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Ask Belle: The Best Self-Tanners for Summer

Dear Belle,

Help! I’m getting married at the end of May and I want to be a little tan (so I’m not blinding everyone with my pale skin) but really don’t want to go to the tanning booth. Do you have an suggestions that won’t break the bank?

Thank you! Bride-to-Be

Well, that depends on what you mean by “break the bank.”

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St. Tropez Self-Tanning Mousse ($42)

This self-tanning mousse is the best self-tanner on the market.  It goes on smooth, won’t irritate your skin, and is easy to spread around without streaking.  The Application Mitt is optional, but I find that it gives me better coverage, and it keeps my palms from turning orange.

Looking for a drugstore option?

I use Jergen’s Natural Glow to get a gradual tan.  The product has a perfume to it that I don’t love, but the product isn’t orange or overly strong.  I’ve also heard good things about L’Oreal Sublime Bronze spray-on self-tanner.

Also, don’t discount a professional, air-brushed spray tan.  Most product lines have a range of shades to choose from, so you can decide how dark you want to go.  Try it now, and you’ll know what to expect by the time your wedding rolls around.

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    20 comments

  1. Zebra says:

    Belle, I know you’re a big fan of the Glytone line for warding off body acne – I also rely on it to keep my skin clear. But I’m wondering if the chemical exfoliants will just take off the spray tan? Do you find you can get away with self tanner and the body wash?

    I’m also hoping to dip my toe into self-tanning this summer, but if I have to pick between being pale and having clear skin, clear skin wins every time (unfortunately).

    March 23, 2015/Reply
    • Belle says:

      No, the chemicals take a spray tan right off. I only tan my legs though, so it’s not really a problem.

      March 23, 2015/Reply
  2. Sarah says:

    I recommend the spray tan option! My husband and I both did the light option and it looked great (we’re very pale normally). I agree, try it now and don’t be afraid to ask questions at the salon!

    March 23, 2015/Reply
  3. Kat says:

    St. Tropez was on RuLaLa last week, including the product you mention above. I picked up the original formula–hoping it works as well as I’ve heard.

    March 23, 2015/Reply
  4. e says:

    An extremely pale friend recommended Tan Towels to me (I am also extremely pale) and I cannot rave about them enough. Like Belle says, definitely give them a practice round or two before photos are involved.

    https://www.ulta.com/ulta/browse/productDetail.jsp?productId=xlsImpprod510322

    March 23, 2015/Reply
    • Angie says:

      @e, would you recommend using the Tan Towels over a tanning mousse (like the St. Tropez)? I like the simplicity of the towel application, as I’m a klutz when it comes to applying self-tanner in the right amounts and avoiding places where the color gets uneven (knees, elbows).

      March 24, 2015/Reply
      • e says:

        I have to confess I’ve never tried the mousse! With the towels I know that by starting with areas that can really use and take the color (like my legs and shoulders) and doing areas like stomach and face less, I get a more realistic all-over color than the monotone I’ve gotten with other methods (like the spray-on and the L’Oreal build-a-tan I’ve tried). People go crazy for the mousse so maybe I’m missing out, but I have a good thing going with the towels!

        March 31, 2015/Reply
  5. Caroline says:

    Wear cheap makeup or no makeup whenever you can, especially if you’re going to be outside for a while. Most good makeup has SPF 30 in it, which dashes any chances of getting tan the natural way.

    March 23, 2015/Reply
    • Anna says:

      The whole point is to not tan the natural way. I’d rather be pale (or go through trial and error with a bunch of fake tanners) than wrinkly and fighting off skin cancer.

      March 23, 2015/Reply
  6. Jen says:

    Try St. Moriz tan as an alternative to the St. Tropez! It’s prettymuch the exact same thing for 1/3 the price.

    March 23, 2015/Reply
  7. Rachael says:

    This is a question from a total newbie, but if you just tan your legs does it look weird? I am super super pale, but feel like i Would feel a bit better if my legs were not so pasty white in the summer, but I am too lazy to do self tanner all over myself all the time. Is there a way to add a little color but not all over

    March 23, 2015/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I have olive skin, but my legs are exfoliated when I shave, so I just add a bit of self tanner to even out. It doesn’t look weird unless I over do it.

      March 23, 2015/Reply
  8. Jenn S. says:

    Million Dollar Tan also makes nice tanners – they have lotion, foam, and spray-liquid varieties. I used the lotions (Cabana Tan) for my own wedding last year as I am eschewing tan via light and sun.

    March 23, 2015/Reply
  9. Erin says:

    Amen! St. Tropez is the best for at-home… quick results, and you can always trial it before.

    March 23, 2015/Reply
  10. Allison says:

    If you are getting married anywhere warm and outside be careful with a self tanner or spray tan. Even the best tanners can stain a white dress if you are sweating, especially if you are wearing silk satin. Remember, wedding dresses are very hot! This is probably controversial to say, but I went to a tanning bed three times before my wedding. I will never do it again b/c of health risks, but to me that limited exposure was worth it to not have to worry about stains on my dress.

    March 23, 2015/Reply
    • Molly says:

      Same — I went twice to a stand-up booth the week before, talked carefully with the guys about what I should do, and was totally happy with my color. But never again. 🙂

      March 24, 2015/Reply
  11. Heather says:

    +1 to Allison’s comment. I get spray tans all summer and have learned to never wear white or light colors because I sweat a lot and my tan always stains in my armpit and leg crease areas (even 4-5 days after the initial spray). Even though I’m single now, I constantly worry about one day getting married and having spray tan stains all over my wedding dress!

    March 23, 2015/Reply
  12. Mo says:

    Belle – do you use the St. Tropez facial tanner, too?

    I am looking for a replacement gradual tanner as Anthony for Men discontinued their Self-Tanner with Anti-Aging again. I like Dr. Dennis Gross pads but they aren’t as gradual so if I miss my hairline it is very obvious.

    Anyone?

    March 23, 2015/Reply
  13. Parker says:

    I use the L’oreal Sublime Bronze. It goes on really seamless and thin – if one holds the bottle far enough away from oneself. And definitely resist the temptation to double up. How it looks when it first goes on the skin, is not a good indication of how tanned you’ll be after just a few hours.
    It’s better to do this 1 or 2 days before the actual event, that way if it turns out to light, one can add another thin layer.

    But here, too, I second the advice of practicing far in advance.

    March 24, 2015/Reply
  14. EFH says:

    Spray tan for sure. Otherwise Ive used this St tropez between spray tans in the summer and its great! Rarely streaks.

    March 26, 2015/Reply