickiest dry down out of the self-tanners I own. Now, it’s not a big deal and if you apply your tanner and then paint your nails to pass the time, you wouldn’t even notice. However, I think I’m so used to St. Tropez drying in 30 seconds I notice this one more.

I also wanted to note, when I go on vacation I LOVE to pack these Kate Sommerville tan wipes. They don’t irritate my skin, never streak, and take 3 minutes to apply! You don’t get *as* deep of a bronze glow, you get more of a Bondi Sands color. However, it’s great for travel and extending your tan.

Once you find the right self-tanner for your skin, that’s just half the battle. The products you use in and out of the shower can help your self-tanner last longer and not streak as it starts to fade. Here are the tried and true products I use during the week while self-tanning.

  1. Lalicious Oil: I apply Lalicious Oil around my wrists and ankles before I apply. The oil acts as a “buffer” to help even out the tan and make it less concentrated in those areas. Don’t apply a TON, but just a little bit to help make the application seamless. I also use this during the week after my showers since Lalicious won’t take off your self-tanner.
  2. Loving Tan Bronze Shimmer: Loving Tan as a self-tanner doesn’t work on me and ends up streaking. However, their bronze shimmer is a product I love! While the Vita Liberata Body Blur is great as an “airbrushed” leg look, the Bronze Shimmer gives your skin color if you are at the tail end of your self-tan but don’t want to apply again. I did a blog post here on how I use it when I don’t have time to self-tan. I use this quite often before blog shoots.
  3. Marc Jacobs Foundation Brush: Once I apply my self-tanner, I always buff around my fingers, toes, and ankles to make sure the color didn’t catch anywhere. This is my favorite brush to do so. The hairs are packed tightly so it can blend firmly, but the hairs also don’t come out.
  4. Native Body Wash: Native Body Wash has none of the self-tanning disrupting ingredients that break down your color. It’s paraben and sulfate-free so on days that I’m showering 2 or 3 times thanks to all of our outside activities this summer, I know my self-tan isn’t coming off in any more unnecessary amounts.
  5. Colleen Rothschild Body Butter: This is the body butter I use that also doesn’t break down self-tanner. Did you know lotions are actually more damaging to your self-tan than even body wash?! This one is formulated to not do that and it also works with my bronzer trick in this blog post.
  6. Lalicious Sugar Scrub: At the end of each week, I like to scrub all remnants of my self-tanner off so I can apply again. You definitely don’t want to apply self-tanner on top of patchy self-tanner. This is the BEST scrub for removing self-tanner and is still gentle on your skin. It’s a superfine sugar, so a little removes your self-tan without causing tears in your skin.

My last tip is to not stress while applying self-tanner! I know it’s easy to get nervous about streaks, but just remember: self-tanner streaks come off in a few days, sun damage does notIf I ever try a bad self-tanner brand or have a mishap, I just joke if someone asks about it. I’m like, “Oh yes! You know me! I can be more careful about sun protection than self-tanner application.” Then turn the question on them. Say, “Ugh, have you found a self-tanner you love? This last one didn’t cooperate with my skin.” 

Which ones are your favorites?!

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  1. I don’t use a self-tanner – I’m tan enough of already! But I hope this helps everyone who does! ❤️✨

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    Published 14 Jul 19Reply
  2. bella wrote:


    I am have used the St. Tropez for years and re-purchased it many times and I love it! It does transfer especially since I wear lots of white, but it is totally worth it!

    Published 15 Jul 19Reply
  3. Just snagged a bottle of the Express during the sale and can’t wait for it to arrive. I used it a while ago and absolutely loved it, not sure why I hadn’t repurchased yet! And the way you talk about the Marshmallow one really piques my interest. I feel like they should have named it differently because the idea of marshmallow totally turned me off when I first saw it haha.

    Have you shared before in a blog post a list of the ingredients that break down self-tanner?

    xo Mary-Katherine

    Published 15 Jul 19Reply
    • Katey wrote:

      Hi love!! Sorry I just saw this! Let me see if I can get the full list from someone I know who has it, but sulfates is the BIG one!! xx, Katey

      Published 05 Sep 19Reply