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May 10, 2011

Best Bets: Self-Tanners

For the past three weeks I subjected myself to all manner of self-tanners—the good, the bad, and the smelly—to bring you this report. I’ve been orange, brown, streaky, splotchy, and on more than one occasion went out in public when I probably shouldn’t have. In the end, these eight stood out—or rather, blended in—the most. What did I miss? –Elizabeth

1. BEST FOR FACE: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads ($32 for 20) – OUT OF CONTROL. Dr. Gross’ cult-favorite glycolic peel pads infused with self-tanner. Which means, not only does your skin look pristine the next day, but the color is a deep, neutral brown. And there’s enough solution on the pad for your neck.

2. BEST BRONZER + SELF-TANNER (FACE): Beautisol Need I Glow More? ($26) – I tend to self-tan my face at night, when my moisturizer, spf, makeup, etc, can’t interfere. Also, so I wake up looking like I’m on vaca. But when I forget or want to go darker, I reach for this in the morning. The added bronzer give my skin an instant boost and make application super easy.

3. BEST ALL-AROUND: Clarins Instant Self Tanning Gel ($44) – There’s a reason this one always makes editors’ lists. I revisited it after dabbling in the cream versions, and am so glad I did. The oil-free gel formula absorbs in seconds. The color forms in a couple of hours. The shade is absolutely perfect and believable. And it works equally well on face and body.

4. READER PICK: St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse ($41) – The most mentioned self-tanner among readers and tweeters alike. Major color, including a bronzer that washes away at the end of the day, and easy foam application for the faint hearted. I’m actually more curious if there’s anyone out there who’s NOT in love with this product?

5. BEST SCENT + PACKAGING: Kate Somerville Tanning Towelettes ($48 for eight) – Neither of those two criteria have anything to with results, yet everything to do with what can so often be a messy, unglamorous experience. Like all of Kate’s products these look, work, and smell amazing. They also know it and cost way too much.

6. BEST COLOR (BODY): Bare Minerals Faux Tan Self Tanner ($22) – I literally threw this stuff in the trash after it turned my bathroom into a war zone. The next morning, I fished it right back out. I’ve never seen such a deep, dark streak-free tan come out of a bottle. But man was it hard work getting there.

7. BEST GRADUAL TAN: Bare Minerals Faux Tan Body Moisturizer ($18) – Unlike its aforementioned brethren, this daily tanning lotion is mess-proof. It yields a warm, natural-looking tan over time, plus smells like sweet almond oil, feels like a rich cream.

8. BEST DRUGSTORE BUY: Sonia Kashuk Self Tanning Towelettes for Body ($10) – I realize there are cheaper options on the market, but none are as effective or inoffensive as these. Go for the Body version because there’s enough in each towel for your face, and the formula is exactly the same. I buy a box each summer just for travel.

  • Elizabeth Dehn
    Born and raised in Minnesota by surprisingly low-maintenance parents, beauty writer and lifestyle editor Elizabeth Dehn (aka Bets) spent her awkward years buying Mood lipstick and whipping up DIY face masks before founding Beauty Bets in 2009.
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