Does Natural Self-Tanner Do The Trick?

Oh, summer, you cruel, cruel friend. You bring warm breezes, ample sunlight, rosé — and, if you're a pale girl like me, a sudden awareness that your almost-Day-Glo-white limbs are on full display in said ample sunlight. Full disclosure: I am not, by any means, one of those girls who starts hitting the spray-tan booth as soon as May hits. Quite the contrary — I enjoy the fair skin my momma gave me, and I try to take good care of it in the hopes it won't rebel against me one day.
That said, I am also a firm believer that no girl should have to face a bikini without a bit of bronze, if that's what makes her feel comfortable whilst being close to naked in public. So, when the warmer months roll around, I usually add some self-tanners (either gradual lotions or micro-mist sprays) into my beauty routine — more so to feel psychologically "bikini-ready" than to approximate what most people would actually call a "tan."

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The Experiment

This year, while taking stock of my latest glow-enhancing options, I encountered a bit of a dilemma. Should I stick with my usual, gradual self-tanner or try out a new, all-natural version? In the end, I decided to do an experiment: I would test Jergens Natural Glow moisturizer on one leg and Elemental Herbology's Sun Kiss self-tanning moisturizer on the other.

The Jergens now-classic lotion includes a small amount of the classic self-tanning moisturizer, DHA, to create a gradual tan. The newfangled Elemental Herbology, on the other hand, features a eco-certified botanical self-tanning agent derived from sugar beets. Would they turn me subtly golden, or would I end up with two very differently shaded gams? There was only one way to find out...

The Results

To see which lotion was king, I used both of them once a day, every day, for a week. I used the Jergens on my left leg and the Elemental Herbology on my right.

My initial thoughts: The Jergens had a pretty predictable drugstore scent. You know, that not-quite-flowers, not-quite-fruit, can't-put-your-finger-on-it scent? Yeah, this stuff was all about it. The lotion was easy to apply and seemed to be absorbed quickly (i.e., no endless rubbing to feel that it was applied evenly). Easy peasy.
The Elemental Herbology, on the other hand, literally smelled like key lime pie, which might be my favorite dessert of all time. (#winning.) However, it was, admittedly, somewhat harder to rub in. Like sunscreen, it had a slightly white tint that required a bit (like, an extra five seconds) of blending to be absorbed seamlessly. That unmistakable self-tanner stench did set in a couple of hours later, but only once the color started to develop. I couldn't really tell which leg was stinkier — I was too distracted by the weirdly gross whiffs of fried chicken. (For the record, my coworkers said they didn't notice a smell. But, I did! I did! And, it was terrible.) This is one of my biggest issues with self-tanner: Being bronzed is nice, but who wants to smell like they hung out next to a deep-fat fryer all day, especially in the muggy summer heat?
Both tanners did their job easily — and quickly! By day two, I had a noticeable even, golden tan. A few days in, I actually skipped a day because I was worried my newly Kardashian-ified legs would clash with my non-tan upper body. All in all, both products were exactly what I want in a self-tanner: Subtle enough to be foolproof and non-streaky, but noticeable enough that I can use them every couple of days without being super regimented about it. Funnily enough, even though the two lotions contain different tanning ingredients, the two tans looked almost exactly the same. So, if you're hoping to go all-natural with your bronze this summer, apparently sugar beets may be the answer. Who knew?

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