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The Ultimate Self-Tanning Guide

 As things begin to heat up, Mr. Sun isn’t always guaranteed to show his face. If you’re an Oregonian you know that you can’t count on too many sunny days and this isn’t the greatest news for those of you who want glowy, tan skin. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the best self-tanners and tips for self-tanning that can give you that “just came back from a tropical vacation” look while we wait for summer. Here is your extensive guide:


There are about a million different formulas for self-tanning and it can be difficult to choose the best one for you. But among the sea of lotions, oils, milks, gels, and sprays there are about 6 general types of these bronzy concoctions.

Mist/spray: Mists and sprays give you the look and feel of an airbrush tan. Most are dry very quickly, and it’s like a salon airbrush tan for a better price (and many times a better color)!

Pros: good color, quick drying

Cons: hard to use, stains floors and walls (use in the shower or bathtub!)


Mousse: Mousse’s foamy texture makes it easy to spread the glowy goodness. Mousse tends to dry pretty quickly as well and leaves a long-lasting tan depending on the brand.

Pros: nice color, longer lasting

Cons: Tough to blend


Lotion: Lotions are the most common form of self-tanning. Most lotions provide nice color gradually, although there are some that are instant.

Pros: long lasting, best for blending, easy to use

Cons: many lotions can make you orange (choose wisely), longer drying time


Oil: Most tanning oils smell SO good (you will transform into a walking, talking tropical vacation). They also do wonders for your skin if you choose ones with vitamins and healthy ingredients.

Pros: smell= heaven, soft skin, smooth color

Cons: oil gets EVERYWHERE, long drying time


Gel: Gels can be fun to work with if you get the hang of it. Many gels smell nice too and provide long lasting color compared to other options. They are easy to blend and quick drying, but many of them should be used if you have naturally darker skin or tan easily, as the colors tend to be deeper hues.

Pros: quick drying, long-lasting

Cons: can be too dark, easy to miss spots


Wipes: Wipes are great for the face or doing touch-ups on the go. They provide and instant bronze with nice smells most of the time. Wipes are handy and easy to pack for the girl with a busy schedule.

Pros: easy to pack, good for touch ups, disposable

Cons: not long-lasting, orangy hues if you’re not careful


You know what option works best for you, but what about the brand? There are more brands than kinds of self-tanners and while there are the good ones and the bad ones, there are some that are hard to go wrong with. Every skin type is different, so test them out and see which works best for you!


Tanceuticals: This brand has the highest rating in several beauty magazines and is at the top of many beauty bloggers’ shopping list. The color looks natural and gives you a pretty, deep, hue. The coconutty scent is also to die for.

Buy from: tanceuticals.com


Clarins: Clarins has constantly topped the charts for a pretty summery glow. Their face tanner is one of the best for a natural looking color

Buy from: Macy’s, Target, or clarinsusa.com


Jergens: If you’re looking for a cheap tan, this is the product. On a college girl budget, self-tanners can be a bit pricey. Jergens has a nice gradual tanner that gives you a nice bronzy glow.

Buy from: Ulta, Walgreens, Target, Fred Meyer (basically anywhere)


St. Tropez: Probably the best self-tanner according to every person ever. Okay that may be exaggerating but St. Tropez has been rated as the best self-tanner by Allure magazine (and every person who’s ever used it). It’s a bit pricey, but so totally worth it.

Buy from: UltaSephoraNordstromsttropeztan.com


Vita-Tanz: For the health-conscious girl, Vita-Tanz is an organic formula with trace minerals to help nourish your skin. The color is looks natural, so natural that their motto is “always brown, never orange.”

Buy from: Vitatanz.com


And here are a few brands you should avoid:


-Too Faced                

-Banana Boat            


-Mary Kay


You finally have it all figured out; it’s time to get your tan on! But here are a few  final tips for achieving a flawless glow.

1. Shave, rinse, moisturize, and repeat! Be sure to shave the day before or the day of your self-tanning regimen. This helps distribute the color more easily and avoid any weird bumps. By moisturizing dry spots, you can avoid color piling up in places like your armpits, wrists, ankles, and elbows.

2. Use a mitt or a glove I unfortunately was not introduced to this concept until this year. Save yourself the time and pain now, tanning mitts and gloves ARE LIFE. They make self-tanning a million times easier for you by helping you avoid orange hands and providing  smooth color everywhere.

3. Test it out By doing a patch test you’ll be able to make sure the color looks good on your skin and you don’t break out from any of the ingredients in your self-tanner. It’s better to check now then waiting and having to hide your oompa-loompa-colored skin from the world…

4. Rubbing alcohol Rubbing alcohol will be your best friend when it comes to mess-ups. Too much tanner on your elbow? Rubbing alcohol. A scary streak down your leg? Rubbing alcohol. Orange blotches covering your stomach? Rubbing alcohol. Just take a cotton ball and rub away!

5. Face and back Reaching these spots are so annoying and it’s almost worth skipping. But if you really want that even tan all over there are a few ways to reach it. A mist or spray is a good option because you can turn them upside down and reach. Tanning mitts are helpful too, by placing one over the head of a loofah or dry brush; you can reach your back! Just make sure to have a friend check to see if you missed any spots.



Melissa is a freshman at the University of Oregon. She's working toward a journalism major with a minor in PR and business administration. She hopes to write, design, and style for a fashion magazine in New York. She loves being a writer for Her Campus Oregon and Ethos magazine, as well as being a member of U of O's Women in Business. In her free time she enjoys working on her fashion blog, sketching, and shopping.
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