Best Face & Body Self-Tanners For Pale Skin

Your six best bets for giving pale skin a fall glow.
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Kate F.
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Your six best bets for giving pale skin a fall glow.

There are two inherent truths to using self-tanner. 

First, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being pale. Most of the year, I love feeling like Snow White, sans the singing. Around October, though, my gorgeously pale skin starts to turn a little...dead looking. This is when I reach for ye old self-tanner. 

bleach blonde hair

My face, at its palest…

pale bare legs

…and some pretty pasty gams.

Which brings me to my second truth: finding an effective self-tanner is especially difficult--but not impossible--when you’re pale. In general, the more gradually the tanner develops, the more natural it will look. 

So, how much time have you got? Do you have a big event coming up, or are you just looking to get bronze for the coming months?

If You Have A Week Or More...

jergens natural glow daily moisturizer

For Face: Tarte Maracuja Bronzing Serum

I’ve been enchanted by Tarte’s Maracuja Oil for close to a year now, so when I found out the brand released a Maracuja facial bronzer, I was practically skipping in anticipation. A word, though: don’t expect instant gratification with this baby--we’re talking only the slightest difference in skin tone after a full five days. But once it kicked in, the results were beautiful, thanks to the formula’s firming, brightening, and smoothing properties in addition to the added color.

tarte maracuja bronzing serum after

My skin’s got a healthy glow after five days using Tarte’s bronzing serum.

For Body: Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer

Oh, Jergens. Where do I even begin? The color it creates is gorgeous, natural, and never streaky. The process is as simple as applying your daily moisturizer, and it feels just as good, thanks to moisturizers like Vitamin E and a range of antioxidants. It does have a slight tanner-y smell, but for some reason it doesn’t bother me--it’s more of a “day at the beach” vibe than a “my body is coated in chemicals” scent. Oh, and I’ll take that awesome price tag any day of the week.

jergens natural glow daily moisturizer after

My left leg has about five days of Jergens application.

If You Have 2 To 3 Days...

st. tropez self tan luxe dry oil

For Face: Elemis Total Glow Bronzing Moisturizer For Face

Boy, was I blown away by this tanner. First thing I noticed: there is literally zero trace of a chemical smell in this tube. It’s all orange-smelling, fragrant glory, with an incredibly, smooth finish that my foundation glides over. Plus, within mere minutes my complexion looked more luminous; perfect for those looking for an instant boost, and the promise of a deeper tone a few days later.

elemis total glow bronzing moisturizer for face after

A glow-y complexion after three days using Elemis.

For Body: St. Tropez Self Tan Luxe Dry Oil

In the spirit of total transparency, I’ll tell you that I didn’t like how this guy went on at first. It’s a one-time use oil, but I felt a little fake-looking and splotchy after applying it. With hope lost and a gross-looking leg, I hopped into the shower that night thanking heavens we’re now in pants season. The day after, though, I noticed that my leg looked flawlessly golden, as if the shower had somehow smoothed out all of this tanner’s kinks. Sounds counter-intuitive, but hey, it works.

st. tropez self tan luxe dry oil after

My right leg looking oh-so bronze after one application of St. Tropez and a shower the next day.

If You Have An Hour Or Two...

best bronzer for pale skin

For Face: Tarte The Sculptor Contouring Face Slenderizer

I knew when Sarah C. covered this perfect little contour stick that I wouldn’t be able to resist it. Smooth application! Popping cheekbones! Amazing color! Like I said, irresistible. I’ve also found that it’s great for a quick glow when I need it most. I basically color all over my face where the sun naturally hits before blending with a sponge. Voila. No one will know you didn’t spend the weekend on a Cali beach.

tarte the sculptor contouring face slenderizer

Here’s how I mark up my face with The Sculptor…

tarte the sculptor contouring face slenderizer after

…and after it’s blended.

For Body: NARS Body Glow

First things first: this stuff looks insanely intimidating. Both in the bottle and poured out on the hand, the oil appears super dark and chock-full of dramatic glitter. But I had only heard rave reviews about this product, so I carried on fearlessly, dreaming of a one-night-only glow. Turns out, my comrades hadn’t led me astray. My gams instantly looked like those of a Kardashian, sun-kissed, shiny, and sculpted. And that floral-coconut scent? To die for.

nars body glow after

Shiny, tan legs--instantly.

  • Alright, fellow pale chicks: do you struggle to find a good self-tanner? 
  • What are your favorites?