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Confessions of a Self Tanner

June 30, 2014

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Jennifer Hagler Photography

By Buffy York


I do not claim to be an expert on any given subject but I do know alot about self tanning.  In fact when I was in college, about the time Al Gore decided to invent the internet, I was talking about writing a book entitled Confessions of a Self Tanner.  Growing up I can remember a crusty bottle of QT, a product marketed by Coppertone that was the first self-tanner, under the sink in our bathroom and my mother warning me not to touch it or it would stain my skin orange.  Stain being the operative word, not tan.  When I was in high school Estee Lauder came out with what I would consider the first “modern day” self-tanner, and while it was an improvement on QT it still had its issues with turning skin orange and that smell.  However, this product, with its bright orange packaging paired with the bad rap that UV rays were getting, launched what would become a huge industry.

When I was in college a few more brands got in the self tanning game and I tried them all.  At that point no one had solved the issue of the smell, and even though I could not afford a large ICEE from The Corner in Tuscaloosa I somehow knew that Chanel had the best smelling of the bad smelling tanners on the market.  This was when I decided that with my love of “product” and my ridiculous knowlege of skin stain that I needed a book deal.  It never happened.  Writing is really not my thing.  Ironic I know.  So I graduated from the University of Alabama and in the past 25 years, while I have been gathering information for this blog, the self-tanner world has continued to expand from high end lines behind the department store counters to overtaking entire aisles in the drug store.

I have a few faves in the drug store world like Loreal Sublime Glow and Jergan’s Natural Glow.  I do love Jergan’s because it gradually develops over several applications.  When this product came out I was on a beach trip with some of my girlfriends and we stopped at every Wal-Mart, drug store and significant truck stop from the Beach to Birmingham to purchase it only to find an empty shelf where it had previously been stocked.  It was popular right off the bat probably because you can totally be careless with the application and hopefully won’t miss the same spot or get too heavy handed in one area two days in a row.  Have you ever been sitting in church and noticed your super orangish/brownish ankle bone?  Me too.

For years numerous people told me about St. Tropez self tanner.  Everyone said it was ‘The Best” but at $42 I was reluctant to purchase it.  What if I loved it and then I have yet another expensive maintenance habit?  It happened though, last year standing in Sephora and having a moment of weakness or mania or maybe I was just having a “fat” day (tan fat looks better than white fat), I caved and bought a bottle of the mousse and just as I suspected, it rocks.  It is tinted so it is easier to avoid mistakes or streaks, it dries fast, it doesn’t stink and the color it turned my skin was totally believable.  On more than one occasion I was asked if I had been to the beach and folks were shocked to find out that my tan was from the bottle.  It really does an amazing job, but like my wrinkle free forehead it isn’t cheap.  So on a recent reconnaissance trip to Ulta I found St. Moriz, and based on the name and packaging alone I could tell I had found my St. Tropez dupe.  At $12.99 I was willing to give it a try.  I mean let’s be honest NailTek works every bit as good as Nailtique at a fraction of the cost.  I was not disappointed.  They are practically identical and I actually prefer St. Moriz to it’s more expensive colleague because while it is a fast drying mousse the formula is creamier and goes on smoother.  It is this year’s clear winner.

 Here are a few obvious and not so obvious tips I have learned along the way.

1) Exfoliate.  Not a big deal.  Just use a rough washcloth in the shower on your knees, ankles, elbows etc.  2) Moisturize your skin really well for a few days before you tan.  3) Mark off a little time.  Unless you have about 10 minutes to really blend it in I suggest using the Jergan’s brand so your mistakes aren’t glaring.  4) Blend.  Avoid your knees, ankles etc upon first application, After you feel like the tanner is rubbed in go back and smooth it over these areas.  This is an important step to avoid brown patches on these areas that tend to be dry.  5) Some might suggest using gloves or a tanning mitt to apply but personally I find them annoying.  I just wash my hands really well several times after applying and I have found that baby wipes and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers can undo some of the damage if you don’t wash all of the tanner off your hands.  6) If you use something other than mousse you need to give yourself some drying time.  You will also want to wear dark clothes so if the tanner rubs off on your clothes it is not obvious.  The stain will come out of 100% cotton but anything else good luck.  7) Once you reach your optimal tan continue to lather up with moisturizer to hang on to your glow.

Sidebar:  Nothing beats a good professional spray tan but I will save that for another post.

Wearing: Bisou Bisou for JCPenney Tank (on sale) | Theory Shorts (on sale) | Sam Edelman Gladiator Sandals (old) similar here and here | Honesty Bead Bracelet from Manhattan South | ShallaWistaStudio Silver Wire Bracelet | Essie Nail Polish in I’m Addicted


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2 Comments


    I will definitely be giving this a try. I am a self-tanner, too. We spend a lot of time at the lake, and I love being outside. However, having a strong family history of melanoma, and having had 8 pre-melanoma moles removed in the last two years, I avoid the sun at all cost. Self tanners are definitely a smart option for people like me. I love St Tropez, but as well do not like the cost! Thanks for the tip!

    I’m a big fan of L’Oreal Sublime Bronze. I used to use just the spray (great, even coverage and quick dry mist) but now I prefer the mousse and bronzing lotion, both of which give great quick color before leaving the house. There’s an Ulta in my neighborhood, so I’m gonna give St. Moriz a try. My manicurist suggested Fake Bake (also available at Ulta for $30). Have you tried it before?

    I admit: I had Coppertone Orange legs in high school. The tanning bed, while giving great natural color, left my skin spotty and dried out. And like D’Anna, after having a mole removed and watching my skin speckle up from UV exposure, I’ve become an ardent self-tanner. What a difference a couple of decades makes!

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