Which is best? Self-tanners put to the test

HOUSTON – You may not have time to sunbathe poolside, but you still want that sunkissed summer time glow.

Self-tanners can help you get that look, and there are dozens to choose from. Consumer expert Amy Davis is putting six self tanners to the test to show you which work best. 

We spent as little as $5.48 for a Walmart brand self-tanner all the way up to $30 a bottle for other popular brands. We found the higher price tag does not always mean you'll come away with a better, brighter glow.

To test the tanners, we recruited internet sensation Alex Vinklarek, also known as "spray tan girl." You may have caught her tweet that went viral back in April that showed her spray-tanned, tear-stained cheeks. She had just left the spray tan booth when she was watching some videos on her phone, waiting for the formula to dry. She cried over a touching video and when she looked up in the mirror, she saw streaks of tanner sliding down her face. 

We couldn't think of a better person to test self-tanners for Channel 2. Alex recruited two of her friends. Each volunteer tried two products, one on each leg for 10 days. 

We included these tanners in the test: 

Jergen's Natural Glow  costs $8.28
Walmart's knock-off version Equate Lovely Glow costs $5.48 
Sally Hansen's Airbush Legs costs $12.99
NuSkin Sunright Instaglow Tinted Gel costs $30
St. Tropez Everyday Tinted Body Lotion costs $30
Tan Towels costs $30

Five of the lotions are gradual. They are supposed to make your skin darker over time. Only the Sally Hansen product washes away after each use, but you see the results immediately.

After 10 days, we checked in with our team of testers. 

Erin really liked The Tan Towels. It gave her leg more even, darker coverage than the St. Tropez product she used on the other leg. The two tanners both cost the same, but Erin said the St. Tropez was streaky and took too long to dry. 

"I don't think I'd repurchase this. I don't think I'd recommend to a friend," she said holding the St. Tropez.  

The NuSkin tanner left Alex's right leg darker than the Sally Hansen product made her left leg, but the Sally Hansen tanner left her leg looking more flawless. It does a great job covering bruises, veins and other imperfections. Alex said it did not run or streak when her leg got wet. It only came off in the shower with soap and water. 

NuSkin goes on with a shimmer that washes off when you bathe, but the tan gets gradually darker every time you use it. You can only buy NuSkin from an individual who is a licensed distributor. We ordered ours here

Avery tried Jergen's Natural Glow on one leg and the Equate Lovely Glow on the other. Only the Jergen's left a noticeable tan. Avery said it took almost 3 applications before the color appeared, but she liked it once it took. The Walmart product only seemed to leave spots of orange on her knee and ankle, but no color anywhere else on Avery's leg.  
The girls ranked the six products from best to worst. 

  • The Tan Towel
  • Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs
  • NuSkin Instaglow
  • Jergen's Natural Glow
  • St. Tropez Everyday Tinted Body Lotion
  • Equate Lovely Glow
  • Ten Tan Towels come in a package for $30, but Erin said she didn't need to use the product every day. In 10 days, she said she used four of the towels.