I found a sunless tanner that works!


Before these last 8 weeks or so I’ve had essentially zero interest in bothering with a “fake tan” through a tanning lotion. But I have so much travel and different things on the calendar this spring and summer that I have been a little bit more conscientious of my pale, pale skin.

Listen, I like my pale skin. I really do. I used to go to the tanning bed (cue regretful sigh) in high school and my mom will even tell me that I used to get really tan as a child. But along the line my skin has gotten more and more sensitive. I’ll burn pretty easily and I’m prone to getting seriously intense rounds of sun poisoning.

That’s one of the main reasons I invested in rash guards last summer.

Anyway, I saw an ad for Jergen’s Natural Glow Wet Skin Moisturizer so I picked it up at Ulta. It was about $10.00 and it looked, well, pretty fool-proof. I applied it just like the directions suggested, and then settled into the couch that same evening for a movie with Justin. I didn’t look at myself again until the following morning when I was getting ready to go on a run.

My legs were covered, COVERED, in orange streaks, from my thighs all the way down to the top of my feet. I was SHOCKED. I did what any normal millennial-type person would do and turned to Instagram Stories to tell everyone about it. So, I’m sure some of you have heard this story already.

I had to live with my streaky legs for a few days until it finally faded. Many suggested a lemon juice + baking soda mixture to get rid of the stains, but I opted for just wearing pants. If I had had a very specific reason to wear a dress or shorts I would have tried the magic mixture, but I didn’t need to and didn’t take the time.

Anyway, I promptly returned the product and even told the saleslady that it was, well, a little misleading. The reviews of the product online are mixed. Some people love it, others had blotchy streaks like me.

I started to think through what I’ve been told about sunless tanning lotions. So many recommended applying the lotion with a mit, and in remembering that advice I recalled that I had a basically unused bottle of St. Tropez Gradual Tan Everyday Lotion in light/medium sitting in my linen closet. I bought it last spring or summer, but I threw away the mitt by accident. So I was waiting to use it.

For a year. I can’t explain it, don’t ask me why I didn’t just go buy a mitt.

So then, I found a mitt. And then I started applying.

The first 3 days I didn’t really see a change. And that made me both really happy and really skeptical. I was so happy to not see streaks and dark spots. But I was beginning to wonder if it was actually going to work.

And then, on day 4, I saw a distinct difference between my leg and arm color and my midsection color. And it looks so natural! The mit makes it super easy, and I can’t imagine a better feeling lotion than this.

It’s hydrating with zero greasiness. It feels a touch sticky immediately after you apply it, but it quickly dries and then it just feels like you’ve applied a lightly hydrating lotion.

I love the subtle color, and at this point I can’t imagine a time that I’ll stop using it. I’ve been wearing bronzer on my face more, so I’m applying the St. Tropez Gradual Tan Lotion all over my upper shoulders, decollate, and neck. I feel like the overall look is much more fluid, and matches a bit better than a “tanned” face with pasty arms.

It’s a very subtle result, and I’ve only been using it for about 7-8 days, but I would highly, highly recommend it.

p.s. my perfect white t-shirt can be found here, denim is here, and I don’t know the name of my nail color.


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Comments (73)

  1. Kellan says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    Kate, St.Tropez has a gradual shower self tanner that I have been using for a year, I am very fair and it gives the most natural tanned glow! I used the medium/dark color and it’s perfect; the light color did nothing for me, and I am so very pale!

  2. Lo says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    Wow that color is SO natural on you! Curious about your thoughts on the smell of the product? I have such a keen sense of smell and the smell is the main reason I don’t use a self tanner. Please tell me there has been a major breakthrough where you can be tan and not stink haha

    XO Lo

    • Lacey says
      Posted April 20, 2017

      I agree! Does it smell? I hate the smell of self tanner too.

      • Kellan says
        Posted April 20, 2017

        I’m sensitive to tanner smells myself, so I’ve experienced that this product does have a hint of a tanner smell, but goes away the next time you shower. The St.Tropez shower gradual tanner has the faintest smell to it, but no where near as strong as the other product! Hopefully, this helps!

  3. Posted April 20, 2017

    I use the St. Tropez but the normal tanner and do it every few days to keep up the color. So natural looking! It’s a good brand!

  4. Katie says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    Kate, like you I am very pale and loved tanning in high school. I can go every day for 3 months and while I can tell I’m more tan, I just look like everyone else’s version of pale (if you know what I mean). Anyways, I have tried self tanners in the past, even St. Tropez, but find that it always rubbed off on my clothes, furniture, etc. even after letting it dry. You are brave for wearing that white tee! Any issues with it rubbing off even after it has dried? Tired of having clothes ruined. Thanks!!!

  5. Tamara says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I am also very pale, and I have a love-hate relationship with self tanners. I like one that has tint to it, so I can tell what I’m doing when I put it on, and I usually hate the smell! But, several years ago, I found the Bare Essentials Faux Tan, and I love it! It doesn’t smell bad. And for me, the key to smooth application is to mix a bit in with my daily after-shower lotion. And I haven’t used a mitt, I just use a scrub on the palms of my hands when I’m done.

  6. Melanie says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    If you feel like branching out, Loving Tan 2 hour mousse is my favorite fake tanner! I have been fake tanning for years and have used it all. It is my favorite!

    • Catherine says
      Posted April 20, 2017

      Totally agree with this! I love that it only takes two hours anal the color is great!

  7. Lisa says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    Loving Tan is great!!

  8. Stephanie says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    That tshirt looks so good on you! Would you say the sizing is similar to the Gap vintage pocket tee?

  9. Janet says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    what a beautiful glow! Are you applying it every day? I am in desperate need of a tan…that’s one thing I miss about living in Florida, but I’ll take my “glow in the dark” whiteness over skin damage and premature aging any day 😉

  10. Sarah Beth says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I just did the St. Tropez in-shower gradual tan last night! I was so nervous because a month ago I had a bad experience with tanning wipes (so many streaks and pale spots!), but it turned out really subtle and good.

  11. Posted April 20, 2017

    I’ve heard about so many self-tanner fails, your experience sounds scary! I’m so unlike most of the bloggers myself though, because I hate being tanned (I think it’s because I tan easily naturally – we always want what we can’t have!). Glad to know you’ve found a tanner that works for you.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  12. Michelle says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I love St. Tropez! Also, Loreal makes tanning wipes that work GREAT and are so easy to apply!

    • kristen says
      Posted April 20, 2017

      ooh! good to know! probably a little less expensive too.

  13. Heather says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    For those of us who don’t tan, this is good to know!

  14. Kristen says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    Glad you found something that works well for you. I’ve been using the St Tropez foam (with mit) for a few years now and find that it works well on my fair skin. Natural color, non-streaky.

  15. Meagan says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    hows the smell? I can’t handle the smell of sunless tanner usually and how it gets in everything like the sheets.

  16. Lisa says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    How does it smell? Most of the self Tanners are youse have a horrible smell .

  17. Angela says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I love this stuff! I received it in a birchbox and I really need to pick up some more. I’ve never had an issue with blotchyness. I’m glad you tried the Jergens so I don’t have to 😉

  18. Danielle says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I used to use this but found a mitt and the ulta brand mousse work very similar! Better option for me money wise!

  19. Shannon says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    Kate you must try Tanwise mousse! It doesn’t streak AT ALL. Holy grail. I get mine on Amazon but Sally’s has it as well. I feel your pain. Been there before!

  20. Emily says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I love your t shirt!! For reference, what size did you go with?

  21. Holly says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I, too, frequented the tanning bed when I was younger. Ug. Regretting it so, so much. Especially since my dad has had multiple spots removed from his face from skin cancer. So scary! I’ll have to check out the St. Tropez brand. I just bought another brand that I like, but I’m always looking to try new options!

  22. kali says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    Mitt, not mit.

  23. Angela says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I’ve never tried a self tanner but my legs are super white, so I might have to give in and try this for the summer.

    Blush & Pearls by Angela

  24. kristen says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    This is great! The color looks so natural.

    Quick question about your t-shirt. Is it sheer at all? I’m in south texas, where in the summer I can’t bear to wear a cami. Still on the hunt for a good white tee that isn’t see through.

  25. CJ says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    This is my go to for self tanner. I first bought it as a kit originally (years ago) and it came with a shimmer lotion that you can put on for a “night out” which is also really beautiful but not “obnoxious, hey I’m a unicorn sparkly”. All self tanners smell to some extent because it reacts with your skin chemically so it’s hard to avoid that. However it’s better than most! Glad you discovered it AND found a mitt.

  26. Kay says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I’m a sucker for tan but I have no time to chill by the pool all day! Thanks for sharing I will try it out <3


  27. Paige says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I’ve heard so many good things about this tanner! I need to get my hands on some!


  28. Courtney says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    So happy with St. Tropez bronzing mousse! Bought it last week off QVC (best deal, 2 8oz bottles and 2 mits) 50$…I am fair skinned, and it looks amazing. NO smell and no residual stickiness! Try it! I have tried gradual lotions (smelly), and a spray option (smelly and streaky).

  29. Vickie says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    ThAnk goodness I saw this! I almost bought that stuff…whew~. I also use Jergens regular self tanner and my legs are streaky with that stuff. I am going to look into the St. Tropez stuff.

  30. Gracen says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    You are brave to sport a white t-shirt. I have two little boys under 4 and I won’t even look at anything white. lol

  31. Maureen says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I too have struggled with self tanners. I recently found another St. Tropez product, “One Night Only.” It’s wash off lotion that lasts 24 hours and I have to say that I really love it. I’m very pale so it’s nice to take the glow off my legs and/or arms. There’s no smell and it doesn’t make my skin itch. And if it looks bad (which it hasn’t) I can just wash it off and start over.

  32. Alyssa says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    Can you show how to apply with the mit? Also, where are the earrings from?? Thanks!

    • Meg says
      Posted April 29, 2017

      It has a very slight smell. I mix it with a scented body lotion and can’t smell any self tanner odor at all

  33. Debra says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    It IS Hard to find a good self tanner! And I don’t use one often, but I have been really liking Tarte’s Brazilliance Plus. And it comes with a mitt.

  34. ashlye says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    got it! can’t wait to exfoliate, wait a day, and try it🤣! i’m a shade fairer than you, so i’m keeping my 🤞🏻 for bronzey glow and not orangey oompa-loompa. over the years i’ve had my *fair* share of sunless tanning disasters. hoping for the best! 😊👍🏻❤️

  35. Posted April 20, 2017

    ooh ill have to try that one.. wonder how it goes in salt water!

  36. Tammy Hill says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    But does it smell??
    I don’t like the smell of self tanners😔

    • Meg says
      Posted April 29, 2017

      Very, very minimal smell. Mix with scented body lotion and there’s no odor at all

  37. Melissa says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    Looks great! I use the foaming one from St. Tropaz and love it!

  38. Kristina says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    I wish I had seen your blog post before I bought the Jergens Natural Glow Wet Skin Moisturizer!! I thought it looked fool-proof too, but I had the exact same results as you did! Orange streaks/stripes. NOT a pretty look!

  39. Kim says
    Posted April 20, 2017

    Please tell me what kind on ‘mitt’ to use and where to purchase. Ty!

    • Meg says
      Posted April 29, 2017

      You don’t need a mitt! It’s like regular lotion, just rub it in evenly and let it dry. I buy it at Sephora

      • alli says
        Posted May 1, 2017

        Just wash your hands afterwards! 🙂

  40. Posted April 21, 2017

    I found an unopened can of spray tan in my closet that I remember I bought before my daughter was born. She is three now. And I still don’t have a mitt.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

  41. Ruth says
    Posted April 21, 2017

    Just a quick question – did you find this tan stained your bedding and white clothes? Love the glow it gives you!

  42. Krista says
    Posted April 21, 2017

    Ahhh! Literally just ordered this yesterday as a bday gift for myself. I saw your Insta Story and thought “oh shit. Should I have ordered something else?!” And low & behold..I shouldn’t have! So excited to try this now!

  43. Kerrie says
    Posted April 21, 2017

    I just purchased the St Tropez gradual lotion on Tuesday and actually just saw your post today! I bought the medium/dark because I only wanted to use it like twice a week and wow it is the nicest color! I did it two days in a row this week which I would probably switch up to like one day and then skip a few and then reapply but I am so happy with the way it looks! I used to use the mousse from St Tropez which is also good but more messy and annoying to put on. AND I actually did not need a mit with the lotion! I just wash my hands really good after and I don’t have oompa loompa hands the next day HA! The color looks great on you and I am glad have made a self tanner that doesn’t smell AWFUL!

  44. laura says
    Posted April 21, 2017

    I just started using this too! I’m really impressed by it; such a nice glow!

  45. Diane says
    Posted April 21, 2017

    So, Suave gradual self tanner is basically Saint Tropez. I LOVE it and the price is amazing! Check that one out next.

    Jergens…never again for me.

    • Meg says
      Posted April 29, 2017

      Thank you for this info! I’ll give it a try, I’m almost out of my St Tropez

  46. Olga says
    Posted April 22, 2017

    Perfect post and perfect timing! My pale skin could really use some self tanner!

  47. Posted April 23, 2017

    wow, this colour really suit you! looks so natural x

  48. Christin says
    Posted April 25, 2017

    Just picked this up yesterday based on your recommendation, and I already LOVE IT! No weird smell, and it’s adding a gradual even glow that’s not all orange on my ridiculously pale skin. THANK YOU!

  49. Emma says
    Posted April 26, 2017

    I’m not a huge fan of the jergens natural glow lotion, but I’m in LOVE with their instant sun mousse. It’s truly instant, dries so quickly, and once it dries it does not come off. There is a faint smell, which reminds me of how I used to smell when I went to the tanning bed. Once you shower, it goes away. What I love about the mousse is that it never looks orange, never streaks if you apply it correctly, and is affordable. I’m a medium color, so I use the deep bronze, but many of my paler friends use the lighter one with success. To even myself out I will use the jergens healthy glow face moisturizer, which doesn’t clog my pores as a lot of moisturizers do. Also, I never use a mitt, and just heavly wash my hands with soap and it comes off easily. I reapply once a week to maintain, and I get comments often about my tan! 🙂 GOOD LUCK!

  50. Meg says
    Posted April 29, 2017

    I use this every day but have never used a mitt! Mine didn’t come with one. It’s much easier to apply than a regular self tanner, I think you’ll be ok without the mitt!

  51. Esther says
    Posted April 29, 2017

    A little tan never hurt no one. I was not big in self-tan too. But same here lots of travel and I felt a bit pale. So I started and have built a little routine to maintain a little tan.
    Love, Esther

  52. Liberty says
    Posted April 29, 2017

    will have to try this! I am so pale and not many fake tans work for me.


  53. Melissa says
    Posted May 3, 2017

    St Tropez is the gold standard… I can’t believe you’ve only just started using it! If I have something important to be tan for (vacation, bridal shower, wedding, etc) I get a custom airbrush tan, but if I just feel like being tan for Friday night I use the St. Tropez self-tanning mousse, applied with a mitt.

  54. Susan Jefferson Cole says
    Posted July 5, 2017

    Beauty Blogger, MsGoldgirl, recommends Tarte self tanner which is also good and comes with a mit although, I buy the inexpensive pastic gloves to wear under the mitt because the tanner will soak through. The mitt is easily cleaned with soap and water. The Soap and Glory “Flake Away” is also an excellent exfoliating scrub prior to using a self tanner. The Tarte scent starts out very pleasant but, eventually, you get the same odor as most sunless tanners. I’m still trying to figure out how to keep my sunspots from becoming much darker after using a light to medium sunless tanner. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  55. Posted July 29, 2017

    That is great. I agree with applying self-tanner is ideal with a mitt. You’re brave wearing that white T-shirt with some of those self-tanners you tried above. Enjoy your weekend and thanks for sharing.

  56. Jessica says
    Posted July 31, 2017

    I looked into the St. Tropez sunless tanner and looked it up in Think Dirty and was really bummed to see it scored a 10 on the dirty scale. I did however find the NKD SKN from Ulta and have really loved it! I am a pale girl and don’t want to look streaky or orange and I am loving it. I would really recommend you try it 🙂

    • Kate says
      Posted July 31, 2017

      Great to know!

  57. Erin says
    Posted August 9, 2017

    It’s funny that you say that because I’ve been SO skeptical and afraid to use sunless tanning lotions, like, FOREVER!!! But the same here, it was the beginning of summer and I really didn’t want to look pale, so I went to Target and asked a young lady in the aisle which one she recommended. She pointed me to Loreal’s one and I saw the Banana Boat Light/Medium one right next to it. I asked if she knew about that one. She said not particularly, but it looks good. It had a coupon on it and I was super intrigued so I gave it a try. And…..I LOVE IT!!! Best one ever! No joke! It gives the PERFECT tan color ever. You would never know that it was lotion. I have used it ALL SUMMER LONG and will be getting another bottle. I can’t imagine not using it either! It’s so great for my legs since they don’t really tan anymore. SO RECOMMEND IT!!!

  58. Emily says
    Posted August 15, 2017

    That looks really beautiful on you! St. Tropez does make some gorgeous products. If you like that one, check out some of my favorites! http://www.selftanning.com

  59. Jamie says
    Posted October 12, 2017

    I found a better self tanner that i talk about here

  60. Posted December 8, 2017

    Applying self-tanner is ideal with a mitt. I actually tape a lotion applicator that is on a stick to the mitt. It makes for a nice hack for applying the self-tanner to my back, especially when I attempt to apply myself. Enjoy your weekend and thanks for sharing.

  61. Ellen says
    Posted February 4, 2018

    I have a question about the self tanner. Does it have a strong scent? The smell of self Tanners makes me sick usually. I am very sensitive !!

    • Kate says
      Posted February 5, 2018

      To me it doesn’t have a strong scent!

  62. Posted March 27, 2018

    I am totally at a loss with the self tanners. Seriously, I have read every single article on the subject. I stay away from EVERYTHING with Sulphates in it. I’ve gone through almost every moisturizer trying to extend what color I can manage to keep on my skin. I’ve tried the sunless tanning booths, the tan in the can, the moisturizers with tanner in it. I’ve spent SO much money trying to get an even, believable tan. It’s now become an unhealthy obsession for me. I’m pale. Very pale. If any women over the age of 40 has any good experiences to share with me, I’d be grateful! I say over 40 because in my age group, we also have to use a good anti wrinkle cream as well. 😳