I Tried In-Shower Self-Tanner and Was Not Impressed… Here’s Why

Self-tanner can be a nightmare to apply. You never really know if you’ve covered every nook and cranny of your body, and you certainly can’t tell if you chose the right shade … until it’s too late. So when I came across an in-shower self-tanner that promised to make application a piece of cake and leave me looking like a bronzed goddess, I had to test it out.

As it turns out, in-shower self-tanner is not a beauty godsend. It’s not even a beauty blessing. And, quite frankly, I’d rather walk around with a streaky faux glow (or bare my ghostly skin to the world) than ever have to apply the pointless product again. Here’s why:

It’s all bark and no bite

Woman with long hair taking shower

In-shower self-tanners just aren’t always effective. | CentralITAlliance/Getty Images

If it smells like self-tanner and looks like self-tanner, chances are, it’s self tanner, right? Wrong. After following the instructions, I thought for certain I would step out of the shower with a post-Hawaiian-holiday glow. But, boy was I wrong — and as pale as ever. For best results, the packaging suggested using the self-tanner three days in a row. So, I followed the advice and gave it another go, and then another go. Still nothing.

It smells awful

young girl closes her nose with her fingers

You just don’t want to smell self-tanner, anytime. | VladimirFLoyd/Getty Images

The only thing the in-shower self-tanning lotion did was make me smell like fake tan — the worst part about self-tanner! If you’re someone who enjoys the smell of self-tanning lotion sans the actual tan, then I highly recommend this. But, if not, just stick with regular self-tanning lotion.

It’s awkward to apply

Beautiful Woman applying facial moisturizing cream

Standing in the cold shower waiting for the tanner to work isn’t ideal. | ThomFoto/Getty Images

To apply self-tanning lotion in the shower, you have to turn the shower off, apply the lotion, wait about three minutes, then turn the shower on to rinse off. So, in-shower self-tanner is a self-tanning lotion that you apply while standing in the shower — but that’s it. If you stand in the shower while applying lipstick, does that mean your lipstick is “in-shower lipstick?” By comparison, maybe.

Anyway, back to the awkward part: Turning the shower off and standing there with wet hair and damp skin is not something I recommend. It’s cold, you’re shivering, the leg hair that you just shaved off is starting to grow back to avoid hypothermia. And also, is it just me, or does standing in the shower butt naked with the shower turned off make you feel so weird and exposed?

It’s an in-shower lotion, and therefore it can’t be trusted

Young woman in towel after shower using body cream

In-shower products don’t tend to be as effective as regular lotions. | FotoDuets/Getty Images

Just like in-shower self-tanner, in-shower lotion seems like a great way to multitask. However, in-shower lotion is not nearly as effective as regular body lotion (which you apply outside of the shower, after toweling off). While lotion is a necessary step in every skin care routine (your body routine, included), it’s unnecessary to apply it in the shower.

Things can still get streaky

Woman with perfect body in bikini

Tan lines are never the end goal of using self-tanner. | IvanMikhaylov/Getty Images

If by some miracle, you do happen to see some color post-application (please tell me how you did it), there’s no guarantee that you will come out streak-free with no discoloration. If you want a perfect-looking bronze, I suggest booking a spray tan appointment.

Its smell lingers

shower head

Shower head | iStock.com/Horiyan

Remember a few points back when I said in-shower self-tanner smells awful? Yeah, well, it leaves its mark on your bathroom. After three days of in-shower application, my bathroom smelled like the inside of a spray tan booth. No, thank you!

The at-home self-tanners that actually do work

Beautiful woman tan legs

Beautiful woman tan legs | Yuriyzhuravov/Getty images

I wasn’t going to let a few mishaps with in-shower self-tanner keep me from achieving a bronzed glow. So, I set out on a mission to find the best at-home self-tanner. And much to my surprise, I actually found two! If you’re looking to get your bronze on, read on to see the products I recommend.

Miami Gorgeous La Playa Self Tanning Mousse

LaPlaya Glow Self Tanning Mousse

LaPlaya Glow Self Tanning Mousse | Miami Gorgeous

Formulated with skin-nourishing argan oil and coconut oil, the Miami Gorgeous La Playa Self Tanning Mousse ($18) not only goes for the glow, it goes for silky soft skin, too. The organic, all-natural self-tanning mousse is tinted, so you can see where have (and have not) applied. And when applied with a self-tanning mitt, you get an even bronze every time.

Caribbean Solutions Beach Colors Natural Self Tanner

Caribbean Solutions Beach Colors Natural Self Tanner

Beach Colors Natural Self Tanner | Caribbean Solutions

Another self-tanner that made the cut? Caribbean Solutions Beach Colors Natural Self Tanner ($13). I found this bronze-inducing lotion while sifting through Amazon for all-natural beauty products. Unlike the Miami Gorgeous self-tanner, this lotion is not tinted. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not easy to apply. It’s jelly-like texture makes for seamless application, and it develops into a glow worthy of the Caribbean.