I'm Brown But Wanted to Try Sunless Tanner—The Results Might Surprise You

Normally, I'm not a self-tanner kind of gal. During the summer, I like to achieve my ultra-bronzed look by getting some good old fashioned sunshine at the beach. Granted, I have to admit that as a woman of color, I'm already pretty tan, but I do still love to add a little extra pop of warmth to my skin like so many others. 

But I'll also be the first to say that achieving the glow naturally isn't as easy as it used to be. As a now adult who is out of school and doesn't get an automatic three-month vacation during the summer, I find that I spend a lot more time inside and don't get as tan as I used to. That's why I decided to mix it up this season and test out a few self-tanning products. I know plenty of folks who swear by them and use them year-round to achieve a healthy glow. I figured it could be a fun experiment to see how these types of products hold up on darker skin tones. If you're curious about how they did and about my experience using them, keep reading below.

My Sunless Tanner Review

I decided to try two different options for this little experiment. First, I tried the Kora Organics Gradual Self Tanning Lotion ($50). The above photo was taken before I applied any kind of self-tanning product. Because this is an option that's supposed to build a subtle tan over time, I applied it for four nights in a row after showering. I'll admit that I didn't notice much of a difference. I initially liked the idea of using this option because it's mostly organic and contains other hydrating and nourishing ingredients like rosehip oil, noni extract, and sea buckthorn oil.

If anything, it was at least a nice lotion, but I'm not sure if it built much of a bronze glow for me. Granted, I'm already pretty tan, so it may take more than a four-day-use to see darker results, or it's simply not made for my skin tone. If you happen to be on the paler side, I wouldn't let my experience deter you from buying it. I've heard other people who are a bit lighter than me say they love it, so it could definitely still be a good option for you.

The second option I tried for the experiment is Hi Beautiful's You's Be You Body Perfecting Bronzer ($48). This one is a little different than the Kora Organics lotion because it's a lotion that provides an instant tan and can wash right off later on. I decided to give this one a go because it's easy to apply and seemed to have a much darker bronze color to it. Although this one does appear darker and did add a slight bronze look after I applied it, there still wasn't much of a noticeable difference. I did do a second coat and applied quite a bit to see if I could build it up more. This helped, but as you can see in the above photo, there still isn't a super noticeable difference. I did like this option because it was easy to apply, didn't appear streaky or unnatural despite its darker color, and was pretty hydrating as well. If you're looking for an easy self-tanner to use quickly that you can easily wash off later, I would definitely give this one a go.

As for those with darker skin tones who are curious about trying self-tanners, I honestly don't think they make a huge difference. A body bronzer or shimmer would enhance darker skin tones much more than a self-tanner. I think I was expecting at least a tad more of a bronzing effect with both of these, but I have to keep in mind that these types of products are mostly made for people who are pale and looking to achieve a tanner look that I already naturally possess.

Overall, I still had fun trying the products and my curious mind can now rest easy. If you're looking for a few other self-tanners, body shimmers, or bronzers to enhance or darken your natural skin tone, I still have you covered. Keep scrolling below.

More Self Tanners & Body Bronzers We Love

If you love Iconic London's Prep Set Glow Spray ($29), you'll love this version for the body. It's infused with hyaluronic acid, vitamin A, E, and F to condition the skin, chamomile extract, and tanning agents to give you a huge glow boost.

This spray-lotion hybrid from Supergoop! protects the skin with SPF and delivers natural-looking and buildable color.

Another great option that provides a gradual tan, this oil-in-lotion formula also helps with dullness and uneven texture. It contains what the brand calls a Celltone Complex which firms the skin, reduces the appearance of cellulite, delivers extra hydration, and provides a soft subtle glow.

Sunless Tanner for Dark Skin Tones



I can personally vouch for this lotion from Ameliorate. It adds a warm radiance to the skin with illuminating pearl particles, exfoliates gently with lactic acid, and hydrates with sweet almond oil and the brand's LaH6 Skin Hydration Complex.

The ingredients in Charlotte Tilbury's body highlighter contours and provides a shimmer to the body with luminosity-rich botanicals and skin depuffing agents. The glow doesn't disappoint.

Drunk Elephant's Anti-Pollution Serum helps defend against environmental stressors while delivering a bronzy glow. It has cocoa extract to provide antioxidant protection and soothing to the skin while peptides promote elasticity in the skin. It's a lightweight fluid that will leave you with sun-kissed summer skin (even if it's not summer).

This is one of the best budget options out there. It leaves such a beautiful bronze tint to the skin that makes you look like you've been on vacation for two months straight.

As one of Amazon's best-selling self-tanners, you won't be disappointed by this option. It comes in various bronze shades and scents to suit your liking so there's truly something for everyone.