Self tanner is a product that I really enjoy using. I’m pale and like the sun-kissed effect, but I also enjoy using it. I think it’s because it’s such a process, and it involves spending a good amount of time scrubbing and moisturizing and hanging out trying to not touch anything. Wait, does that sound fun? Maybe a better way to put it is that it’s a pleasant evening-time pamper party. I enjoy chatting about self tanner and there are a lot of factors to consider, so fair warning: this is a wordy post.
In past years, I’ve dropped more money on higher end self tanners out of fear of the common pitfalls – orange tones, streaks, and the like. The thing is, I’ve been getting the feeling that the more affordable brands are probably catching up, and I don’t exactly have enough money laying around to justify the $30+ options at this particular point in time.
I decided to purchase a bottle of L’Oreal’s Sublime Bronze Luminous Bronzer. I was generally looking for a tinted lotion-type of product, as I like to see where I’m putting it. While it’s not described as a “gradual tanner” it does say in the instructions that you can use it daily until the desired level of color is achieved and then used once or twice a week in order to maintain the color. I like the flexibility that that suggests, but don’t want a “gradual tanner” that’s really weak and needs to be applied daily on an ongoing basis.
There’s no color level (e.g. fair, medium, deep) specified. It doesn’t even specify whether it’s appropriate for body, face, or both. Some of L’Oreal’s other self tanners do specify that they’re intended for the body, but I noticed that they don’t offer any products that are exclusively meant for the face. So, in the case of this product I’m going to interpret their lack of indication as implied consent for use on the face. At least, I felt ok about trying it out on my face and seeing what happened.
What I didn’t pay much attention to was the word “luminous” on the labeling. That’s my fault, as not only did they put the word in the product’s name but also described the “light-reflecting micro-pearls” on the back of the bottle. What that means is that it glitters a bit. Initially this worried me, but honestly it’s not terrible. The particles are really quite fine, and you can see in the photo that it doesn’t translate as chunky glitter on the skin. The other thing is that I tan in the evening, let the tan develop overnight, and then wash the tanner off in the shower the next morning. Thus, I actually haven’t left the house with the glitter on my skin, so it really hasn’t mattered one bit. But I will say that if I needed to apply some emergency tanner on my legs in the morning, I wouldn’t be embarrassed by the subtle sparkle.
I think the lotion smells surprisingly pleasant. The typical fake tan smell isn’t a problem or deal-breaker for me, but it’s very minimal here. L’Oreal advertises a fresh citrus scent and I think it smells nice in the bottle and when applied to skin. It fades over maybe 20-30 minutes and I’ve noticed some light fake tan smell over the course of the night, but it really is very subtle and I’m pretty impressed.
I find the color guard (the instant bronzer that washes away, as opposed to the longer lasting tan that develops over a few hours) in the Luminous Bronzer to be a bit less natural-looking than the tan that remains after I shower. The color guard looks ok, and the tan itself looks pretty darn good, I think. I find this to be true of a lot of tinted tanners, so it’s not a big surprise. I definitely get some noticeable color after one application, and the tan lasts nicely. I’ve been applying it to my body about once a week to maintain the color and find that that works well.
I have also been trying it out on my face and like it quite a bit. My skin hasn’t reacted at all or become dehydrated. The product has some alcohol in it which helps it dry quickly, but I’m basically sandwiching it in moisturizer so I haven’t noticed any ill effects. To help keep the face application a little more mistake-proof, I add dilute the self tanner with a little bit of moisturizer (maybe 2 parts tanner to 1 part moisturizer) and apply to my face about every other day to keep the color going.
Above you can see a before and after for the slightly diluted face application. The right side shows the tan after I’ve washed the bronzer away. It’s not dramatic (it tends to be much more noticeable on other parts, like my legs), but the color is convincing and sticks around after I wash my face again later in the evening. Some tanners have a hard time showing up and sticking around on the face, and I definitely cleanse my face thoroughly twice a day and use toners with AHAs so the tanner has it’s work cut out for it. That being said, I think this tanner wins that battle.
A few other things you should know. The lotion dries pretty quickly, but almost deceptively quickly. You should let it sit on your skin for a good 20 minutes even though it’ll feel like it dries a lot quicker than that. The first time I used this I got into bed too quickly and sort of brought my arms up to hold my pillow, so I ended up with some marks on my arms where skin was touching skin, especially around the inside of my elbows. It doesn’t transfer onto my pillow or sheets or anything, though, so that’s definitely a plus.
Also, I’ve had good luck when it comes to elbows, knees, and ankles. It doesn’t seem to cling awkwardly to these drier areas of the skin as other tanners can. The color goes on pretty evenly and fulfills it’s promise of being streak-free. Additionally, it doesn’t cling to the palm of my hand. I always apply some lotion to my hands before handling the tanner and then wash my hands periodically as I apply, and I’ve completely avoided orange-palm syndrome.
Ingredients: AQUA / WATER; ALCOHOL DENAT; DIHYDROXYACETONE; HYDROXYETHYL;ACRYLATE/SODIUM ACRYLOYLDIMETHYL TAURATE COPOLYMER;CARAMEL;VP/VA COPOLYMER; SYNTHETIC FLUORPHLOGOPITE; PARFUM / FRAGRANCE; XANTHAN GUM; C12-15 ALKYL LACTATE; METHYLPARABEN; PPG-26-BUTETH-26; PEG-40 HYDROGENATED CASTOR OIL; CI 77891 / TITANIUM DIOXIDE; TOCOPHEROL; LINALOOL; BENZYL SALICYLATE; CI 15985 / YELLOW 6 ;HEXYL CINNAMAL; HYDROXYCITRONELLAL; C12-15 ALCOHOLS; CITRONELLOL; ALPHA- ISOMETHYL IONONE; BENZYL ALCOHOL; COUMARIN; LIMONENE
All in all, I like this one. It isn’t necessarily my favorite self tanner in the world, but I’m happy to keep going with it and use the bottle up. It’s not entirely mistake-proof, so make sure to let it dry for a solid 20 minutes and feel free to dilute it with a little bit of lotion if you’re nervous. But, if you follow the general rules of self tanning, this one will do the job and give you some nice, buildable color that sticks around.
The L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Luminous Bronzer costs $10.99 and is available at Ulta, Walgreens, Target, and other drugstores. Have you tried it? Do you have a favorite self tanner that’s easy on the wallet?