First Impressions: St. Tropez Gradual Tan Review

Editors Note: I first shared this St. Tropez Gradual Tan review back in 2017. It’s still one of the most popular posts in the archives. Now that we’re waxed/vaxxed/relaxed and leaving our houses to socialize for the first time in a year, there’s never been a better time to throw on a good faux glow. I updated the affiliate links and added some new info to bring it up-to-date. Enjoy, and for more summer beauty content, click here!

St Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Everyday Body Lotion Review
St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted*

I’m usually too lazy for the prep and upkeep involved with maintaining a good self-tan, and frankly, a bit gun shy after a few too many fake bake disasters. But on a recent trip to Sephora, my happy place where I go to de-stress and throw all my money away, I stumbled upon a St. Tropez display.

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase from these links.

It was one of those artfully-arranged end caps that feature “must-have” beauty launches for the season. Those things get me every time; of course I need that $40 highlighter, and I’ll take three of these new nude lipsticks, too, thankssomuch! I found myself contemplating my pale legs and whether I should give sunless tanning another go…

The sales lady came over and chatted me up about the “amazing” St. Tropez Gradual Tan Everyday Tinted Body Lotion*. She assured me it’s the best DIY tanning product for lazy amateurs like myself, and next thing I knew, I was 30 bucks poorer and back on the faux glow wagon.

Let’s break down my first impressions, and see how it lives up to it’s promises in a full St. Tropez Gradual Tan review.

The claim:

(From Sephora’s website)

“For a beautiful, bronze glow that illuminates the skin, this ultra-hydrating body lotion is streak-free, easy to apply, and quick-drying. It delivers instant skin-perfecting coverage to blur imperfections and has no self tan smell, yet features a new mood-boosting fragrance. Reapply daily, or as desired, to build your depth of tan.”

I used it for the first time on a Friday night. If there were any major mishaps, I’d have two days to hide in my house and try to scrub off the evidence. To prep my skin I showered, exfoliated a little with a good body scrub and shaved my legs.

Easy to apply?

The formula is slightly tinted, which makes things a little easier because you can see where it’s going (on fair to light complexions). It has a really thick consistency, and takes some effort to spread evenly onto the skin.

Since it’s a gradual product, I wasn’t too precious with the application; I slathered it on like a body moisturizer and called it a night. I was careful to not overdo it on my hands and feet, and took several hand-washing breaks to avoid the dreaded orange palms. It was easy enough, and mess-free!

A note: The thick lotion has an oily slip, so it’s difficult to wash it off your hands as you go. Spring for the tanning mitt*, and application should be a breeze.

Quick drying?


On the first night, I didn’t notice. I put on a ratty old robe, went to bed, and washed it off when I woke up. But a few days later, I applied it in the morning after I showered and waited.

And waited…

Maybe it’s the “ultra-hydrating” ingredients in the formula, but it left a residue on my skin that would not dry down. Since it wouldn’t completely set, the tint transferred onto my clothes, and I was afraid to sit on anything without a towel. I took another shower several hours later to scrub it off because I felt kind of slimy and gross.

For what it’s worth, I don’t like any heavy moisturizers that sit on top of my skin; I prefer fast-absorbing body oils for everyday hydration. If you’re cool with rich body butters and lotions, daytime application may not be an issue for you, but still be careful with the color transfer. I wouldn’t use it before going to an event; especially if you’re wearing light-colored clothing or there’s a possibility that you may have to sit on light furniture.

I’ll stick to nighttime applications.

Beautiful bronze glow?

For sure! First things first: There’s nothing gradual about this self tanner. I expected a similar color payoff to the Jergens Natural Glow I regularly slathered on in college — a slow-building “tan” that develops over several days with daily use — but the St. Tropez Gradual Tan Everyday Tinted Body Lotion darkened my skin by a couple shades on the first application.

I don’t have much patience for “extra” beauty rituals these days, and wasn’t stoked on the prospect of smelling like self-tanner all the time if I had to use it daily to get results, so the instant gratification is a win in my book.

The tint in the formula also gives an immediate illuminating bronzing effect that blurs imperfections, which is lovely,  but it will transfer to clothing. It seems to all wash off in the laundry, though.

No self tan smell?

I really dislike the smell of DHA, the ingredient in most self-tanners that reacts with the skin to darken dead skin cells and simulate a tan; it’s one of the top reasons I avoid sunless tanners altogether. St. Tropez added a “mood-boosting” fragrance to their formula to help offset the odor, but it’s definitely still there and lingers for a bit even after you wash it off.

If I had to judge the DHA scent of this product on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the strongest-smelling sunless tanner I’ve tried, I would give it a 5. It’s subtle enough that I don’t mind using it, and that’s coming from someone who’s super dramatic about the subject. ;)


This is where St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Body Lotion* gets all the gold stars from me. On the first overnight application, I woke up with a completely even, natural-looking glow. No streaks or patchiness, or stained elbows, knees or wrists. My palms were faintly orange, but that’s easily remedied with a tanning mitt.

My verdict:

Despite a couple gripes — this product doesn’t live up to its claims of drying quickly or having “no self tan smell” — St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Body Lotion is probably the most foolproof sunless tanning product I’ve ever used with the best color payoff.

Since it develops into a pretty medium tan with one application, I can use it every 3-4 days to maintain the color. While some reviews I read complained that it fades to yellow, I find it fades evenly over several days without getting discolored or splotchy.

Is it worth $30? If you want a realistic-looking tan with minimal effort, I say… probably. I’ll keep you posted on how long the bottle lasts with regular use.

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  1. 11.9.21
    Ash said:

    To avoid transfer onto clothing & that oily sticky feeling after applying- try using less product. I found the first time I applied this, I slathered on way too much & it took over an hour to dry down plus transferred onto my clothes! The second time I used the smallest amount of product & thoroughly rubbed in an upward motion & could get dressed for work 10 minutes later with no stickiness/oiliness or transfer onto my clothes! Plus using way less product each application!

  2. 4.1.20
    Caitlyn said:

    Hi, I’m a bit late to the party, but I recently bought this product and I’m desperate not to get any self- tanner on my sheets. So I was wondering when you showered it off, did you still keep the tan? And where there any stains?

  3. 5.4.19
    Sar said:

    Hi! I purchased this product today while in ulta. I have been looking up reviews and everyone’s opinions seems to be mixed. I really appreciate your honestly and perspective! I haven’t tried this product yet because I’m trying to read as many reviews as possible first lol Thanks to your feedback I know what to expect and will probably try this tomorrow :)

  4. 3.20.19
    Cindy said:

    After ALL the reviews I’ve read….this one is the best and accurate! Thank you! :)

  5. 5.14.17

    I have bee thinking about self-tanners for a while, but I am such a chicken about maybe overdoing it. Great review! Honest and definitely engaging… so much so that I myself want to go try it out.

  6. 5.7.17
    Anonymous said:

    Just learn so much from this blog!
    Thanks Keir

  7. 5.3.17

    I’ve been looking for a good sunless tanner, but I hate ones that transfer and rich lotions! I just need that good coloring!! Thanks for sharing, I’ll probably buy both the jergens and st. tropez tanning lotion!

    • 9.14.21
      Karen K said:

      The Jergens is worthless. Very little color, if any. Save your money. I’ve been using the St. Tropez Classic mousse…. Not a fan, for the high price. I see no good color until after I apply it 4 times: twice a day, after I exfoliate. But its not even. And I use a mitt every time.

  8. 5.3.17

    I’m a big fan of the Jergens Natural Glow – I don’t mind the smell and love that it’s basically foolproof – but I do hate that it takes a week of application to get said glow, and I have to reapply every day or risk the color fading. The St. Tropez sounds like a great solution, but with a newborn in the house, I’m not sure that I’d be able to find the time for it to fully dry…. Sigh. #palegirlproblems

  9. 4.29.17

    I love how you structured this review! I have looked at St Tropez products before but never picked any up, great review xx

  10. 4.27.17
    Emily said:

    Did you apply it to your face as well? I’m suuuuuper pale and the thought of trying to get this to blend into my hairline or makeup line is giving me anxiety just thinking about it! Did you do any before/after pics? I’m glad you provided this review! I was just on pinterest reading articles about the best DIY self tanners. -Em

    • 5.1.17

      I didn’t put it on my face. The hairline/ear thing freaks me out as well, and I’m also super weary of anything that could clog my pores and cause breakouts. I put it right up to my chest, and then I use a slightly darker-than-my-natural-skin-tone foundation to even everything out.

  11. 4.27.17
    Kate said:

    “Sephora, my happy place where I go to de-stress and throw all my money away” Too real! I’m also super pale and have toyed with the idea of using self-tanner… Maybe I will give this a shot!