Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

I Will Use This Sunless Tanner for As Long As I Live

New, 3 comments

Or until the brand stops making it.

Racked has affiliate partnerships, which do not influence editorial content, though we may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. We also occasionally accept products for research and reviewing purposes. See our ethics policy here.

James Read Coconut Melting Tanning Balm
James Read Coconut Melting Tanning Balm ($38.50)

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

As the saying goes, “You can take the girl out of wherever, but you can’t take the wherever out of the girl.” For me, the fill-in-the-blank of that mad lib is New Jersey. Which is to say: I love being tan, and I will never stop loving it.

When I was younger, I did all the things you shouldn’t do. I frequented tanning salons like they were going out of business and sat outside in my backyard slathered in baby oil. But now that I’m acutely aware of things like skin cancer and wrinkles, I’ve reined it in. Though I was raised on SPF 8, I’ve graduated to SPF 50. I wear sunscreen on my face every day. (Even in the winter!) And I’ve substituted the Banana Boat on the beach for sunless tanner at home.

As Racked’s resident New Jerseyan, I was asked to try a handful of sunless tanners, but I stopped at the very first one: James Read’s Coconut Melting Tanning Balm. I didn’t try the rest because there was no need to; this one is perfect, and I will never search for another sunless tanner for as long as the brand keeps making it.

What makes it so good — great, actually — is that it doesn’t smell like sunless tanner. It smells like coconut oil, because it is. And it doesn’t streak because, as the product name says, it literally melts into your skin, so you can actually apply it evenly.

Like coconut oil, the balm is a liquid when it’s warm and a solid when it’s cold, and the instructions say to put it in the fridge before use. Once you take it out and scoop some into your hands it begins to melt, and it continues to do so when you apply it to your body. It’s moisturizing, and I actually love the way it smells — something I have never, ever said about a tanning product.

Gloves are recommended, but I’ve used it with just my hands and didn’t wind up with orange palms. And since it’s a gradual tanner, you have control over how dark you get. (Unlike this sunless tanner/sheet mask hybrid, which I did actually try and lived to regret.)

Further proof: I just got back from a desert vacation, where half of my body got a little burnt. Before bed last night, I applied a coat of the balm to try to even it all out. And today, everyone complimented me on my great tan.