So I mentioned in last week’s favorites post that I have been using Million Dollar Tan sunless self-tanning products recently. I avoid tanning in the sun and do not tan in a bed any longer – I actually had no intention of getting any color this year, but by April I already didn’t match my fall/winter foundation quite right. My wedding was come up so I figured, “Oh hell, I’ll just self-tan since I already need different foundation anyway.”
I previously wrote about Jergens Natural Glow Self Tanners, but I wanted something that packed a little more punch that I didn’t have to apply every single day. The last couple months leading up to most weddings are pretty hectic (mine was no exception), and ain’t nobody got time for that. I’ve tried sample packets of the towelettes – I had one from Kate Somerville 360, but towelettes aren’t for me. Years ago I had tried a spray-on variety and wasn’t a fan either. I compiled a list of requirements and ventured forth to see what Google could share.
My requirements for a sunless tanner:
1. Please for the love of cats do not be perfumed/scented*
2. Wash off my hands easily, please.
3. Not a towelette.
4. Not a spray.
5. Not super thick or goopy.
No green tint
No color guide
Call me picky. It’s okay – I know I am when it comes to this. To touch on these – I’m not a fan of fragranced lotions to begin with; I definitely do not want a perfumed sunless tanner, as the fragrance will almost surely not be cute once the DHA starts reacting and the, “tanning smell,” starts*. I just plain don’t like the towelettes – they may be a good option for you if you are traveling a lot, but I’d still rather have lotion. Sprays can be messy – that isn’t to say they’re bad, just not for me. 5 & 6 coincide – I don’t want to sit there for a half hour waiting for my self-tanner to dry before I can get dressed or go to bed. As far as the optional stuff – some tanning products have a green tint or dye which helps counteract the orange that sometimes occurs. This isn’t a bad thing, but it coincides with the second optional point – I do not need instant gratifications. I do not want dyes or bronzers in my lotion; I can wait the 4-8 hours for the color to develop. Also, as I am not Ke$ha, please skip the shimmer/glitter. If I want something like that, I’ll get a Soap & Glory Body Butter.
* Now, really quick, let’s talk about that asterisk next to the scent remark. I want a lotion that does not have ADDED FRAGRANCE or perfume because I am very picky about scents. I am not asking for a miracle-lotion that does not produce a, “tanning smell. Let’s chat about the science of the sunless-tanner odor before you lose your mind.
The smell that so many people get mad about and say, “boo,” to tanning lotions over is going to happen to some degree with any lotion that contains DHA..which is most of them. DHA, or dihydroxyacetone, is a compound derived from beets and from sugar cane (not scary), and when applied to the skin it reacts with the amino acid in your skin – this is what produces the color you seek, but a side effect is that this reaction also produces a smell. The strength of the odor will depend on your own body chemistry and the concentration of DHA in the particular product you choose – but it isn’t that the lotion smells that way, it is actually your body producing this smell.
I spent a few days a while back researching sunless tanning products – I was at the point where I was going to compromise on one of my requirements or throw in the towel and go back to the Jergens products I just wasn’t satisfied with. Fortunately, I came across Jaclyn Hill and Nicole Guerrero’s videos about Million Dollar Tan, so I decided to check out the company and their products. To my delight, they did have offerings that seemed to meet my requirements: Million Dollar Tan Cabana Tan and Cabana Tan EXTREME lotions – both offer sunless self-tanning in the form of a white DHA enriched lotion; one just packs more of a punch than the other. They also have a facial offering, but I didn’t bother with it.
Retailing at normally $20 for an 8oz. bottle of Cabana Tan and $26 for the same capacity of the Cabana Tan EXTREME formula, I fortunately stumbled across a promo code that allowed me to get one of each for around $40 including shipping. As it turns out, though I found it on an Million Dollar Tan ad on their site, it had expired – I emailed their customer service to find out about it, and they copped to the mistake but honored it anyway – that’s pretty great service IMO (but that promo is no longer available, I’m afraid, and the erroneous image has been removed). My order, which they had to setup custom, arrived quickly (within three days) via USPS from Huntington Beach, California, where the company is located.
To apply, squirt a pump of Cabana Tan right onto a tanning mitt (I use this $6 St. Tropez one – sold out at the moment, any will do), swipe it a few times on the area I am starting with, and then blend the swiped-on lotion around in circular-ish buffing motions all over. Work as fast as you can while still being thorough and even, because this stuff dries quickly. Repeat elsewhere until you’re covered, don’t forget your neck and collarbone and whatnot. Then, with whatever is left over on the mitt, go over the areas that tend to take more color or look weird – elbows, knees, ankles, feet, tops of hands. Million Dollar Tan’s Cabana Tan is also a multitasker; non-comedogenic and face-safe, I just mix some in with my CeraVe (from the tub) moisturizer, and moisturize my face as usual. Bam, done. Now go wash your dang hands so they don’t wind up looking dirty and awkward. Ultimately, the process is user friendly and your color will have fully developed within 6-8 hours.
You apply Cabana Tan Extreme in the same way, but it develops in about four hours. It packs a punch, though – don’t jump straight to Extreme if you are very fair unless you want to look drastically different very quickly. I bought both formulas because I wasn’t sure which would suit me best – I’m naturally about an NC20 and I started off with the regular which gave me color but didn’t make me look as though I had been vacationing in the tropics, or like I was a little too hooked on the tanning bed. I tried out the Extreme formula which gave me a noticeable difference between where I started (two applications of the original Cabana tan spaced three days apart) – I personally had a little more difficulty blending this one and preventing it from making my hands and feet from looking, “muddy,” – it isn’t impossible, it just requires a little more effort. To maintain my desired color, I apply Cabana Tan Extreme once every other week, and then regular Cabana Tan once on those weeks, twice on the non-extreme weeks (though I was
lazybusy lately and slacked a bit!) With both lotions, towards the end of the development period, you will develop a tanning odor – but see my little educational blurb that was before the jump for more on that.
I am satisfied with these sunless tanners from Million Dollar Tan – I haven’t finished a bottle yet (and don’t use it consistently even so), so I cannot really estimate how long it will last with a certain amount of usage. My impression so far is that it is going to last (me) longer than I thought, though – I was worried it would only last me a month or two, but my bottles are still way more than half-full, so it will last me far through my wedding and after. I’m not sure if I am going to repurchase yet – I am very pleased with the results I achieved with it, but I don’t think I would want to bother year-round, or even season-round; I don’t think I want to be that high maintenance (OK for me for the wedding, not all the time). If you, however, would prefer to look tan all the dang time and want something unscented, this is really nice and easy to use. The color lasts a good while (up to 12 days without reapplication, depending on your body and how much you exfoliate), it doesn’t look orange or dirty, and fades evenly when you’re over it. If you’re in the market for a sunless tanner, check these ones out – I found a promo code (thanks, Google!) glow10 for 10% off Million Dollar Tan products.
An afterthought, too, is that in addition to the lotion offers I have tried and enjoy, Million Dollar Tan also offers a spray-on version (non-aerosol) called Tan Icon and a foam called Mermaid Mousse. Both have Extreme versions, and the mousse has a facial formula. Beyond that, they also sell exfoliants and tan extenders, but I’m already happy with my existing methods and haven’t bothered with them.