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Expert Shopper Beauty & Personal Care

Avoid sun damage but not the tan with these highly-rated self tanners

These products can give you a bronze glow without spending a second in the sun


Who doesn’t love having a healthy, sun-kissed glow in summer? But laying out in the sun and soaking in its ultraviolet rays can wreak havoc on your skin, putting you at risk for skin cancer, dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles.

However, just because you don’t want to expose yourself to the sun doesn’t mean you can’t get a fabulous tan. With the right self-tanner, you can have a lovely bronze glow that looks natural without going on too orange or streaky. 

If you’re on the hunt for a natural-looking formula that’s easy to apply, check out these top-rated self-tanners that deliver the perfect tan without any sun required. 

What is self-tanner?

Self-tanners are creams, lotions, foams, wipes or sprays that contain dihydroxyacetone. This coloring agent reacts with the amino acids in your skin to give it a tan color. But unlike a tan caused by the sun’s UV rays, DHA only affects the outer layer of the skin, so it doesn’t do any damage. 

How to apply self-tanner

The trick to an even, streak-free tan with self-tanner is to start with smooth, healthy skin. If you have rough, dry patches, the self-tanner can collect in these spots, causing splotches where the faux tan is darker than the rest of your body. 

Start by exfoliating your skin with a body scrub or other exfoliator to remove any dry, dead skin that might mess up your tan. Be especially thorough when scrubbing areas like your elbows, knees and ankles, where the skin tends to be thickest. Allow your skin to dry for 15 to 20 minutes before applying the self-tanner. 

When you’re ready to apply the tanning product, work in sections such as your legs, torso and arms. Apply your self-tanner in thin layers, massaging it in circular motions to smooth it on as evenly as possible. In areas with thick skin like your elbows and knees, you may want to wipe the self-tanner a bit with a damp towel after applying it. That dilutes it, so it doesn’t look splotchy. 

Make sure to wash your hands with soap and water after applying the self-tanner to each area of your body to prevent you from having orange hands. You should also wait at least 10 to 15 minutes after application to get dressed, so you don’t stain your clothing. 

Self-tanner comes at a variety of price points, from cheaper drugstore options to high-end, designer formulas.

Best self-tanner

Under $20

St. Moriz Professional Fast Tanning Mousse

This tinted self-tanning mousse lets you see exactly where you apply the formula and provides an instant glow. You can rinse off the foam after an hour for a light tan, two hours for a medium tan and three hours for a deep tan. It contains vitamin E and olive milk to hydrate and protects the skin, too.

Sold by Ulta Beauty

SOL by Jergens Water Mousse Sunless Tanning

Derived from natural sugars, this water-based self-tanner provides a long-lasting, natural-looking tan that lasts for days. It doesn’t contain any dyes and is available in medium and deep shades. It even has a pleasant passion fruit scent.

Sold by Amazon

Alba Botanica Sunless Tanner Lotion

This affordable self-tanner is ideal for anyone on a budget. It applies evenly without any streaking and absorbs quickly to provide a rich, natural-looking tan. The formula is vegetarian and cruelty-free, too.

Sold by Amazon

b.tan Tanned AF 1 Hour Self Tan Mousse

If you want the darkest tan possible, this self-tanning mousse can get the job done. You can rinse it off in as little as an hour, but leaving it on for four hours provides the deepest bronze. The formula is also 100% vegan and doesn’t have a strong odor. 

Sold by Ulta Beauty and Amazon

For $20 to $30

Beauty by Earth Self-Tanner Tanning Lotion

Formulated with natural ingredients like shea butter, aloe vera and botanical extracts, this self-tanner not only tans your skin but also helps hydrate and nourish it. It develops into a natural golden-brown shade and allows for streak-free application. The formula is cruelty-free, too.

Sold by Amazon

James Read Tan H20 Tan Face Mist

This lightweight facial self-tanning spray gives the skin a natural sun-kissed glow. It contains pure rose water, vitamins and minerals that hydrate, nourish and provide anti-aging benefits. It also dries quickly and allows you to control how deep the color is because the tan builds slowly.

Sold by Amazon 

Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette 

These convenient self-tanning wipes provide a mess-free application for your arms and legs. They’re perfect for travel and touch-ups on the go. The tan also develops in just two to four hours and lasts for up to a week.

Sold by Amazon

Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam

Available in three shade options, this hydrating self-tanning foam contains aloe vera and coconut to help hydrate and soothe the skin. It provides an even, streak-free tan that develops over six to eight hours. It works best for those with an olive complexion or who prefer a deep tan.

Sold by Ulta Beauty

Tinted Self Tan Mousse

If you want a rich, deep tan, this self-tanning mousse can provide the perfect color in just an hour. It contains natural ingredients that are good for your skin, including aloe vera, green tea extract, goji berries and plum. It never goes on streaky or orange, either.

Sold by Ulta Beauty

$30 and above

Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Oil Mist

This self-tanning spray contains hyaluronic acid, glycerin, squalene, sea kelp and other natural ingredients that help moisturize the skin for up to 24 hours. The specially designed mister provides a natural, even spray and lets you apply the tanner to your entire body in less than two minutes.

Sold by Sephora and Kohl’s

Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Self Tanner Mousse

With a quick-drying formula, this self-tanner takes just a minute to set. It has a lightweight mousse texture that applies smoothly to minimize streaks. You don’t need much to achieve a full body tan, either, so each bottle has enough for 10 to 20 applications.

Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty

St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse

This lightweight self-tanning mousse provides a long-lasting tan with even coverage. It comes with an applicator mitt to ensure it goes on smoothly and dries quickly without any sticky residue. It also offers effective hydration.

Sold by Amazon, Sephora and Ulta Beauty

Tan-Luxe The Creme Gradual Self-Tanning Face Moisturizer

This option features a combination of amino acids and antioxidants to give your face a healthy glow and help nourish and treat your skin. It can soften dark spots and fine lines and help plump the skin, too. It’s suitable for daily use and allows you to build a gradual tan.

Sold by Sephora and Ulta Beauty

Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Glow Drops

These custom self-tan drops work for the face and body because you can mix them into your favorite skin care or body care products. You can also control the depth of your tan depending on how many drops you add. You can choose from a light, medium or dark formula, too.

Sold by Sephora 

Coola Organic Sunless Tan Express Sculpting Mousse

This organic self-tanner contains DHA naturally derived from sugar beets and provides a tan within a few hours. The formula is lightweight, so it absorbs quickly without streaking. It has a natural pina colada scent, too.

Sold by Ulta Beauty and Sephora

St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Vitamins Bronzing Water Body Mist

This lightweight, easy-to-use self-tanning spray is 100% vegan and contains a natural tanning agent that fades evenly. It provides a natural golden tan that develops within just four to eight hours. The formula contains natural ingredients that are even safe for sensitive skin.

Sold by Sephora and Ulta Beauty

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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money. 

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