My Favorite Affordable Self Tanners + Tips

I've gotten requests for this post for quite awhile and finally got around to putting it together! I look pretty pale in most of my blog photos due to my photography style and editing, but in person I get asked about self tanner multiple times a week - no joke! I naturally have very fair skin and a history of skin cancer in my family, so while I naturally tan pretty well, now in my twenties I'm good about protecting my skin from the sun. Also since working an office job I'm honestly not out in the sun much anyways. However, I do love the look of bronzed skin, and I seriously feel like self tanner takes off 10 pounds (for me at least)! I always feel like I look much more toned, and who doesn't want that? ;)

I've tried out A LOT of self tanning products and these are my favorites so far. Only one of these products was gifted, which I'll note below, but basically I've spent a lot of my own money over the years searching for my favorite tanning products! As a disclaimer I have not tried St. Tropez or Loving Tan products yet. I really want to but they're so pricey that I just haven't gotten around to it yet! 

My ride-or-die roducts that get you really tan...

If I had to pick one absolute favorite tanning product it would be this. At around $12 a bottle it's super affordable and you can pick it up at any Sally Beauty Supply. I use these mitts to apply, which I think is essential! I find that the best time to apply is after you've dried off from an evening shower. After I apply it I finish getting ready for bed while it dries. Then first thing in the morning I like to hop in the shower for a 30 second rinse to rinse off the top layer. In my opinion this washes off any splotches or any extra product from it developing. Then just pat dry with a non-white towel and apply lotion. You'll be so bronzy and it lasts for several days! When I shower again and still have color from this I don't use a scrub or loofah and instead use a gentle wash or soap so that I'm not scrubbing off all of my color. You can then apply again to darken your color even more or you can just leave your tan alone and you should still have a good amount of color! Several friends and family members of mine use this stuff and love it! I think it's amazing, especially for the price, and it doesn't smell bad at all.

This is very similar and a close runner up to the Tanwise, and you can buy it at Ulta for about the same price at the Tanwise. I'll buy this one if I make it to an Ulta before a Sally Beauty store. I follow all of the same steps/tips as the Tanwise. I don't think it's *quite* as flawless application-wise but it's still pretty darn good!

As you can tell by the name, this is a lotion rather than a mousse so the application is kind of different, but this product will get you just as dark as the mousse and in my opinion lasts a little longer. It has a green undertone rather than an orange undertone, which sounds weird, but makes you look brown/bronze rather than orange - yay! This takes me a little bit longer to apply than the mousse does, but I use both just as frequently. I apply this with my bare hands because you really have to rub it in since it's a thicker consistency. Your hands will turn a really scary shade of brown but don't be alarmed! Just wash them immediately after with warm water and dish soap! I usually wash 2-3 times and it all comes off :) Like with the mousses, I also apply this after a nighttime shower and let it develop overnight, then do a super quick rinse in the morning. I mentioned above that this lasts a little longer than the mousse. I used this before our Nashville trip this summer but didn't re-apply at all for fear of staining the hotel's sheets or towels, but I had nice color the whole time! I did use some of the products below to help extend my color though...

Products that gradually tan and/or extend your tan...

Not to be confused with the Tanwise lotion above, this one is more of a gradual tanner. However, my main use for it is to help extend my tan when I use the tanners above! I find that using this one or the Bondi Sands one makes a big difference, especially because self tanners can really dry out your skin. This has a little bit of tint to it, which helps to gently add to your color while also moisturizing. I like the smell of this one better than the Bondi Sands one below, but I think they both work just as well!

I also use this product to extend my other tanning products and it's great for that! It also has SPF 15, which is a really nice added benefit. It has aloe vera and vitamin E, which makes it nice and moisturizing, but it definitely also has a strong coco butter smell, which took me a little bit to get used to. I would like to try some of the other Bondi Sands products! Their foam/mousse is supposed to be great as well.

Other good products to know about...

1. Tanwise Self-Tanning Face Gel
I don't use normal self tanner on my face because I have very sensitive skin, but I've used this 1-2 times a week for months and it's never caused any breakouts. I like to apply it in little spots on my face and then blend it in with a big powder or kabuki brush. It's doesn't last a super long time - not more than a day or two - but it will help your face blend with your body. I also like to use it if I'm not going to be wearing makeup because a little bit of a tan helps to mask imperfections! We're going camping and to the lake this weekend and I will be relying heavily on this stuff ;)

2. L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Towelettes
These are so handy and I like that I can get them at Walmart, Target or any drug store. They have a little bit more of an orange tone than all of the other products so I don't like to use these on their own, but what I do like them for is to extend my base tan when I'm traveling. If you have other self tanner on as a base tan, then these towelettes are great to touch up with a couple of days later in a quick, mess-free way. Unfortunately you can't really see the color go on, so you just have to keep track of where you've been and you have to be pretty thorough. And definitely wash your hands right after!


I hope you found this post helpful! I would LOVE to know your favorite self-tanning products and tips! I'm always looking for new products to try out, but I will say that I've used Tanwise products for quite a while and love them all (as you can see from me having 4 in this post haha)! Also a quick shopping tip... Sally Beauty often has buy one get one 50% off deals and other sales with Tanwise products!  

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xo, Jacy