Due to my mixed Latinx-Asian ethnicity, I have naturally olive skin that tans very easily — that is, if I'm ever out in the sun, which I typically am not. (Remember: The only safe tan is a fake one!) Here's where sometimes I phone a friend, with that friend being a self-tanner, for when I want to boost my tan sans UV exposure.
Unlike many beauty products, self-tanners are either really good or really bad with very little gray area. In my experience, faux glows either give South of France or Jersey Shore. I was cautiously optimistic when Malibu Bronze's Glow Bundle arrived, but, as I'm always on the hunt for a new favorite beauty find, I knew I had to try it out.
Aside from how the product develops on your skin, a common gripe about self-tanners is the smell. Inexpensive formulas can sometimes smell chemically and generally unpleasant, which kinda ruins the whole experience IMO. From the initial pump, Malibu Bronze's 1-Hour Dark Tan gave a great impression. The scent rivaled that of my most luxe perfume but wasn't overpowering in the least bit. The not-too-sweet floral scent just smelled nice and expensive. I started out my home tan sesh by exfoliating my bod with the Malibu Bronze mitt, which is similar to the beloved Korean washcloths I get on Amazon. (Exfoliating is a key prep step to ensure even, streak-free application.)
Malibu Bronze's tanner is a foam texture, which I tend to prefer over creams for their lightweight feel and spreadability. Based on my past experience, I'm more likely to miss a spot or two with tanning lotions and waters since it's not always easy to see exactly where the product is. Anyway, after buffing my skin with the mitt, I applied a few careful pumps of the tanning foam to my arms and legs, sweeping the velvety application glove in large, circular motions to blend everything out. Using the excess product in the mitt, I swept any left over onto my chest, shoulders, and face (including ears!). I've had many a makeup artist tell me my face is naturally a bit darker than my body, and besides, I'd rather apply too little than too much.
The brand recommends leaving the tanner on for an hour to let the foam develop, but since I'm already tan and just wanted a hint of glow, I left it on for 30 minutes before rinsing off with a damp washcloth. (The brand also advises against showering until at least six hours post-application.) As with many DHA-based tanners, the tan continues to develop over time. The longer you leave it on, the darker your final result will be. The brand touts its formula as the first tanner to contain squalane (in addition to niacinamide and orange blossom), and I have to say the stuff felt pretty nice on my skin. There was zero irritation and unpleasant smell, and my skin felt soft and smooth after rinsing it off. After a few days, I didn't look dramatically bronzed but rather like I'd spent a weekend at the beach. I am here for the post-vacay glow, and I love a tanner that does a solid job evening out any uneven tone on my legs, too. (Oh, and did I mention it's 100% vegan and cruelty-free? I love to see it.)
All in all, I was pleasantly impressed by my Malibu Bronze tanning experience. The stuff is still pricey at $35 for a 7 oz. bottle (St. Tropez's foam, in comparison, is $42 for an 8 oz.), but you can save a couple bucks by getting the bundle, which comes with the exfoliating and applicator mitts. That said, there are some products I wholeheartedly believe in splurging on, and tanners are one of them. Whether you're a regular self-tanner or a special-occasions-only person like me, Malibu Bronze's formula passes the endless-summer-vibe check.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy or click on something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.