Ask Julia: What is the best self tanner?

Chris Loves Julia | Julia poolside holding a plate of snacksChris Loves Julia | Julia poolside holding a plate of snacks

White Jeans | Tan Tee | Straw Hat (Similar) | Apple Watch Band | Gold Oura Ring | Melamine Plate | Striped Pool Towels | Backyard Sources

Few things can boost my self-confidence quicker than freshly applied self-tanner. There’s something about giving my skin a bit of a glow that gives me a pep in my step, especially when it comes to going on vacation! Long gone are the tanning bed days (anybody else shaking their head at their younger self?), so I lather up on sunscreen and rely on self-tanner for that sun-kissed look. We’re headed to Mexico soon, and I’ve always wanted to conduct a test to find the best self-tanner, so I figured there’s no time like the present!

Finding the best self-tanner

I’ve been experimenting with self-tanners for years! I’m a sucker for buying a product, loving it, using it all up, and then wondering if there’s something even better out there. Then I buy something else, and the process continues. Maybe this means I’m afraid of commitment? Or it could be that I’m incredibly committed to finding the best of the best because I need my self-tanner to work overtime!

Chris Loves Julia | Self-tanner bottle flatlayChris Loves Julia | Self-tanner bottle flatlay

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So we had some fun in the office testing seven of the most-used foaming tanners that I’ve used over the years. I give my full review of each tanner below, but we also wanted to illustrate how the colors compare side-by-side. Personally, I’m all about the tanning mousse. The application is so smooth, and it seems to develop more evenly than any lotion I’ve tried. So everything that we tested is a tanning mousse!

Self-Tanners Immediately After Application

Chris Loves Julia | Arm with sample streaks of different self-tanning lotionsChris Loves Julia | Arm with sample streaks of different self-tanning lotions

We were all SHOCKED to see the variation between each tanner during application. The coloring varied so much, and all of us office girls had our favorites picked out. But what we were really interested in seeing is how each one developed overnight.

Self-Tanners Developed Overnight (Including a Shower)

Chris Loves Julia | Arm with sample streaks of different self-tanning lotions next dayChris Loves Julia | Arm with sample streaks of different self-tanning lotions next day

What’s crazy is that although the colors were wildly different upon application, they all looked really similar after having time to develop fully. Obviously, some have warmer or pinker undertones, but color-wise, I think they’re all really similar, and it comes down to personal preference! Here are some of my thoughts.

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Honestly, Coco & Eve is a tough one to beat. I keep trying other newer tanning mousse products, and I always come back to my tried and true. It smells delicious, applies evenly, hydrates my skin, and lasts for days! I prefer the dark, but you can see in the first picture that the coloring leans really green upon application. As it develops, it warms up but still has a bit of an olive undertone.

Seeing the overnight results of “ultra-dark” makes me question everything because, compared to the others, it might actually be the lightest shade.

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I used this for years and years. As you can see from the pictures, the color is really, really brown and actually leans toward a reddish brown color, but this was definitely a team favorite!

The reason I stopped using it was that it wasn’t very hydrating and sort of dried me out. But I also tend to have pretty dry skin, so it could be the one for you!

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St. Tropez was my OG tanning mousse. The reason I ended up switching is that it has more orange undertones. I also remember it being a bit splotchy after a couple of days.

From the test, it also looks a bit lighter and warmer than the other ones, which isn’t a bad thing!

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I totally swiped up on this per another influencer’s recommendation. First of all, A+ for the beautiful packaging. The scent is “blood orange,” which smells interesting, but the color is my very favorite one. It’s very comparable to Coco & Eve but less green.

My only critique is that it comes off pretty easily. It looks incredible on days one and two, but by day three, you’re practically back to square one. In some ways, it’s also a good thing because you’re not left with weird splotchy areas that are too stubborn to rinse off.

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Where are my Love Islanders at? I fell in love with Molly Mae on that show, and so when she released her own self-tanner, I had to give it a try!

The undertones are a bit more yellow upon application, and I did end up liking this one, but not as much as Coco & Eve.

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We all gasped when we pumped this onto the applicator brush because it was greeeeeen. You can barely even tell it’s there when you apply, but it actually develops into a really lovely warm tan! Kind of shocking.

When I was using Red Aspen, I loved how nourishing and hydrating it was. I stopped because I missed my darker Coco & Eve, and this one only came in one shade.

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The real winner might be this Bondi Sands! It’s practically identical to Coco & Eve, for a fraction of the cost. I grabbed this at a convenience store in London when I ran out of my tried and true and fell in love with it.

I really wished it didn’t dry out my skin; otherwise, this would be such a good option for me!

I continue to love Coco & Eve, but seeing this side-by-side comparison is honestly making me rethink trying out Loving Tan again! I also really love Lux Unfiltered, but maybe I just need to embrace a more frequent application because the color is so good.

Even More Self-Tanning Reviews…

But wait there’s more! After we did this test, I started hearing about Beauty by Earth — a brand we didn’t test. This self-tanner goes on clear, so it doesn’t stain your sheets or your clothes. I got it and immediately joined the Beauty by Earth bandwagon for, like, four months. I tried all their stuff. I was recommending it to all of my friends. “It’s natural. It doesn’t have any dyes in it. And it builds up really nicely.” I was using the lotion and the mousse. Both felt like I had a great tan, and I continued layering/building on it.

Chris Loves Julia | Coco & Even Sunny Honey self-tannerChris Loves Julia | Coco & Even Sunny Honey self-tanner

And one day, I thought “I’m just going to try Coco & Eve again just to compare…” (because it was my favorite self-tanner, the one to beat). Oh, it was like coming home! Most of all, I liked that there wasn’t guesswork about where I put the tanner: The Beauty by Earth one went on clear, and I was always wondering, “Did I do it right?”

My new self tanner was good when it was good. But when it was time to exfoliate, my skin was like the desert — it was just cracked. Also, the tan only built upon itself to an extent — then it just… flaked off.

In this experimental phase, I wanted to try the new Loving Tan Platinum Mousse — because everyone seems to love it. Oh my goodness. In my alternate reality, that is the warm, tan color of my skin. It has more reddish, violet undertones that really complement my dark features. I wore this one for about a month. But again, I felt like it dried me out. I would put lotion on every day and still felt like I was dry all the time.

I went back to Coco & Eve, my tried and true. I apply “Dark,” and it’s moisturizing, the color is nice, and it’s foolproof. I just love it. I used it before my recent Bora Bora trip, and it was perfection. While I was there though, I started breaking out a little on my face, so I switched to using a light mist from Tan-Luxe called The Water. I mist it on at night so when I wake up, my face has just a little bit of color. It’s really buildable — in my opinion there isn’t a huge difference between the light/medium and the medium/dark.

How to Remove Self-Tanner

The tricky thing about self-tanner is the removal part. Even after a good exfoliation, it doesn’t always come off, so we actually tested this Bondi Sands Tan Eraser for the first time on all of the swatches. The right half of the arm where we applied definitely decreased by about 50%. It kind of looks like the light is catching it, but it’s been wiped off.

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So it definitely works! The directions say to apply it after the tan has been on for 3-5 days, and this was applied the next day. But I’m definitely adding this to my tanning regimen so I can fully remove it before reapplying.

If you’re wanting a step-by-step look at my tanning routine, check out this post, where I go into more detail on my exact regimen.

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