I love the look of the tan, especially for a special event. A healthy glow gives me confidence and ensures I won't look washed out in photos. But I hate the price that comes with sun exposure. Wrinkles, dark spots, skin cancer—no thank you. Plus, who wants to spend hours sweating in the sun just for some color?
So instead of baking outside or at a tanning salon, I’ve been using self tanners since I was in middle school. I’ve tried everything from drugstore favorites like Jergens to the higher end versions like St. Tropez. While I’ve been pleased with a number of these formulas, I keep coming back to the same bottle that no one talks about; Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning Lotion. People always comment "wow, you got some sun" when little did they know I just slathered a $5 lotion from Amazon.
Don’t let the blonde hair fool you—I actually tan quite easily. When I was little and sunscreen was not a priority, I would get extremely tan in the summer. Though I am religious about applying sunscreen now, I still like to replicate that deep tan, so I always go with a self tanner’s darkest shade.
This product is a white, lightweight lotion. While a tinted self tanner is great if you are new to the application process and want a guide color, I prefer not having to deal with a messy tint. Trust me, I’ve stained plenty of sheets and bathmats with other tinted self tanners. I apply the lotion with a mitt (it will give you orange palms if you use your bare hands) and it spreads very easily, so I never miss a spot.
Infused with aloe vera, the lotion leaves my skin smooth and hydrated, unlike other self tanners that can be quite drying. It does have a specific scent, which I don’t hate, but certainly isn’t like your typical lotion. After trying various self tanners, I’ve found they all have a “smell” even if they claim they don’t, but this one fades by morning. The tan is supposed to develop in two to three hours, but I always apply it before bed to give it a solid chunk of time.
Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning Lotion
From all the self tanners I’ve tried, this one gives me the deepest, most realistic looking tan in one shot—that’s why I keep on coming back to it. With its self adjusting formula, it won’t get too dark or orange either. I’ve also never woken up to splotches or missed spots, probably because of how easy the lotion is to apply. Equally important, the tan fades evenly throughout the week, with little rub off on clothing. To maintain my glow, I apply it once a week or a couple days before an event.
Besides the amazing color, I can’t get over the value. Some self tanners are over $40 while you can get a three pack of this one for $15 on Amazon. If you tan as much as me, $40 adds up fast. While you can go with a spray tan for your big day, I personally prefer being in control of my tan by using a self tanner at home. With this one, there’s no mess or mistakes and you can toss it in your bag to reapply during your honeymoon. I feel a little weird about sharing my self tanning secret, but consider this a pre-wedding gift.
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Emily Cieslak is an assistant commerce editor and writes about all things beauty and fashion. She has personally been using self tanners since middle school and has tried everything from high-end to drugstore formulas. Before writing for Brides, she interned at The Knot, where she got her first taste of bridal content. She has also written for Byrdie, InStyle, and Real Simple.