It’s tough getting tan these days.
Slathering your body in baby oil and baking on a beach chaise has been verboten for a couple decades now. And recently, we reported on the hidden chemicals that may be lurking in your salon spray tan.
One safer option? An all-natural, organic self-tanner. Because you apply it yourself, you’re way less likely to inhale DHA, the active tanning ingredient that’s meant for your skin, not your lungs. And since a self-tanner lists ingredients on the bottle, you’ll know exactly what your pores are soaking up.
We tested two pure and popular products, Lavera Glow & Go Spray Self Tanner, a natural brand from Germany that’s sold in drugstores for $29.50, and Chocolate Sun Sunless Tanning Cream, an indie luxe brand that sells for $40, to see which tanner would come out on top. Here’s how they fared:
Lavera: A mix of organic plant oils, minerals, and aloe, along with the active ingredient (DHA), which is sugar-based. Though “fragrance” is listed, Lavera tells you what’s in it. All’s quiet on the dangerous chemical front.
Chocolate Sun: Uses a blend of oils like sunflower and almond, and the DHA is extracted from sugar beets (astoundingly enough). Vanilla extract and coconut oil give it a delicious tropical scent. I was catching glorious whiffs of cocoa for hours after.
Lavera: It comes in a spray bottle, making it super easy to apply and to avoid brown palms. Although, my shower curtain did get a bit of an unintentional glow in the spray-on process.
Chocolate Sun: It feels like a luxurious lotion, but I felt compelled to smooth it on evenly to avoid streaks (which wasn’t as necessary with the spray). The Sunless Tanning Gel (another tanner for the face) has a strange, goopy consistency, and it left some grainy residue that I had to brush off later in the day.
Lavera: It imparts an immediate shimmer—my skin was literally sparkling for a couple of hours—then deepens into a sunny glow, which lasted 3 days. It comes in one shade, so you apply extra coats to build a deeper bronze, which for me never really came. Though there were no streaks at all.
Chocolate Sun: It definitely created a deeper tan. And aside from two tiny spots where I must have been a little hasty, it was streak-free. I still didn’t look as bronzed as if I’d spent a day at the beach, but Chocolate Sun comes in lite, medium, and dark, so you can choose your shade (I chose lite since I’m generally pasty white).
Neither will turn you a Jersey-Shore-qualifying shade (phew!), and both have rest-easy clean ingredient lists. I’d recommend Lavera if you just want to casually and quickly up your glow factor for a couple of days. But Chocolate Sun is definitely the higher-end product (it feels more cosmetically elegant, too), and is your best bet if you’re looking for a substantial faux tan. —Lisa Elaine Held
Lavera, $29.50 for body, $21 for face, Lavera.com
Chocolate Sun, $40 for body, $34 for face, SpiritBeautyLounge.com