Raise your hand if you've felt personally victimized by a self-tanner. Same. It seems like no matter what formula you slather (or spray, or wipe) on, you will inevitably be left with weird streaks, blotches, and patches that scream, "HEY! This tan is fake!"
But it's not your fault (well, it might be a little bit your fault)-self-tanners are finicky beasts that require a bit of patience, some trial and error, and, most importantly, a really good formula, whether it's in the form of drops, serums, wipes, or a cream. Summer is here, and I know you want to lay out.
But save yourself and your skin from harmful UV rays and opt for a faux glow. We promise, your hours of tanning are not worth the wrinkles or worse, the melanoma.
Below you'll find the truly excellent self-tanners that, as long as you follow the basic instructions and tips outlined below, won't leave you looking like an orange, streaky mess-which means you'll be free to spend your time doing something other than Googling "how to remove self-tanner."
And, hey, even if you hate the results (but trust us; you won't), self-tanners fade after a week, anyway, so the commitment level here is pretty low. Get ready to have gorgeously bronzed skin.
1. For Foolproof Color
Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse : St. Tropez
With this hydrating gel, you can alternate your glow to suit your mood: subtle for brunch, extra for the beach. The gel formula is easy to apply and spread. Plus, it’s tinted, so you know exactly what real estate you’ve already covered, for a consistent end result.
2. For A Natural Glow
Self Tanning Hydrating Body Skin Care : Sisley Paris
This supremely hydrating body treatment imparts believable sun-kissed color that makes it look like you spent an afternoon lying by the pool (with appropriate sunblock; the shade payoff is extremely natural). Because it’s so nourishing, it can also soothe your parched skin after you’ve actually been at the beach.
3. This Color-Correcting Tanning Mist
Self-Tanning Water : Isle of Paradise
This user-friendly spray pump makes the applying this feel like a breeze. Expect a glowy tan to appear four to six hours afterwards. Even better? Brighter skin. This organic blend is formulated with color-correcting actives that are clinically proven to even your skin tone. Nothing's worse than a spotty tan—you'll never have to worry about missing a spot with this.
4. This Beginner-Level Tanner
Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Milk : L’Oréal Paris
Think of this little bottle of lightweight lotion as a gradual self-tanner on steroids. Like most gradual tanners, it’s diluted enough that it’s virtually impossible to mess up, but unlike most gradual tanners, you’ll actually be able to see a noticeable (and very realistic) glow after just one use.
5. The Eco-Friendly Option
Brazilliance 2HR Express Deep Foaming Self-Tanner : Tarte Cosmetics
This foaming tanner develops in just two hours, so you don't have to go to bed wondering what your tan will look like. With eco-friendly and hydrating ingredients, you know that your smooth, tan legs didn't come at the expense of the environment.
6. The Skincare Option
Super Glow Body Hyaluronic Self-Tan Serum : TAN-LUXE
This self-tanning serum does for your body what skincare does for your face. Hyaluronic acid traps in moisture so you don't get any of those dry, patchy tanned areas. Caffeine in this serum helps firm your skin, so you can leave your house feeling toned and tan.
7. For Quick All-Over Results
Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Water Mousse : L'Oreal Paris
For experienced self-tanners, this bronzing mousse offers quick, impactful results like no other. The lightweight formula spreads easily, doesn’t streak, and leaves skin nicely hydrated. Also, the coconut scent transports you right to the beach.
8. For the Girl-On-the-Go
Click & Glow : James Read Tan
Whatever your destination, this click-and-go pen is easy to use and transport. Layer it with your favorite all-over tanner of choice. It’s perfect for fixing up awkward tan lines, correcting missed spots, or just dabbing here and there as your summer color fades.
9. For a One-Night Stand
Glow Away Bronzing Coconut Body Stick : Marc Jacobs Beauty
If you’re unsure of how glowy you want to get (and for how long), this body bronzer takes the guesswork out. It’ll leave you with a gorgeous sunned look that stays put all day (and doesn’t transfer) but washes away with makeup wipes or your favorite shower gel.
10. The Priceless Addition
Instant Solutions Tanning Drops : Trish McEvoy
For the girl who already has her perfect lotion picked out, these tanning drops can be added to transform any product into a tanning lotion. Whether you have a cream, an oil, or a serum that you like best, this product lets you keep your faves in rotation but adds a natural-looking glow.
11. This Light-As-Air Lotion
Gradual Tan Watermelon Infusion Body Lotion : St. Tropez Tanning Essentials
Sometimes, a slow and steady tan leading up to vacation is your best bet for longevity. A subtle bronzed finish is exactly what this light-as-air lotion will do, which is the best fake it 'til you make it to the beach approach. Plus, the delightful watermelon scent screams sun is coming.
12. The No-Smell Choice
Fabulous Self Tanning Tinted Lotion : VITA LIBERATA
This quick-dry tanning lotion gives you a gorgeous bronzed look all while avoiding all the drawbacks that some of your old self tanners have. It is specifically formulated to not include that classic self-tan smell, and special ingredients treat your skin for a healthy, lifted feel.
13. For A Streak-Free Glow
Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster : CLARINS
These booster drops should be mixed with your moisturizer of choice for a youthful, glowy tan. They fade as naturally as a natural tan would, but without the harmful UV rays. This product lasts for days so you don't have to worry about packing it for vacation for a re-up.
14. The Man's Choice
Bronzing Gel : Tom Ford
This bronzing gel was formulated for men, but can be enjoyed by anyone. It leaves an incredibly natural glow, making it look like you just sat by the pool for a few minutes without SPF. You can use it all over for a full-body and face tan, or just in a few areas for a tailored look.
15. This Super-Luminous Serum
Sunless Tan Luminizing Body Serum : Coola
You need to avoid heavy, thick lotions unless looking like a grease ball is your vibe. This tanner comes conveniently in a serum form, which will glide right onto your skin leaving behind a luminous, lit-from-wthin glow. Its 100-percent clean formula is foolproof for sensitive skin, and incredibly hydrating.
16. These Powerful Glow Pads
Skincare Alpha Beta Gradual Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face : Dr. Dennis Gross
If the airport might as well be your second home, pack a few of these trusty glow pads in your bag if bulking up your suitcase with another beauty product just isn't feasible. These mini dosed towelettes might look small, but they pack a mighty punch full of exfoliating alpha beta ingredients that have major anti-aging benefits. Besides that, the obvious does occur: smooth this all over desired areas, wash your hands, then wait for a gradual glow to appear in two to three hours.
17. This Super-Fast Spray Tan
Tahitian Tan Mist : South Seas Skincare
Some spray-tans-in-a-can feel wet and uneven when you apply them, but this formula is fast-absorbing, lightweight, and leaves you with a completely even finish. It also dries down on contact, so you won't need to worry about leaving part of your tan on your furniture. Just make sure to stand outside or in your shower when you spray it on—or you'll be left with gold walls and floors.
18. This Moisturizing Tanning Butter
Whish Self Tanner Body Butter : whish
A two-in-one lotion that leaves skin with a just-napped-on-the-beach glow and just-came-from-the-womb softness? Not a hard sell. Dry-skin haters can thank the formula's shea and mango butters for its creamy texture and moisturizing finish—a total rarity in self tanners—while faux-tan newbies can rest assured that the color payoff is truly even and subtle.
19. These Low-Lift Tanning Towelettes
Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette Classic 10 Count : Tan Towel
I know the idea of rubbing a wipe soaked with self-tanner all over your body sounds like a recipe for a messy, streak-filled disaster, but these low-maintenance towels are shockingly good at their job. Not only do they gently buff away dry patches as you wipe them on (dry patches = the ultimate enemy of a smooth tan), but—added bonus—their tea tree oil–infused formula will fight breakouts each time you use them.
20. This SPF-Infused Self-Tanner Spray
Healthy Glow Sunless Tan SPF 40 : Supergoop!
In 2019, vow to avoid that fake tan look that took over the early 2000s at all costs. Opt for more subtle self-tanners that bring out your skin's inner-glow. On those especially sluggish days when you look like you'd rather stay in bed and you need a boost, lean on this tanning mist. It will enhance your skin's natural glow while protecting it from harmful UV rays with a hefty dose of SPF 40. Think of it as a mist that will give your face and body an extra pep in its step in the glow department.