Self Tanners

In many parts of the country you’ve had summer weather for weeks or months. Here in the Northwest, we’re still struggling a bit with that. We get a glimmer of hope here and there, At any rate, many of us have decided it’s time to pack away the boots, get out the skirts or shorts and bare those legs.

It isn’t easy. Since pantyhose are out and bare is in, it is a dilemma for many women on what to do if your legs haven’t seen the light of day.

I’ve been using self tanner for about ten years—about the same time I gave tanning beds the boot. There has been some trial and error involved but I’ve learned along the way.

There are number of good products out there, both in department and drug stores with the price points varying.

The days of orange streaks are gone, but you still need to cautious on how you use this product. Whatever you choose, here is my best advice.

  1. Exfoliate before you begin the process especially with legs. There is nothing worse than a self tanning product working unevenly on dry skin.
  2. Find an old tank top/shorts/swim suit you don’t care about to wear when applying. I like to let it dry LONGER than any directions say and am cautious about my clothes.
  3. Rub evenly. When you think you are finished rubbing, rub some more.
  4. Be extra cautious around your ankles, wrists, knees etc. It doesn’t mean you totally avoid, just don’t use as much product. Apply sparingly to the tops of your feet; it is difficult to make it look natural. If you can’t get it right-skip these areas all together.
  5. Choose a time when you are not in a hurry and can apply and let it set without dressing immediately. Then it will take a few hours to become “tan”.
  6. Wash hands and palms especially thoroughly.

There are sprays, lotions, and towelettes. I prefer the lotion because I feel I have the most control getting it even.

There are dozens of products on the market and just as many opinions. If you hear/read about something, I suggest doing a search to read reviews. This can be helpful and confusing at the same time.

Personally I do not like the gradual tanners. They don’t seem to work for me, but others give rave reviews.

I’m going to recommend two of my favorites. This spring my sister told me about Kiehl’s self tanner which she gave a big thumbs up. I LOVE their products and this one did not disappoint. Many lotions will do the same for less, but I haven’t found another formula that didn’t have that self tanner smell. Kiehl’s is ODOR FREE! Available at Nordstrom.

The first time I used it on my legs I got it just right. The next time perhaps I didn’t heed my own of advice of rub, rub and rub some more and it was a little less even. (I’m also convinced I have weird uneven pigmentation on my legs) Then I tried it on my neck and chest. I couldn’t believe how natural it was. Next I tried my arms (I’ve never done that before) I wasn’t as careful on my arms and know now to watch my wrists and just rub the whole arm  not worrying about where my natural tan line is.

Another favorite product for me is Bobbie Brown Bronzer for my face. I used this the first time when I was in Hawaii last year. I have not let much sun get on my face in years. Ok I over did it a bit, but can you see why a bronzer was the clear ticket here? I would have looked like Casper the Ghost next to “Johnny Dark Tan” husband.

Below is another photo that shows a more natural look. This was taken last summer.  I can’t say enough about this product. Just helps take away the “white”!

Check out All Things Chic for another opinion on self tanner for the face. Musings of a Housewife and the blog hop has even more fashion info today for you.

Let’s get the conversation started. I know there is a lot out there so let’s hear it. What has worked for you?


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  • Sarah

    This is helpful advice. I’ve had good luck with Jergen express self tanner – I think it gives a pretty natural look. However, it smells terrible! Think I might give Kiehls a try!

    June 17, 2011 at 8:36 am Reply
    • Karen

      You might be able to detect a slight smell if you know the self tanner odor, but it is so minimal compared to all the rest.

      June 18, 2011 at 8:11 pm Reply
  • Linda Hendrix

    Something I was told was to mix regular body lotion and the tanning lotion together – this helps it go on more evenly with less streaking.

    June 17, 2011 at 8:06 pm Reply
    • Karen

      Great idea Linda. I’m trying that too. Thx for the tip.

      June 18, 2011 at 8:14 pm Reply
  • Kris Wolverton

    I’ve never tried self tanners Karen. Thanks for the information. Now I feel better informed and might try them. I prefer a natural tan however.

    June 17, 2011 at 8:32 pm Reply
    • Karen

      Glad it was helpful Kris! I too prefer a natural tan, but given the time it takes and what it does to your skin–it just isn’t worth it anymore!

      June 20, 2011 at 6:20 pm Reply
  • Sherra

    Best tip I got years ago was to buy a box of inxepensive, disposable plastic gloves (usually near first aid supplies at drugstore) and apply wearing these. Then use makeup sponge for feet and hands for lighter, smoother application. Definitely want to try the Kiehl’s!
    Sherra recently posted..Getting Your Affairs In Order

    June 18, 2011 at 10:38 am Reply
    • Karen

      Thx for the tips Sherra. I probably should try the gloves again. I did for a while. I love the idea of using the makeup wedges. I can see how that would really help get it even around the feet.

      June 19, 2011 at 2:58 pm Reply
  • dawn nelson

    Is the Kiehl’s really odor free? I hate that icky smell of the self tanners. Also, I use it on my legs and I always wash my arms when I finish, because I have had “tan streaks” on the inside of my arms where I rubbed them against my legs while applying!

    June 18, 2011 at 7:35 pm Reply
  • julie/just precious

    I’ve never been one to use a self-tanner. Mostly due to pure laziness. Good for you for using it–so much safer.
    julie/just precious recently posted..Summer party dresses- Mom Chic

    June 19, 2011 at 12:14 pm Reply
  • suzanne

    I have tried various self tanners and can’t get them quite right. I know the Kiehl’s is recommended by several of my friends. I do use a powder bronzer on my face, but have not used a gel bronzer. I will have to check out the one you recommend. Do you put it all over your face? I worry it would be too much. I will visit the Bobbi Brown counter and check it out. thanks! Love all your good tips!

    June 20, 2011 at 8:32 pm Reply
    • Karen

      Hi Suzanne,
      Yes I use the BB bronzer all over the my face but a little goes a LONG way! Start with just a small dot and then add more if needed. I shared the two photos so you could see the extremes. The dark look worked in Hawaii but the other picture is much more natural and I had it on there too. I can look so pale on photos if I don’t have it. I also use a powder bronzer but never find that it does very much!

      June 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm Reply
  • Carrie Beth

    Karen! I tried the Kiehl’s and THAT’S THE TICKET!! Wow. I made sure that i had just greased up with good lotion before applying it, so I think that really helped it go on evenly and not stick to my elbows, knuckles and feet. Thank you for the rec!

    Any tips for us on good tricks for our hair in this summer heat?

    June 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm Reply
    • Karen

      Thx Carrie Beth! I hope to delve a little more into hair in the next couple of months. Since I live in the rain forest, not sure I have any good suggestions for you. I’ll work on that!

      June 21, 2011 at 2:06 pm Reply
  • Maria Williams

    Self-tanning indeed takes time. So I agree that we should do it at a time that we’re not in a hurry. Nice to know what brand of self-tanners work for you.
    Maria Williams recently posted..Best Self Tanners of 2015 & 2016

    April 17, 2016 at 5:15 pm Reply
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