Best Self-Tanner for an All-Over Deep Tan:
While we wish our apartment was big enough to fit a Mystic Tan Booth, for now, we'll settle for the at-home Mystic Tan Kit. The tan is glowing and realistic and when we fib and tell people we jetted to St. Bart's for the weekend, they may very well believe us! It's definitely a comparable tan to what you would get at one of the booths at a tanning salon.
As for applying the self tanner--We showered, scrubbed and applied the pre-tan gel moisturizer, which comes in the kit, per the directions. Next, we sprayed the tan all over our naked selves and let it dry. It is tinted, which helps make it foolproof, unlike other self tanners we've written about.
One big benefit the at-home kit has to the booth, is that you don't have to put on clothes right away. We enjoyed walking around our pad naked for 15 minutes or so before putting on sweats and a tank top. (Note: One JSG member has no sense of modesty. So yes, we're pretty sure our neighbors enjoyed this step, too.) The smell is pretty much the same. We're still waiting for someone to come up with a self tanner that doesn't smell like you fell into a chemical bath.
In a few hours, we had a golden delicious tan!
The down side: the color is a bit uneven. Now, this is more due to JSG's error than the product, but what happened was, we washed our hands after rubbing the self tanner into our body, then sprayed a little extra on the backs. Perhaps too much extra. But hey, we make the mistakes so you don't have to.
We also had white marks under our boobs. In the booth, you can usually dance and jiggle, but it's a little hard to do that at the same time you're spraying the product yourself.
The kit is $54 for a 2.5 oz spray and before and after moisturizer. We haven't gone through the whole can just yet, but we're going to guess it has about 5 applications, so you will save a few bucks over going to the salon. Plus, it gives you an excuse to walk around naked for a few minutes. And hey, who doesn't love that?
It's available at Sephora.
Best Gradual Self-Tanner:
For a tan that builds, our favorite department store product is the Clinique Self-Sun Touch of Bronze Moisturizing Body Lotion ($18.50 at department stores and on-line at Clinique). It gives you a little more tan each day you use it. We thought it gave us the most natural and least orange-y color. We couldn't find any mess ups, which means either we're becoming experts or you cover and conceal mistakes each day as you build your tan. The scent was actually very pleasant going on; though after a couple of hours that pesky tanning smell creeps up (must be the chemical reaction with our skin pigment). Our friends accused us of fake-baking, not using sunscreen at the beach (the horror!), but most often told us we had a great glow! We'll be using this product often.
Best Budget Quickie Self-Tanner:
If you're looking to spend less, try the Jergens Natural Glow Express ($7.49). Jergens is always the reader faves in Lucky and Allure and with good reason. This is their new "fast formula" which promises a quick tan in 3 days. We didn't need more than one application on our legs for a dark tan, though after checking we were using the medium tone (there's also a light version). We'd use this if we needed some quick color and don't have the time to pick up one of the other products (Natural Glow Express is easy to find at any drugstore or grocery store). It's also super reasonably priced if you plan on keeping up with your tan all summer.