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In the quest for a flawless, sun-kissed glow, finding the best self-tanner is essential. With countless options on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one. That's why we've compiled a comprehensive list of the top self-tanners that will make you look like you just stepped off the beaches of Bali. From lotions to mousse to drops, we've got you covered. But it's not just about the product itself - we'll also be answering all your burning questions. How long do they last? Are they easy to apply? Do they leave a sticky residue? And perhaps most importantly, how do they smell? So grab your Kabuki brush and get ready to achieve that perfect summer glow without the harmful UV rays. Let's dive in.

Preparing Your Skin and Applying Self-Tanner

"Prior to application, it's crucial to exfoliate your skin, or else your self-tanner won't have a lasting effect," advises Dr. Lal. "Additionally, ensure that you moisturize your eyebrows, hairline, hands, and feet with lotion." He also recommends using gloves or a tanning mitt to evenly distribute the product with long and smooth strokes, focusing on one area at a time.

Extending the Lifespan of Your Self-Tan

"While your self-tanner is developing, it's important to avoid sweating, exercising, and be cautious while eating and drinking, as you wouldn't want to accidentally touch your body with your palms," advises Lex DiMarchi, a renowned tanning artist and ambassador for Tan-Luxe self-tanner. DiMarchi suggests using a setting powder, such as the Saie Airset Radiant Loose Setting Powder. This powder enhances comfort while the self-tanner is on your skin, preventing creasing.

Vita Liberata Fabulous Self-Tanning Gradual Lotion

Formulated with aloe and marula oil, Vita Liberata Fabulous Self-Tanning Gradual Lotion not only serves as a daily moisturizer but also provides a natural-looking tan without exposing your skin to harmful UV rays. This exceptional product was recognized with the prestigious 2020 Best of Beauty award.

  • St. Tropez Ultimate Glow Kit on white background

    St. Tropez Self-Tan Luxe Whipped Crème Mousse

    This renowned product, St. Tropez's Ultimate Glow Kit, earned the esteemed 2021 Best of Beauty Award thanks to the recommendation of Ashley Graham. Whether you're a self-tanning pro or a beginner, this celebrity-favorite duo offers a user-friendly experience with its light-as-air, whipped texture. Unlike sprays, using a mousse gives you more control over application, and when accompanied by the provided application mitt, it blends seamlessly for a flawless glow.

  • Sol by Jergens Sunless Tanning Deep Water Mousse

    Sunless Tanning Deep Water Mousse

    L'Oréal Paris Self-Tanning Water Mousse

    On SaleSelf-Tanning Water Mousse

    Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Mousse

    On SaleNatural Glow Instant Sun Mousse

    Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Bundle

    Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse

    Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Oil Mist

    Self-Tanning Oil Mist

    Bioderma Photoderm Self-Tanner

    Photoderm Self-Tanner

    Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel

    Self Tanning Instant GelBEST GEL FOR A GORGEOUS TAN

    Bondi Sands Pure Self Tan Foaming Water


    Kora Organics Gradual Self-Tanning Lotion


    Beauty by Earth Self Tanner


    Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Intense Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face

    Alpha Beta Intense Glow Pad Self-Tanner for FaceLEADING CHOICE FOR FACE SELF-TANNING

    Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drops

    The Face Illuminating Self-Tan DropsTOP PICK FOR SELF-TANNING DROPS

    Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Firming Body Drops

    Self-Tanning Firming Body DropsAdvantages
    • ProIncludes caffeine, which temporarily enhances skin firmness
    • ConRequires a few attempts to determine the ideal number of drops
    Reasons why I adore Isle of Paradise: (1) Founder and professional spray tanner Jules Von Hep promotes body confidence and emphasizes that self-tanning is suitable for everyone, and (2) they are the original tanning drops that deliver exceptional results. Infused with antioxidant-rich components that shield the skin, a variety of moisturizing oils, hydrating glycerin, and skin-firming caffeine, these drops provide a natural, radiant tan. I simply mix a few drops into my favorite body moisturizer, apply it all over, and wash my hands thoroughly.
    • Key ingredients: DHA, vitamin C, vitamin E, avocado oil, glycerin, aloe vera, caffeine
    • Formula: Serum
    • Applies clear? Yes
    THE REVIEW: ""I absolutely adore this product," expresses one reviewer with fair skin and red hair. "It gives me a stunning sun-kissed tan—when mixed with the Brazilian Bum Bum Cream, you're good to go once you find the right ratio of lotion to drops!"

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    Premium Gradual Self-Tanning Lotion for Fair Skin

    Jergens Natural Glow Revitalizing Lotion

    Natural Glow Revitalizing Lotion4

    Finest Gradual Self-Tanner for Fair Skin

    Lux Unfiltered Blurring Body Glow

    Blurring Body GlowAdvantages
    • ProFragrance-free formula, suitable for sensitive skin types
    • ConDespite its appearance, it does not provide intense bronzing and should be used for its illuminating and blurring effect
    Believe me when I say that this body glow is a must-have. Not only does it leave your skin with a flawless, airbrushed look from head to toe, but it is also enriched with shea butter and sunflower seed oil (for moisturization), squalane (for hydration), and vitamin C (for brightening). Just like makeup for your skin, it imparts a subtle bronzed tint and imparts a stunning illuminating effect.
    • Key ingredients: Shea butter, sunflower seed oil, squalane, vitamin C
    • Formula: Lotion
    • Applies clear? No* (*tinted)
    THE REVIEW: "I attended a pool party wearing this product and received numerous compliments," one review states. "Even after being in and out of the pool all day, it was still intact! I had to use soap and water to remove it."Advantages
    • ProQuick application and provides the look of a professional airbrushed spray tan when blended well
    • ConSpraying may cause the product to gather on feet, resulting in a patchy look if not well-blended
    Who needs to spend a fortune on a spray tan when you can do it yourself? Allow me to introduce you to my preferred self-tanning spray for an even, professional-looking tan achievable at home. I start with clean, dry skin, spray the self-tanner on one area at a time, and blend it in with a tanning mitt using large circular motions. Thanks to the presence of aloe vera and glycerin, my skin appears instantly hydrated, and after two to four hours, it develops a naturally sun-kissed glow.
    • Key ingredients: DHA, glycerin, aloe vera, raspberry seed oil, vitamins B, C, and E
    • Formula: Liquid
    • Applies clear? Yes
    THE REVIEW: "Over the years, I have tried numerous self-tanners," states one reviewer. "Out of all the lotions and foams, this mist is by far my favorite. It provides a seamless application and develops beautifully."

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    Deep-Dark Self-Tanner for Fair Skin

    Australian Glow Facial Bronzing Mist

    Facial Bronzing Mist8

    Best Facial Self-Tanner for Fair Complexions

    Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Bronzing Drops

    D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Bronzing DropsPros
    • ProFeatherlight, easily washable hue that imparts a sun-kissed radiance within moments
    • ConResembles makeup, making it less effective for long-lasting tanning
    Occasionally, time constraints prevent us from embarking on the full-fledged self-tanning endeavor. But don't fret! That's precisely why products like the Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Bronzing Drops have captivated the masses. Forgot all about tanning? Not an issue—simply apply this elixir to your facial skin post-skincare regimen/prior to your cosmetics routine, or blend it into your foundation, moisturizer for the face, or tinted moisturizer to achieve an understated, authentic, luminescent tan in seconds.
    • Key components: Vitamin E, green tea extract, sodium hyaluronate, glycerin
    • Formula: Serum
    • Clear application? No* (*functions like a bronzer)
    THE REVIEW: "This product is absolutely exquisite as it bestows an alluring, radiant appearance upon your complexion," one reviewer writes, supplementing with, "I adore it as an alternative to self-tanning, which I find to be excessively demanding—I have an extremely fair complexion, and I believe it is buildable yet not excessive for my skin."

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    Best Self-Tanning Oil for Pale Skin

    Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self Tanning Body Oil

    Argan Liquid Gold Self Tanning Body Oil10

    Best Self-Tanning Oil for Pale Skin

    Coppertone Glow Protect and Tan Sunscreen Lotion with Gradual Self Tanner SPF 45

    Glow Protect and Tan Sunscreen Lotion with Gradual Self Tanner SPF 4511

    Best Self-Tanner for Pale Skin with SPF

    Tower 28 Beauty Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer

    Beauty Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer14

    Best Bronzer for Pale Skin that Mimics Self-Tanner

    Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Face & Body Kabuki Brush 160

    Self-Tanning Firming Body DropsPros
    • ProContains caffeine, which provides temporary skin firming
    • ConMay require several attempts to determine the optimal number of drops for your desired outcome
    Let me tell you why I adore Isle of Paradise: (1) Its creator and skilled spray tanning expert Jules Von Hep champions self-assurance and the belief that self-tanning is suitable for all individuals, and (2) they are the original tanning drops, and they hit the mark magnificently. These drops are teeming with skin-protecting antioxidants, a plethora of moisturizing oils, hydrating glycerin, and caffeine for a temporary firmness effect on the skin. Prepare to be bestowed with the most vibrant, sun-kissed glow by simply adding a few drops to your preferred body lotion, massaging it into your skin, and washing your hands thoroughly.
    • Key components: DHA, vitamin C, vitamin E, avocado oil, glycerin, aloe vera, caffeine
    • Formula: Serum
    • Clear application? Yes
    THE REVIEW: "I am infatuated with this product," shares a reviewer with fair skin and red hair. "It imparts a stunning, glowing tan—I combine it with the Brazilian Bum Bum Cream, and once you figure out the proper ratio of lotion to tanner, you're all set!"

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    Best Gradual Self-Tanner for Pale Skin

    Jergens Natural Glow Firming Self-Tanner

    If you're just starting out with self-tanning and want an affordable option, give Jergens' tried-and-true self-tanner a go. This editor-recommended product features a nourishing blend of collagen and can be applied daily to achieve a natural tan while simultaneously moisturizing the skin.

    "This is an essential self-tanning product for me and a personal longtime favorite," notes Scibelli. "It serves as both a body lotion and a gradual self-tanner. Ideal for the body, arms, and legs as it provides antioxidants, vitamin E, and hydration while gradually building up to a natural-looking tan.”

    Dole Glow Self-Tanning Mist

    "For those new to self-tanning, I always recommend the Dolce Self-Tanning Mist. It's a fan favorite!" reveals celebrity spray tan artist and founder of Dolce Glow Isabel Vita. Thanks to the brand's innovative spray system, you can effortlessly reach all those tricky areas for a seamless, streak-free tan. Furthermore, the formula incorporates "a harmonious blend of nourishing oils and has undergone dermatologist testing, resulting in healthy, radiant skin like never before," Vita asserts.

    Starting at $48 on Ulta

    $53 on Nordstrom

    Sol by Jergens No Wait Tropical Tan Tinted Mousse

    New York-based celebrity and editorial makeup artist Neil Scibelli vouches for this revolutionary option from Jergens. It showcases an innovative technology that tans the skin in under five minutes with options ranging from medium to deep.

    “One of my newfound preferences and the latest in self-tanner technology is Sol by Jergens,” Scibelli elucidates. “This is an unsmudgeable tanner that develops within just five minutes and adjusts its shade to suit every individual's skin tone. Additionally, the formula contains coconut water for hydration and ensures a flawless, streak-free, and natural-looking tan.”

    Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk

    Along with selecting the appropriate tone and product for your skin type, experts recommend self-tanning products that have nourishing qualities and do not dehydrate the skin. Bondi Sands’ tanning milk possesses a dual-action formula that both nourishes and moisturizes the skin with aloe and vitamin E while delivering a naturally glowing tan that is simple to apply and manage.

    $21 on Amazon

    $19 at Ulta

    Tan Towel Full Body Classic

    If you're seeking an alternative to traditional lotions and gels, consider trying the Tan Towel Full Body Classic. These disposable wipes are ideal for fair to medium skin tones, and one towel provides an even application for the entire body. Our experts recommend starting with the arms and legs and gradually moving towards the face, wrists, and hands to achieve a flawless tan.

    Tanning Club Royal Tanning Balm

    Tanning Club’s Royal Tanning Balm is specially formulated with UV-absorbing botanicals, making it an excellent choice for individuals with fair and sensitive skin. The balm is free of harmful mineral oils and parabens, and it provides nourishment and protection to the skin while imparting a gentle, natural-looking radiance.

    Bali Body Clear Self-Tanning Mousse

    Bali Body’s customizable mousse is formulated with color guide technology that ensures a flawless tan for every skin type. The mousse is lightweight and easy to apply, although our experts recommend using a tanning mitt or glove for applying mousse, foams, or lotions.

    Coola Sunless Tan Anti-Aging Self-Tanner Face Serum

    This option from Coola serves a dual purpose—it's not only a self-tanner but also a face serum enriched with hyaluronic acid and argan oil, providing moisturizing and rejuvenating benefits to the skin.

    “Coola offers an astonishing range of face and body self-tanners,” Scibelli reveals. “I personally adore their sunless tan anti-aging serum. It's 70% organic and acts as both a hydrating and anti-aging serum derived from plant stem cells and hyaluronic acid.”

    $54 on Amazon

    $54 at Sephora

    Which Self Tanners Offer the Best Color?

    This is the most crucial aspect that distinguishes the top self tanners.

    If a product fails to provide a beautiful, bronze color, then nothing else about it really matters. Agreed?

    The best self tanning products will deliver a relatively smooth and even color that complements your skin tone.

    Of course, the condition of your skin and the intensity of the shade you choose (light, medium, dark, etc.) will play a significant role in the outcome.

    However, premium products tend to enhance your skin, rather than highlight its imperfections.

    Although all self-tanners function in the same manner (we'll discuss that in a moment), some simply produce more captivating hues than others.

    Is It User-Friendly?

    This may not initially seem like a significant factor when selecting the best self tanners, but trust me, it is!

    The worst self tanners tend to be messy, absorb poorly, create messes on the floor or walls, and generally hinder the application process. Who wants to deal with a self tanner that turns into a nightmare during application?

    On the flip side, the top-notch self tanners out there tend to exhibit the opposite characteristics.

    They're effortless to apply, blend seamlessly and swiftly, and leave behind minimal mess.

    To be fair, the ease of application will also depend on the type of self tanner you choose.

    Personally, I prefer self tanning lotions over mousses, sprays, and liquids. I find that thinner lotions are much simpler to apply and result in fewer mishaps.

    What is the Drying Time?

    When it comes to the drying time of a self tanner, it is a crucial aspect for me to consider during the application process. I find it highly undesirable to apply a product and then wait for it to dry for 30 minutes to an hour. The general stickiness of self tanners is already bothersome, and a longer drying time only exacerbates this sensation. Furthermore, the longer the product remains wet on your skin, the higher the chances of encountering undesirable consequences, such as sticking to furniture or inadvertently transferring the color to unwanted areas. The superior self tanners tend to dry within a matter of minutes or maximum 15-20 minutes.

    Is the Texture Sticky?

    As previously mentioned, most sunless tanners tend to leave a somewhat sticky feeling on the skin. However, the degree of stickiness can vary significantly between different products. In my observations, mousses and sprays tend to possess a higher level of stickiness compared to self tanning lotions. While a slight stickiness is acceptable and expected, excessive stickiness can be exceptionally annoying.

    The Main Concern - Fragrance

    Aside from the resulting color, the fragrance of a self tanner is perhaps the second most important characteristic to me, as well as countless others who utilize fake tanning products. If the product emits an unpleasant odor during application or while initially on the skin, it is highly unlikely that the self tanner will be used for an extended period. The best self tanners not only possess an appealing scent in the bottle but also maintain that pleasant fragrance upon application. However, there is one particular aspect I would like to address regarding this matter. As the self tanner remains on your skin and develops, a slightly unpleasant smell may become noticeable. This odor arises from the chemical reaction between your skin and the active ingredient, DHA, which is present in ALL self tanners. In high-quality self tanners, this scent is effectively masked by beneficial ingredients and remains relatively inconspicuous. On the other hand, in inferior products, the scent is unmasked and becomes overwhelmingly unpleasant.

    What is the Duration of the Best Self Tanners?

    The lasting power of a specific self tanner can vary significantly depending on factors such as your unique skin chemistry, geographical location, and your skincare practices. All self tanners operate by coloring the outermost layer of dead skin cells. The speed at which these dead skin cells shed determines how long your fake tan will endure. If you have excessively dry skin that flakes off, your self tan will naturally fade quicker. Nevertheless, superior self tanners generally have a longer-lasting effect compared to inferior ones. The duration of your self tan experience will be highly individualized. For instance, a good self tanner typically lasts around 5-6 days before noticeable flaking occurs on my skin. In contrast, subpar self tanners may start fading within just a day or two. Your personal experience may involve, for example, a self tan that lasts approximately 3 days. The duration truly depends on the individual.

    To prolong the lifespan of sunless tanning products, it is advisable to maintain well-moisturized skin and ensure proper hydration by drinking an ample amount of water. These practices significantly contribute to preserving your fake tan for an extended period.

    What is the Appropriate Cost?

    Determining the ideal price range for sunless tanners can be challenging due to the wide array of options available. Generally, the best self tanners fall within the price range of $20 to $30. Personally, I am not particularly fond of the cheaper self tanners that are priced at just a few dollars or slightly higher. However, I also do not believe that self tanners necessarily improve in quality when reaching the $30 and above range. Budgetary constraints naturally play a significant role in this decision, but the aforementioned price range has consistently proven to be the most fitting in my experience.

    When it comes to achieving a beautiful, sun-kissed glow without harmful UV rays, the best self tanners are game-changers. With a wide range of options available, finding the perfect one for you can seem like a daunting task. From lotions to mousses, serums to sprays, there is a self tanner to suit every preference and skin type. Not only do these self tanners deliver a natural-looking tan, but they also offer long-lasting results that can rival a beach vacation. Whether you're a self tanning pro or a newbie, these top-rated picks will ensure an effortless application, quick drying time, non-sticky finish, and pleasant scent. Plus, they won't break the bank. With the best self tanners on the market, you can confidently say hello to a gorgeous, bronzed complexion all year round