Sun Laboratories Self Tanning Review

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From Pale to Golden Goddess – Without a Hint of Orange

photos: we heart this

A big bag of Sun Labs tanning products arrived on my doorstep right before summer started; at first I was a bit anxious. How was I going to test this admittedly gorgeous kit, the Extra Dark Set ($43.95, three full size products and a big scrubby loofah), when I’m white as a ghost? I worried that using Sun Labs Extra Dark color on my late spring, end of hibernation, pale skin would make me look more Jersey Shore than The Riviera.

With fist pumps in mind, I got down to business; sure that the star of the set, the Ultra Dark Self Tanning Lotion ($36.60 separately) would be extra unnatural on me. But! Instead of the Snooki-worthy hue I was expecting, the color I got from Sun Labs wasn’t a tiny bit fake, orange or streaky. Even on my super pale complexion, it turned me golden bronze overnight, ready to face the summer with a healthy tan.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. There are many reasons why Sun Labs, wants to be our “number one stop for a beautiful self tan.” A family owned business since its inception in 1983, Sun Laboratories has been striving – and succeeding, based on my results – to create cutting-edge, cruelty-free, self tanners for both the professional and the consumer. At their headquarters in Chatsworth, California, products are formulated, produced, bottled and shipped all over the world.

Sun Labs tanners contain a built-in bronzer that adds color instantly and helps avoid missing spots. Unlike almost every other tanner I’ve used, Sun Labs doesn’t have a hint of stickiness and goes on like a lotion. And the dreaded tanner smell? Very minor. Mostly I detected a pleasant almond-y scent that faded quickly. Sun Labs is about as painless as a self tanner can be, and it’s reasonably priced, too.

The kit I received also contained Exfoliating Body Scrub Gel ($19.80 separately), billed accurately as a purifying skin softener for all skin types. The cool green gel formula is packed full of fine scrubbing particles (the website says it uses Apricot Kernels; if so, they’re crushed to a nice, tiny texture).

The scrub polishes the skin and rinses cleanly away, leaving the body perfectly prepped for tanning. The net loofah included in the gift set gives the gel even more scrubbing oomph.

Also included in the kit is Sun Labs Tan Moisturizer, a tan extender and maintainer for all skin types. The formula is silky, light, and full of emollients. I used the lotion every day after tanning, and got almost a week of beautiful color out of one application of tanner.

Natural, golden results even on pale winter complexions
Smells nice; tanner odor is kept to a minimum
Offers a complete line of products to prep the skin and maintain your tan
Products are all paraben free
High end results at very reasonable prices

You might be tempted to wear white after Labor Day. Seriously, no cons at all!

Bonus: This Ultra Dark Set now includes a colorful beach bag as well and is specially priced at just $43.95!

All I know is my skin was at its palest. Super pale! There is no way Extra Dark tanner should have turned me anything vaguely believable. If I can look this realistic under these circumstances, I have high hopes for Sun Labs products to continue to shine all season long!

we heartsters – do most self-tanner turn you into a Snookie-look-alike? Check out Sun Labs for a gorgeous (and realistic) glow!

Disclosure: This review includes products that were provided by the manufacturer/PR firm for our consideration. For more info, or any questions, please see our disclosure policy.

Melissa loves road trips, bargain shopping, drive-in movies, lip gloss and rock ‘n’ roll. She lives in Baltimore with her precious pup Zeus.


  • turboterp

    Melissa loves road trips, bargain shopping, drive-in movies, lip gloss and rock 'n' roll. She lives in Baltimore with her precious pup Bellarina. skin tone: NC20 skin type: dry to normal favorite beauty product: skincare

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  1. I love being tan and I love a non-stinky self tanner! I was hooked on St Tropez, but this sounds like a great one to try to get my deep, dark tan on!
    Great review as always, @Turboterp!

  2. There have been other self-tanners I’ve fallen in love with over the years, but ever since this Sun Labs kit arrived on my doorstep, I’ve completely neglected my former favorite brands. I can’t say it strongly enough: this stuff is amazing! The Ultra Dark Self Tanning Lotion gives me the most natural looking color in just a few hours (and the bronzer gives the illusion of a pretty tan immediately). The almond scent is so nice, the products are cruelty free, and—- best of all—- my “tan” fades gradually instead of flaking off. I’ve been using Sun Labs all summer and I will buy the tanning lotion again and again. 5 stars!

  3. It’s TRUE, it’s TRUE!! I’m no longer ghostly pale, I have a tan that looks pretty darn good for someone who barely sets out in the sun! Great review @turboterp – you hit it right on the head. I was not sure about this product either but as it turns out, was glad I received it to test! I think the Ultra Dark Self Tanning bit scared me even looking at it, it looked dark but once on it looked so natural and not orange at all. Went on just like a lotion and you can smell that tanner smell but only slightly. Its almond scent is pleasant to me.. I waited for July 4th to test it out and got loads of compliments. Also, the kit’s Exfoliating Body Scrub/Gel and Tan Moisturizer- tan extender are both AWESOME! I’m happy with each item. Basically, I’m sold, hook, line and sinker! The price tag for all of is not bad at all.. You even get a poufy scrubby thing! Five stars!

  4. ReaderRita says:

    Oh, this sounds good! Would it be good on someone with a slight yellow cast to their skin, or would I just look jaundiced? Things have a tendency to turn orange on me, but I want a believable sunless tan SOOOOO bad- my legs are ghastly (and ghostly!) pale- so if you all say it’s good I’m going for it!

    1. I am naturally fair with an olive cast to my skin, and I know that orange look well. But NO orange with Sun Labs, just a tan that no one would guess is fake. I love this stuff!

    2. ReaderRita says:

      Thank you @turboterp! I’m tryin’ this. Can’t wait!
      That said; being an instant gratification-type gal-
      does anyone know if you can only get it thru SunLabs website, or does Ulta or someone else carry it?
      And thanks again for this post!

    3. ReaderRita – I do see this listed on Ulta’s website, so maybe it’s in store. Cross your fingers and give ’em a call!

  5. Individually, they’re a bit spends, but as a set, it’s a killer deal. I’m so impressed at how well it worked on your fair skin!

  6. I got this for review, but I embrace my pale self and hate self-tanner, so I didn’t use this (I passed it onto someone else who will hopefully pop up and give their 2 cents).
    That’s awesome that it worked on your fair skin @turboterp –did you find this got on your sheets at night? My last attempt at self-tanner ended up with orange-streaked sheets. I really loved those sheets, too :( *tear*

    1. Unfortunately *all* tanners will stain your sheets if you sleep with them on; there’s no getting around it. So I wised up and used this particular tanner during the day (wearing dark clothes). I showered before bedtime and my sheets were still pristine in the morning. So no worries there.

  7. I agree with you 100% @turboterp! I was completely anxious to test out the ultra dark but it didn’t make me too dark, or orange, at all! The Ultra Dark Tanning Lotion gave me a great bronze look perfect for the summer months and I really enjoyed the exfoliating scrub too. It prepped my skin for the tanning lotion so that it went on smooth and flawless. The maintainer helped keep the color for a good few days, and it didn’t flake off. It was nice to get all three products and use them together for the best possible results. I was very impressed with Sun Labs and so glad I got to try this brand because it seriously rivals my favorite self tanners. I will be using this for awhile too because it’s a great size! Four solid stars!

  8. I’m loving this kit, too! It’s definitely the nicest self-tanner I’ve tried. Wonderful scents – especially the almond scented tanning lotion and the “marine”-scented extender. I would caution to definitely use the exfoliant before first placing the lotion on. The first time I applied it, I just went for it because I was too impatient to wait for my shower. It did concentrate in my dry spots and splotch up. After that when I did use the whole system properly, I had much better, even results. Indoors it’s the perfect tan. Outdoors I do actually see a very slight orange tone, but it’s much better than any other I’ve tried – and maybe I’m getting it more than others because I have quite fair, pink-toned skin on my legs. Using the maintainer I didn’t see any fading for a few days after just one lotion application. The generous 8 oz bottle will last me a long time, so the price for all three I think is reasonable for a great product. 4 stars from me!

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