I Tried 6 Natural Faux Tanners For A Glowy Summer

As soon as the warmer weather rolls around, the seemingly endless quest to "get bronzed" or "nab a healthy glow" begins in earnest. Babes strip down in tanning beds, get airbrushed in tiny booths by strangers, sunbathe in the park, and fret over how to correctly apply self tanner to avoid the giveaway orange-y streaks. Tan mania is a real thing and the motto seems to be the more bronzed, the better — no matter the damage or the cost.

I know this too well: I went through a major identity and self confidence crisis after leaving the church and abandoning the faith I felt had actually left me behind long ago. I lost most of my friends and everything I was told defined my worth. I started making drastic changes to my appearance. I bleached my hair banana blonde and got clip-in extensions. I got the most heavy-duty eyelash extensions $150 could buy. I worked at a tanning salon and tanned with accelerators daily. This is who my partner and I refer to as "Tanjodie:"

Today, I'm way more chill about being tanned — my goal is just to look like my idea of the best version of myself. For me, that's looking like I've spent the week at the music festival I planned with my friends, or like I've spent the day playing tennis with my boyfriend. I like having an even skin tone, no doubt, and I also like protecting my skin from the damage of the sun and harmful chemicals. A little self tanner that makes me look like me is a pretty easy thing to pull off, I thought, and could be done with adhering to the natural, non-toxic standard I have for all my self-care products.

So, I tried six different natural self-tanners and ranked them on various different criteria so that you can save yourself the time. Here's what I found:

1. The Spray Tan

Organic Tan Spray Tan, $35, Organic Tan

Ease of application: 10/10

Bronze factor: 10/10

Speediness of color: 7.5/10

Orange you glad: 4/10

Overall rating: 5/10

When I was looking for the best and most interesting self-tanning products, I was intrigued by Organic Tan, a company that promised a natural-looking spray tan with natural ingredients. I had never had a spray tan before, despite my tanning salon past, and I was nervous and excited to give it a shot.

The Winnipeg Organic Tan studio had just opened for business and they invited me in for a tan. They were so welcoming and friendly as they showed me the cozy, chill studio they share with a life coach and reiki practitioner. Before I knew it, I was stripped down to just a pair of undies and adhesive sole covers and contorting myself into weird positions as the owner sprayed me with the brown solution from an air gun. The spray tan formula can be custom-blended to 17 different shades and, after some consultation, they decided light mixed with some medium would be good for me. I was a little hesitant, considering how fair my skin is, but they were so reassuring it would achieve my goals of looking natural.

After I had been thoroughly sprayed, the technician blended color into my palms and soles and used a large blush brush to even the application and buff out any minor drips. They definitely paid attention to detail and made me feel so pampered. I stuck around for about 20 minutes just chatting with the ladies who worked there because I was just having the best time and we felt like BFFs instantly. 25 minutes after my tan, I looked like this:

I loved my natural glow and was so impressed at the subtlety. Knowing it would develop a bit more overnight, I expected to go a bit deeper and was pretty thrilled with the results. Then, I woke up like this:

My tan had darkened immensely and I felt orange. Like, really orange. They told me that some of what I would see the next day would be bronzer that was in the formula and sat on top of my skin, so it would look different after a shower. I showered once and was still freaking out. I showered again with hot water this time and the cheapest, most abrasive soap I could find. After four showers, I finally felt that I didn't look like John Boehner anymore and could face my co-workers at the health clinic.

My colleague said I looked like I had spent a week at the folk festival without wearing sunscreen. I still felt weird. After three days, I finally felt the color fade to a natural, subtle shade that I was comfortable with. I don't know if I would do this again, but for the hardcore tanners out there, this might just fit the bill.

2. The Lotion

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glotion For Body, $38, Lovely Skin

Ease of application: 9/10

Bronze factor: 7/10

Speediness of color: 5/10

Orange you glad: 7.5/10

Overall rating: 7/10

This was a really easy product to use: Literally as simple as putting on lotion. It had a really pleasant citrus fragrance and felt super smooth going on. The dry time was extremely minimal, but the color took longer to develop than I would have liked. This is a colorless product, so it was really hard to judge how much lotion was going where. My application ended up a little blotchy and a little over-saturated in some parts, so I did end up with the orange effect in places. Overall, though, the color was deep and complementary: This is hands down a superior product to many self-tanners on the market.

3. The Tanning Oil

Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self-Tanning Oil, $38, Sephora

Ease of application: 7/10

Bronze factor: 8/10

Speediness of color: 10/10

Orange you glad: 9/10

Overall rating: 9.5/10

This was by far my favorite body bronzer of them all. It came with a plush mitt to apply it with, making application a breeze and protecting me from "tan hands," although getting the right strokes to avoid streaks took a little finesse. All self-tanning products need to come with gloves, IMO. The formula smelled good and made my usually scaly legs feel supple. The product is slightly tinted so you can ensure adequate, even coverage and gives you a little instant gratification. The color developed pretty quickly after application and dried a really natural-looking color with no orange tones at all.

4. The Tanning Wipes

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad For Body, $45, Sephora

Ease of application: 7/10

Bronze factor: 7/10

Speediness of color: 6/10

Orange you glad: 6/10

Overall rating: 6/10

This wipe was really convenient to use and had a pretty pleasant smell as far as self-tanners go. The wipes were way bigger than I thought and really saturated with the bronzer, so you are definitely able to cover a pretty big surface area — and no streaks! The only problem is that you can't see where the formula is sitting on your skin, so as the color started to develop a few hours later and I realized I missed some spots, I had to reapply. This lead to the Ross Geller double-application, leaving me feeling like the tan was little more on the orange side than I would have liked.

5. The Buildable Bronze

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Glow Moisture, $42, Sephora

Ease of application: 9/10

Bronze factor: 3/10

Speediness of color: 4/10

Orange you glad: 10/10

Overall rating: 9/10

This daily moisturizer is made specifically for your face and to be used regularly to maintain a healthy glow. I'd be hesitant to use it every day because I was so happy with the slight glow that I got from just one application: This is more of a once-a-week type of thing if you're looking for something super natural looking. It did take a full day to really develop, though. It delivered both a good dose of non-greasy moisture and a little help in evening out my skin tone. This one's definitely a keeper.

6. The Temporary Glow

Pacifica Coconut Crushed Pearl Bronzing Body Butter, $18, Pacifica Beauty

Ease of application: 8/10

Bronze factor: 3/10

Speediness of color: 10/10

Orange you glad: 7/10

Overall rating: 8/10

This lotion is the perfect solution for someone just looking to enhance a natural tan or add the tiniest bit of glow. If you're going for subtle or are scared to commit to staining your skin, this temporary bronzing lotion is a good bet that lasts until your next shower or pool dip. The lotion is tinted so you can see where it goes, and while it can have an orange-y tint if applied too thickly, it's very easy to blend. The crushed pearls add an extremely subtle shimmer for an eye-catching look.

Images: Jodie Layne