Good Question: Are There Any Self Tanners That Don't Reek?

June 17, 2008 by SheFindsErin
shefinds |

From a SheFinds reader: I think I've tried almost every self tanning product out there and my problem is the smell. They all give me great color but after about an hour they reek! Until I find a brand that doesn't stink, I have a drawer full of useless tanning products and a lot of money wasted.

This is a great question that segues so perfectly with our Self-Tanner Guide. Test-driving all these bronzing lotions and build-a-tans has left me all kinds of brown and all kinds of stinky, and all my self-tanning friends have the same complaint—what's up with the stench?

Self tanners themselves aren't to blame—it's the science behind them that makes you smell like a sweaty, overripe fruit (yuck, just thinking about that distinctive odor gives me the willies!) Most self tanners contain an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. It's the DHA reacting with your skin's proteins that produces that natural-looking glow… and that heinous smell. I have found that the absolute worst offenders are the formulas, specifically lotions, that try to mask the odor under tropical, beachy top notes of coconut or banana. I don't want to smell like a spoiled pina colada, thank you very much.

One of the best I've tried so far (and I've tried a bunch) is Clinique's Self-Sun Touch of Bronze moisturizing body lotion ($18.50). It comes out of the tube virtually scent-free (it smells a lot like their famous yellow moisturizer) and—surprise!—stays scent-free even after the DHA starts working its bronzing magic on my epidermis. This is probably because it's a moisturizer first (and does a great job, at that) and a tanner second. It took a few applications before I saw a really noticeable difference, but since it didn't reek to high heaven, I didn't mind applying it every night before bed.

Now it's your turn: Have a non-stinky self tanner you swear by? Found a brand that does such a good job you're willing to deal with smelling ripe? Tell us all about it in the comments section.


And don't forget to check out our Guide to the Best Self-Tanners.

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