I love the golden glow of summer, but not the risk of skin cancer and wrinkles that can go along with it. So I’m always looking for the perfect self-tanner. One that has great color (a must), streak-free application (another must) and is stink-free (ideal, but not a deal breaker). Recently I had the chance to try a new brand that I heard had received glowing reviews – Famous Dave’s Self Tanner.

I’ll admit, the name was a bit of a turn-off for me. Read up on Dave (yes, he’s real) and you’ll find that he’s a married man of 2 kids living in North Carolina. Again, I was skeptical. But with a presence in the self-tanner marketplace for the last 14 years, Famous Dave’s Self Tanner has made lots of fans and boasts over 20,000+ testimonials (many of which can be found here and here). I wanted to give it a shot.

Famous Dave’s Self Tanner is available in 6 formulas. I tried the Darker Version which promised a deep color, moisturizing formula, color tint to help with application and is paraben-free.

APPLICATION (5/5) – Famous Dave’s Self-Tanner went on smoothly and without streaks. They sent along one of their application mitts to use, but I always feel like they absorb too much of the product. I have my own special technique I like to use for a streak-free and waste-free application–drumroll pleasedish-washing gloves. I know they’re not pretty and I keep these bad boys hidden away in a drawer, but these $3.99 dish-washing gloves accomplish three self-tanning goals: (1) they allow me to easily and completely rub the product into my skin; (2) they don’t absorb any of the product so nothing is wasted; and (3) they keep my palms tan-free (though you do have to remember to rub a tiny bit of product into the back of each hand). Make sure the gloves are thick enough not to rip and fitted enough not to slip around while you’re lotioning up. Now my secret is out. You’re welcome.

DRYING TIME (5/5) – Famous Dave’s is one of the fastest drying self-tanners I’ve used. The website recommends 5 minutes, but I found after just a minute or two, you’re good to put on clothes. I’ve tried this before bed and in the morning and never had a problem with color-transfer.

COLOR (5/5) – Lovely bronze color developed within 3-4 hours of application. Not orangey (despite my poor-lighting after shot). Not fake-looking. A beautiful, believable bronze.  (Apologies for the knobby knees and bow legs. Wish as you may, these do not come with Famous Dave’s tanners.)

STAYING POWER (5/5) – The website said the tan would last about 4 days, and I found that to be true. With other tanners, I have felt that I needed to apply every second or third day, but Famous Dave’s had good staying power. (Do note that chlorine and self-tanners don’t play nice together, and my one splotchy fading experience with this lotion came after a few days with frequent pool visits.)

SMELL (4/5) – I read tons of reviews on Famous Dave’s website that said the products had no smell, but I didn’t find that entirely true. The smell is subtle, but I still would get a whiff of self-tanner smell occasionally. Not a deal-breaker for me though.

I also like all the things Dave’s Self-Tanner doesn’t have. NO added fragrance, phenoxyethanols, sodium laureth, triethanolamines, stearic acids, mineral oils, animal testing and in the case of Famous Dave’s Gold Label in Medium, Darker Version and Mousse, no parabens.

So give up on those drugstore brands that lack great color and come loaded with “Hey-I-just-tanned!” smell and give Famous Dave’s a shot. (If you’re not satisfied, he’ll even give you your money back.) Visit www.FamousDavesTanner.com and get your summer glow on.


Kate Bayless is a writer, editor and reviewer from Southern California. You can find her (and her tan legs) at www.katebayless.com and @katebayless.

Note: We received a product sample to facilitate the review.


  1. Hi there, can you tell me where on Famous Dave’s website it’s stated that they don’t test their products on animals? Thanks

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