How to Find a Self-Tanner With No Smell (and Other Tips)

woman applying self-tanner to torso
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Self-tanning and spray tans are a beauty staple for many, but they're not without their issues. It can be difficult to find a self-tanner that applies easily and evenly without smelling bad, turning orange, or streaking. Luckily, these tips will help.

Why Do Self-Tanners Smell So Bad?

Self-tanners contain a chemical called dihydroxyacetone (or DHA) which has an unpleasant odor. These days companies try to mask the DHA smell with essential oils, but every self-tanner I've tried has some sort of DHA odor, some stronger than others.

Self-tanners tend to start smelling a couple hours after application. I think the combination of product with natural body heat makes the smell more obvious.

To avoid smelling bad, try applying your self-tanner the night before a big event and going to bed in an oversized t-shirt or baggy pajamas. The next morning, shower lightly.

Not all self-tanners smell bad, however. Elle Magazine named St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse their best non-smelling tanner. Apparently, it has an "Aromaguard" fragrance that eliminates the DHA odors.

How Do I Keep My Self-Tanner From Streaking?

The best way to avoid a streaky tan is to exfoliate your skin first with a body scrub or with mitts. And when you apply, use circular motions.

If your self-tanning effort has resulted in orange streaks, leaving you looking like a Halloween candy corn you can try these tricks:

  • Cut a lemon in half, squeezing juice onto a cotton ball. Wipe the streaky orange areas. Candy corn effect should be diluted within minutes.
  • Don't have a lemon on hand? Try a baking soda paste made with a few drops of water. Massage the paste into the streaky areas.

To avoid a streaky self-tan, apply moisturizer on your extra dry parts, especially around knees, elbows, and fingers, and make sure to blend, blend, blend during application.

Should I Splurge on a Spray Tan?

Nothing beats quality color than a professional spray tan.

But they can be pricey, so you may wish to reserve getting them for special events like a wedding, prom, homecoming or reunion. You can even find professionals who use only natural ingredients without chemicals.

Can I Trust a Drugstore Brand?

Many women fall in love with drugstore self-tanners as much as they do the pricier tanners. Women who spend thousands on face creams who swear by Jergens self-tanners, for example. And on the post beauty blog, Into the Gloss, many of the readers tout their favorite Banana Boat or NIVEA self-tanners. In my opinion, you can't go wrong with Clarins self-tanners (my favorite brand). But they are pricey.

Here are some great drugstore bets:

What Self-Tanner Should I Use for a Really Deep Tan

For a really deep tan, get a spray tan and then apply a gradual tanner every day to keep the color going. People also say amazing things about St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse.

Do I Need a Special Formula for My Face?

Bronzers can be preferable to self-tanners when it comes to giving your face a bit of color, but if you do prefer the self-tanner route, choose one that's formulated to be used on the face.

Here are some recommendations:

What If I Only Want Tan Legs?

You can find self-tanners formulated for the legs only. A favorite is Lancôme Flash Bronzer Body Gel.

What Are Gradual Tans?

Many tan addicts swear by Jergens Natural Glow, a gradual self-tanner applied right out of the shower. It acts as a moisturizer and a self-tanner. Jergens is the most popular gradual tanner on the market.

Others love  NIVEA Sun-Kissed Radiance Gradual Tanner & Body Lotion. People swear it doesn't smell as bad as others. For the face, try Clinique Self Sun Face Tinted Lotion.

Don't Forget to Apply Self-Tanner to These Body Parts

There are a few areas that people commonly miss when applying self-tanner. Don't forget the hairline, the ears, and under the chin.

Can I Use Self-Tanner If I Have Age Spots?

According to editor Valerie Monroe in O the Oprah Magazine, if you have hyperpigmentation (dark spots), you should avoid self-tanners, which tend to darken age spots. If you have hypopigmentation or light age spots, tanner will help even out your skin tone.

Age spots are caused by sun damage. According to Monroe, you can treat them by applying a topical prescription bleaching agent, have them removed with a chemical peel or treat them with laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments.