First Impression: St Tropez Gradual Tan

First Impression: St Tropez Gradual Tan

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.

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.

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 natural 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.


My Fave 5: Under Eye Concealers

My Fave 5: Under Eye Concealers

A good under eye concealer is an essential in my makeup stash these days (see: my tips for camouflaging dark circles). Since I’m all about fuss-free makeup, I look for concealer formulas that blend easily into the skin, brighten and minimize discoloration, and stay put throughout the day without touch-ups. Bonus points if they provide some extra non-cosmetic benefits, like sun protection or skin care ingredients.

With that checklist in mind, here are my favorite 5 concealers to use around my eyes. With the exception of #1, these great formulas can also be used to spot-conceal and highlight anywhere on the face.

1. To instantly brighten and erase darkness and blue/purple tones on minimal makeup days: Pixi Correction Concentrate. This peachy pigmented cream immediately melts onto skin, blurs imperfections, and neutralizes darkness. Unlike other color correcting formulas, the peach tone is undetectable on the skin, so you can use it alone, or as a base for another concealer if you need extra coverage. It really is a “good night’s sleep in a jar.”

2. To conceal imperfections and guard the eye area with SPF 20: bareMinerals Correcting Concealer. I love a multi-tasker! This creamy formula gives natural-looking medium to full coverage, and protects the delicate eye area with mineral broad spectrum SPF 20. This is my favorite to carry in my makeup bag, because you can quickly swipe it on and blend it out with a fingertip. (Side tip: I keep individually-wrapped antibacterial wipes stocked in my handbag at all times, and they’re perfect for disinfecting your hands before you dip into a potted product like this on-the-go.)

3. For everyday weightless, invisible coverage: Urban Decay Naked Skin Concealer. The lightweight liquid sets quickly and disappears into the skin for a natural demi-matte finish. The formula contains a mix of peptides and antioxidants for some skin care benefits, too.

4. When you need long-wearing full coverage: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. This highly pigmented formula dries to a light-diffusing, satin-matte finish that easily hides dark circles, and contains a blend of antioxidants for hydration and free radical protection. It’s easy to customize coverage with this concealer: buff a little into the skin with your fingertips to sheer it out, or pile it on with the doe-foot applicator and blend it in with a sponge or brush for full coverage. Side tip: you can also apply it to your lips as a neutralizing base to make bold lip colors more vibrant.

5. The best option on a budget: Maybelline Dream Lumi Touch Highlighting Concealer. The light-coverage gel formula is packaged in a click pen for easy application. It does an impressive job evening out discoloration, and adds radiance to the under eye without looking shimmery or shiny.

This $3 tapered brush is my favorite for buffing in liquid and cream concealers: it’s soft and fluffy for easy blending, fits into the contours around the eye area perfectly, and deposits just enough product for a smooth and natural finish. My other go-to concealer tool: a good ol’ beautyblender. (Or this drugstore sponge alternative.)

To prevent creasing and make my under eye concealer last all day, I always set it with a powder. I have two picks for the job that never look chalky, dry, or cakey: this illuminating finishing powder is like the pretty Snapchat filter IRL, and this baked mineral powder sets to a natural-satin finish that looks like perfect healthy skin.

Play! by Sephora Beauty Box Update

Play! by Sephora Beauty Box Update

I’m four months into my Play! by Sephora beauty box subscription, and I thought I would do an update on my introductory post to let you guys know how it’s going, and whether it’s worth 10 bucks a month.

In a word: YASSSS! 

I look forward to finding my black-and-white striped box in the mail around this time each month. It’s a great way to discover new makeup and skin care: I’ve purchased full sizes of at least one product from each box after using the deluxe-size samples to the last drop. Stand-out favorites from previous boxes are the Caudalie Resveratrol Lift Eye Balm, Dr. Jart Water Drop hydrating moisturizer, and Kat Von D Tattoo Liner. All of the mini makeup products end up in my to-go makeup kit in my handbag.

Each month’s samples are curated around a theme, and October is The Cool Cut: breakthrough formulas, indie finds, and “of-the-moment must-haves.”

My box included two fall lippies — one from Nudestix, a minimalist line of multi-tasking pencils created by two young sisters that’s been on my “to try” list for a while — plus two skin care products and a leave-in hair mist from a new indie brand out of Austin.

Each box also comes with a bonus fragrance, and this month it’s Tom Ford’s Orchid Soleil : an Oriental floral that’s heavy on the tuberose and lily, but warmed up with peppercorn, vetiver, clove and vanilla. If you’re into floral-forward scents, this one’s beautiful and not too sweet; it settles into a lovely warm base that’s perfect for fall.

The Play! boxes are in high demand, so there may be a waitlist to subscribe, but put your name on the list and keep an eye on your inbox for notice when your spot is available. Then, scoop it up! 

My Latest Beauty Empties + Mini Reviews

My Latest Beauty Empties + Mini Reviews

I’m a total beauty junkie and want to TRY ALL THE THINGS, but I’m trying to adopt a new rule of “use what you have and buy what you need.” Here’s a rundown + mini-reviews of the latest beauty products I tossed in the bin, either because I used them to the last drop, or they reached their expiration date.

Zents ‘Ore’ body oil :: I keep this sheer coconut and vitamin E body oil spray in the shower as a quick all-over body moisturizer. I love the fresh fragrance, which is a mix of bay laurel, orris, ylang ylang, clove, and black pepper that works for dudes and ladies. C and I both use this, and we’re already halfway through the second bottle.

Clinique ‘Take The Day Off’ cleansing balm :: Just talked about this one on my Fave 5 Gentle But Effective Cleansers post! It’s one of those products I always restock.

Make Up For Ever HD Primer (sample) :: Meh. I think their newer “targeted” primer formulas are a better bet; there’s something for every skin type and concern.

Urban Decay Primer Potion in ‘Sin’ :: I think UD has one of the best eyeshadow primers in the biz, and I bought this one because the subtle champagne sheen could be worn on its own on lazy makeup days. It’s even better now that there’s new packaging with an applicator.

Cover FX Custom Cover Drops :: I was so excited when these launched, I bought two shades. The concept of a concentrated pigment you can add to any moisturizer/serum/beauty oil to create your own custom-coverage foundation or tinted moisturizer is genius and the finish is beautiful. BUT… I kind of hated the packaging: the pipette dropper got really messy, and after a few months the product seemed to get a little clumpy (even with a good shake) so I found myself reaching for it less and less. It expired before I finished the bottle.

Make Up For Ever HD Foundation :: This is a holy-grail foundation for a lot of people, but no matter how I applied it — with a foundation brush, beauty blender, or my hands — I just never loved it. I made myself use it because it was so expensive, but like the Cover FX, it was well past its expiration date, so it was time to say adios. I think I just prefer a more sheer coverage foundation with a barely-perceptible natural finish. I really enjoy MUFE Face and Body, which was recently discontinued (WHY?!) and replaced with their new Water Blend.

Tarte Tarteguard 30 sunscreen :: I reviewed this in my recent sunscreen post, and bought a new bottle before this one even ran out because I don’t want to go a day without it.

Algenist Regenerative Anti-Aging Lotion :: A Beautypedia 5-star moisturizer and Hautelook purchase that I enjoyed so much I bought it twice. However, I don’t know that I would pay full retail for it; I’d rather splurge on a good retinol or antioxidant serum than drop $75 on a moisturizer.

Joa Goe Oil :: Just ordered my third tube last night. I’m just obsessed with this stuff.

L’Oreal Lumi Cushion Foundation :: The best foundation available in the drugstore right now, if you like sheer-to-medium natural coverage.

AmorePacific ‘Color Control’ Cushion Compact :: I wrote about this cushion compact last year and just finished the refill (admittedly I didn’t use it very often because I was trying other products) but I still think this is worth the splurge if you want natural coverage with SPF and skin care benefits all in one product.