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Secret Behind The Perfect Tan (+3 Sunless Tanners Worth the Hype!)

Posted on Location: 6 m read

One of the questions I get asked often is how I maintain such a perfect tan all the time. Today is the day I’m going to spill my secret! Before we get deep into it though, I must admit that it’s not difficult to get a real tan living in Palm Springs. Just being out in the pool for 30 minutes every now and then or walking the dog regularly (with SPF of course) will get me a good amount of color.Β 

Let’s face it, excessive sun exposure is not good for the skin and can cause serious complications in the long run. As much as I love being extra sun-kissed & looking like I just came back from an extended vacation all the time, no tan is worth getting skin cancer or early aging. With that said, I enjoy using sunless tanners to maintain a beautiful glow year round. Sunless tanners come in especially handy in the winter when it’s too cold to be outdoors.

Pinit

Over the past few years, I have tried my fair share of sunless tanners in hopes of finding one that delivers perfect results. Recently, I’ve narrowed down to my top 3 that I stick with. Based on my experience and hearing about other people’s experiences with self tanners, I’ve learned that some tanners work better on certain skin tones, and not so well on others. For example, I’ve heard of Jergens gradual tanning moisturizer working well for a lot of people. When I tried it though, I really wanted to love it but… instead, I noticed that it gave me more of an orange tan, rather than that desirable brown tan. In the end, I decided that the Jergens tanning moisturizer is not the best for olive-toned skin. I also experimented with the more expensive sunless tanners that many rave about — such as the mousses byΒ St. Tropez and Vita Liberata. These react pretty well with my skin tone, but are a bit pricier. I’ve found a few products that are more affordable and deliver similar results, if not better!

NEUTROGENA MICRO-MIST AIRBRUSH SUNLESS SPRAY

Okay. Let me begin by saying that I don’t know why this product only has an average rating of 3 stars. To be honest, the reviews I saw prior to purchasing this product left me skeptical. But, it’s only $10 at Target so I decided to give it a try. The verdict? It is TOTALLY an under-rated product! I LOVE that it does not leave me orange at all, and is so easy to use. The fact that it doesn’t streak and dries almost instantly is beyond amazing to me.

I’m by no means a professional spray tanner, so it really helps that this product is pretty “fool-proof” for newbies like me. The best part is, I don’t need to bug my boyfriend to get my back! I always get the deepest shade #3 because I prefer a dark tan, and the color develops very naturally. It also builds well, so you can easily do several rounds of spraying to achieve a darker tone. Just don’t overdo it; I find two rounds to be the sweet spot for me.

This spray works best at night after a thorough exfoliation and cleanse in the shower. Exfoliation is key to any self tanning! The tanner is safe to use both on the face and on the body, but for the face I spray the product into my fingers and rub it in. This way, I’m able to make sure none of it gets into my eyes. Since the spray comes out clear, it was nerve-wracking the first time. You won’t see the color developing until several hours in. So, I was deathly afraid of streaking or waking up looking like an oompa loompa. Alas, my fears remained fears and the reality is surprisingly perfectly bronzed skin!

It leaves no mess, but I highly recommend that you apply this somewhere well-ventilated as it does have a somewhat unpleasant chemical smell at first. It doesn’t linger on the skin though, so you’ll be fine after a few minutes. I use this pretty regularly (probably twice a week) and one can lasts me around a month!

BALI BODY BRONZING LOTION & BB CREAM

Pinit

If you haven’t seen Bali Body all over Instagram yet, you must be living under a rock. Just kidding, but not really. They do a really good job marketing and immediately piqued my interest after I saw so many photos of perfectly bronzed babes as a result of using their products. Bali Body offers a wide range of tanning products, from bronzing lotions and tanning oils, to BB creams and more. The two I am especially a fan of is their bronzing lotion and BB cream. In my opinion, they go together hand-in-hand!

Unlike the Neutrogena spray tan, these products completely wash off with water. If you only want a temporary tan, you’ll love these. I’m honestly surprised that Bali Body hasn’t come up with a sunless tanner that sticks around and gradually fades. With that said, I like to use Bali Body to enhance a base tan that already exists. The bronzing lotion is a gorgeous brown color that blends with ease and builds nicely layer after layer to create a rich tan.

The BB cream comes in several shades, and I use “tan.” As far as coverage goes, you won’t get anything quite like what a foundation will give you if you have zits or major discoloration. However, on a good skin day, it’s a great way to go light on the makeup! The BB cream also has SPF and a slight shimmer which delivers a healthy, dewy glow. No highlighter needed πŸ˜‰

In addition to tanning, these Bali Body goodies keep my skin well-hydrated. Since I use these in conjunction with other products (i.e. the Neutrogena tanner, and other face makeup), they last quite a while. I probably get a new bottle of bronzing lotion and tube of BB cream every 6 months. The price point is reasonable – $26 for the bronzing lotion and $30 for the BB cream. Even though it is an Australian-based brand, their free shipping is extremely quick, from a USA warehouse. Bali Body offers a plethora of quality products, but I am really hoping that they will eventually extend their line to include a gradual tanner that is buildable.

TAN ME BOX SELF TANNER GEL

Before trying the Neutrogena sunless spray, I found Tan Me Box’s self tanner gel to be incredible because it doesn’t leave my Asian skin orange. But, the application of this gel is a bit tricky at first. Not going to lie — I had many trials and errors with streaking. Tan Me Box recommends that you use one of their brushes to apply the gel. Whenever I do though, my body is streak galore!

After a few times, I gave up trying to make the brush work. Instead, using a tanning mitt is much more effective and efficient. Application aside, I absolutely love the brown color that this tanning gel gives — instantly. Unlike Neutrogena’s sunless spray, I don’t have to wait several hours for the tan to develop. And unlike Bali Body’s bronzing lotion, this one doesn’t wash off instantly in the shower and gradually fades without looking gross after a few days.

Overall, I use the Neutrogena sunless spray the most, but on days I really want to accentuate a tan in certain spots, this tanner gel is perfect for a quick fix or touch up. A little bit goes a long way and this $25 bottle will last me anywhere from 4-6 months.

Pinit

There you have it — the secret behind my deep tan & 3 sunless tanners I feel are worth the hype! With dress, shorts, and romper season just around the corner, now would be a good time to experiment with different tanners and find the one(s) that will deliver your perfect holiday glow.

What are some of your favorite self tanning products and brands?

What do you think?

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60 Comments
  • Denise Fry
    February 23, 2018

    Your tan always looks so flawless! I need to try the neutrogena sunless spray. I have heard many great things about bali body too! Glad to hear you are loving their products πŸ™‚ I’d love to learn more about your tanning process and how to prolong a tan using these products in a separate blog post if you don’t mind sharing xx

    • Sharon Wu
      February 23, 2018

      Thanks Denise! The Neutrogena sunless spray is amazing! Comes in 3 shades I believe but the deepest one delivers pretty natural results πŸ™‚ I also love Bali Body’s tanning oils in the summer when it’s warm enough to tan out by the pool. I always use it with SPF but find that they help speed up the tanning process! They just released a new pineapple one which I can’t wait to try.

      I would love to share my tanning process and how to extend a tan properly! Promise to do a blog post on that very soon. Thank you for the idea xoxo

  • Miranda Sterling
    February 23, 2018

    It’s hard to find good sunless tanners that give the true brown tone that you get from tanning outside. I’m glad you were able to discover products that work for you! Will have to try Neutrogena’s spray because it’s so affordable. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Sharon Wu
      February 23, 2018

      I couldn’t agree more with you Miranda! I’ve tried so many and most of them do leave me more orange which is unfortunate. I’m just happy to have found a solution that isn’t too pricey and delivers the results I love though! You’ll have to let me know how you like the Neutrogena spray. I know it has mixed reviews online so I’m curious to learn how it works for others!

  • Mariann Yip
    February 23, 2018

    I actually never use self tanning products. I just prefer to get naturally tan from the sun haha. But thanks for sharing these and maybe one day I will try them!

    • Sharon Wu
      February 23, 2018

      I prefer to naturally get tan from the sun too but I’m scared of skin cancer and wrinkles LOL. So I do a bit of both! πŸ˜‰

  • Jessi Malay
    February 23, 2018

    First of all..your body is incredible babe!! And you always have that perfect golden glow! I’ve heard a lot about Bali and I’m always in search for a new self tanner πŸ™‚

    XO, Jessi
    https://jmalay.com/interior-design-inspo-new-home/

    • Sharon Wu
      February 23, 2018

      Thank you Jessi! You’re the sweetest! πŸ™‚ xo

  • lydia
    February 23, 2018

    Okay, going to try out some of these self tanners ASAP! I was laughing at how pale I looked in photos because it’s kind of insane! Thanks for sharing all of these girl, can’t wait to try them out.

    xo, Lydia

    • Sharon Wu
      February 23, 2018

      Thanks for stopping by, Lydia! You’re gorgeous either way, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the products you choose to try πŸ™‚ xx

  • Briana
    February 23, 2018

    I HAVE to try that BB cream! What a perfect post!

    Briana
    https://beyoutifulbrunette.com/

    • Sharon Wu
      February 23, 2018

      Yes! I’m sure you’ll love it. Such a great substitute for foundation on light makeup days πŸ™‚

  • Bianca
    February 23, 2018

    I’ve never really used self-tanning products but I do want to invest in one for my face …

    • Sharon Wu
      February 25, 2018

      You might like the BB cream by Bali Body! It’s super lightweight and a great way to add color even if you don’t want to put on a full face of makeup πŸ™‚ Does not clog pores and doesn’t break me out.

  • Kileen
    February 24, 2018

    Awesome post girl, all of these products sound amazing! But i’m definitely interested in trying the Neutrogena one!

    Kileen
    cute & little

    • Sharon Wu
      February 25, 2018

      I literally swearrrr by the Neutrogena one lol didn’t think I’d be so in love with it but I totally am!

  • Nataly
    February 24, 2018

    You tan looks so amazing! I think I need to try some of these suggestions! I could really use a tan myself!

    • Sharon Wu
      February 25, 2018

      Thanks Nataly! It’s been cold in Palm Springs lately — I haven’t been able to be out by the pool or wear skin-revealing clothing as much so self-tanner has been working wonders in maintaining my tan!

  • Stephanie
    February 24, 2018

    I’ve been meaning to try the Tan Me Box for ages, but never seem to get around to it. I’ve heard about Bali Body, but didn’t know they washed off in water, so that’s kinda a turn-off for me. However, the Neutrogena one is so affordable and readily available that I think that’s what I’ll be trying next! Thanks for sharing your secrets, boo!

    • Sharon Wu
      February 25, 2018

      Tan Me Box is great! Their bronzing spray is awesome too if you prefer that over a gel. But I find that the spray washes off similar to Bali Body’s bronzer so I prefer the gel for that reason even though it’s harder to apply. I know, I wish BB had some product that was more like a gradual tanner. Maybe one of these days. But I do love that their bronzer is really moisturizing, so I basically think of it like applying moisturizer, except I get a nice tan out of it too πŸ™‚ I think you’ll like the Neutrogena one! πŸ™‚

  • Katie Braswell
    February 24, 2018

    I must say, sunless tanners have come a long way since I first tried them! These look great! You may have given me the courage I need to do this again!! <3 Thank you for the info!

    • Sharon Wu
      February 25, 2018

      They totally have! I feel like back then self tanners gave more of an unattractive orange *obviously-fake-tan* look rather than a nice bronzed, sun-kissed look. I’m relieved to have found some products that work with my skin and definitely encourage that you give it another try if you’ve been thinking about it πŸ™‚

  • Kait Elizabeth
    February 24, 2018

    Oh my goodness a friend and I were just talking about how white we are and that we need a good dose of bronzer. When I was living in FL my legs looked like yours in the first pic- now living in the PNW they blend into my white sheets at night. Ugh. I want to try out the Neutrogena! You might like the Josie Maran argan oil self tanner! Super moisturizing, streak free and I love the color- definitely my go to. Hugs, Kait PS: LOVE the packaging of the Bali products!
    http://www.baskinginburgundy.com

    • Sharon Wu
      February 25, 2018

      Lol I totally feel ya girl! I feel like every time we get any type of cold weather for more than like a week I’ll lose my natural tan. So that’s when self-tanner comes in REALLY handy! I haven’t heard of Josie Maran’s argan oil self-tanner! I will look into it — do you know if it’s safe to use on the face too? Thanks for the rec!

  • Cori - Sweet Coralice
    February 24, 2018

    I could not get a nice tan to save my life, lol. I burn and have to keep myself coated with the highest spf I can find. I’ve never tried spray tanning and would love to give that a go one day though, just to get a lil color πŸ˜‰

    • Sharon Wu
      February 25, 2018

      I’m the opposite! I never burn and just tan FAST whenever I’m out in the sun… BUT aging and skin cancer scares me, so yes, I wear a ton of SPF if I’m going out to the pool and try not to stay out for too long. Spray tanning is a nice way to accentuate a healthy base tan that I get outside so that it looks deeper and darker! I definitely recommend giving it a go πŸ™‚

  • Justine @ Little Dove
    February 24, 2018

    I don’t have a lot of experience with self tanners so I appreciates your thoughts on these! I have heard amazing things about St. Tropaz, but I know it can be a little pricey, I might have to try that Neutrogena one!

    • Sharon Wu
      February 25, 2018

      Thanks Justine! I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed reading about my experience. You’re right, St. Tropez can be pretty expensive and while they make decent products I’d rather spend my money on something that works and is more affordable if I can!

  • Celeste Godoy
    February 24, 2018

    Ok now I really NEED to try that bronzer lotion! I feel that I look like Casper haha and summer will be here soon!

    • Sharon Wu
      February 25, 2018

      Bali Body to the rescue! Haha <3 xx

  • Jo
    February 25, 2018

    Your tan looks amazing! It is the perfect shade of beautiful bronze. I definitely want to get that spray tan from Neutrogena! What a great price!

    xo, Jo

    • Sharon Wu
      February 25, 2018

      Thank you Jo! You’re the sweetest! xx

  • Ashley Newell
    February 25, 2018

    I’ve never really tried doing it myself but I’ll have to give it a shot!

    • Sharon Wu
      February 26, 2018

      You’ll have to let me know how you like it. The Neutrogena spray is great for newbies because it doesn’t streak and it’s easy to apply πŸ™‚

  • Shani | Sunshine & Munchkins
    February 25, 2018

    I’ve never tried a sunless tanner, but I absolutely love having a pretty tan, especially in the summer. I’ll have to give the Neutrogena one a try soon!

    • Sharon Wu
      February 26, 2018

      Yes! I still prefer to get a natural tan but have learned the importance of not overdoing it to avoid cancer and other skin complications so self-tanners are a good way to achieve a super dark tan without compromising health πŸ˜‰

  • Zorica
    February 26, 2018

    I really want to give a try to Bali Body products.
    Love their packagings,

  • Camille
    February 26, 2018

    Great post, thanks for sharing! I want to try a sunless tanner!

    Camille xo

    http://www.cococami.blogspot.co.uk

    • Sharon Wu
      February 26, 2018

      Thanks for reading Camille! These self-tanners are great starters πŸ™‚

  • Julia Comil
    February 26, 2018

    You clearly have the perfect tan! I need to try this out!!

  • Samantha Mariko
    February 26, 2018

    I’ve always been envious of your beautiful tan ever since I first found your blog haha πŸ™‚ I actually have to be pretty careful about sun exposure because some parts of my body literally fry in the sun while other parts tan nicely, so a self-tanner would be perfect for me! Thanks for sharing these πŸ™‚
    xo Samantha

    • Sharon Wu
      February 26, 2018

      Aww you’re the sweetest Samantha! Self-tanners all the way! While I do prefer to get a natural tan whenever I can, I’m always mindful of protecting my skin and not overdoing it because I don’t want to get skin cancer or get wrinkly earlier than I have to. Haha!

  • Christine Kong
    February 26, 2018

    Thank you for all these amazing reviews. Now that summer is approaching I need to think about self tanners because I don’t like the sun. I actually use Neutrogena mist too! I find that it works the best as well but when it fades, I personally get little patches which I don’t like. But maybe I need to moisturize more. It’s good to know that Bali Body works well but comes off in water. I think I need to try that Tan Me Box! Sounds like a great solution for something quick. You literally have bronzed goddess tan and body!! xoxo, Christine
    http://dailykongfidence.com/

    • Sharon Wu
      February 27, 2018

      Yes! Moisturizing and making sure you exfoliate well before tanning is key to prolonging the tan. And if you spray like 2-3x a week it should maintain pretty well. Every two weeks or so I’ll do a deep exfoliation, get rid of any old tan and redo the process again πŸ™‚ This way it stays fresh! Hopefully these tips will help xoxo

  • Deborah
    February 27, 2018

    I’ve never used a self tanner before because I tan so easily, but these may be worth looking at for winter days! That Bali Body BB cream sounds promising!

    • Sharon Wu
      February 27, 2018

      I tan pretty easily too especially in the summer months but not so much in the winter when I’m not outside as much haha

  • Lavenda Memory
    February 27, 2018

    Wow! I’m always wondering about which ones work best. I like Mineral Fusion if you’re interested in a more natural product too. xoxo

    • Sharon Wu
      February 28, 2018

      Ahh! I’ve never heard of Mineral Fusion but like you, I’m always curious to find out which one works the best. I’ll have to give this one a try next. Thanks for the rec!

  • Miki
    February 28, 2018

    First off, Your. Body. Is. INSANE. Now that we’ve got that out of the way I’m so excited that you’ve reviewed these self tanning products because I’ve been trying to find something to replace the one that I have and I absolutely love neutrogena products and didn’t know about this self tanner so I’m definitely going to a purchase at this week and give it a try! After that I’ll also order Bali Body which has been on my list!! Thanks so much for this review!! You always have such an amazing tan.

    xo,
    Miki

    • Sharon Wu
      February 28, 2018

      You’re too sweet to me Miki! Thanks πŸ™‚ Which one are you using currently? I think the Neutrogena spray is pretty good on Asian/olive-toned skin. Definitely worth a try. And you can never go wrong with Bali Body because they’ll wash off in the shower and you can see the color develop as you put it on! πŸ™‚

  • Jessica
    March 1, 2018

    You have such a gorgeously perfect tan dear! I’d love to try these products myself. Thanks for sharing!
    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

    • Sharon Wu
      March 1, 2018

      Thank you Jessica! You’re gorgeous yourself!! xx

  • Erika
    March 2, 2018

    Believe it or not, as a woman of color I have used self-tanning products before. I have hyperpigmentation, and I never quite get an even skin tone. For the long summer months when I was outside for long periods of time, I would use self-tanner to help even out my skin tone.

    • Sharon Wu
      March 2, 2018

      Very interesting Erika! Thank you for sharing that. It’s great to hear that beautiful women of color like you use self-tanner too! I also have uneven skin tone and swear by self-tanner to make my skin look more even πŸ™‚

  • Bernice
    March 4, 2018

    I’ve heard great things about Balibody! As a Filipina I don’t really have to worry about tanners since a second in the sun is enough to get me tan haha

    https://www.bunnybernice.com/single-post/2018/03/01/Why-I-Chose-Flexible-Dieting-Over-The-52-Diet-And-Lost-8KG

    • Sharon Wu
      March 5, 2018

      I feel ya girl! I tan really easily too but in the winter months having some self-tanner on hand for an extra glow never hurts πŸ™‚ hehe xx

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