14 Best Self-Tanners For a Year-Round Glow
If you're looking for a little glow this summer, but you don't want to spend countless hours in the sun, your best bet is trying a self-tanner. Whether you're looking for the best self tanning lotion or the best self tanner for face, there are tons of products to shop from brands like Isle of Paradise, Jergens, Coco & Eve, and Bali Body, but it's hard to know which one is right for you. Before you start searching for the best self-tanners online, it's important to keep a few tips in mind.
First, be aware of your body's pH level and anything that could affect it, such as showering right before a tan or certain body washes. DHA, the ingredient in tanning solutions that creates the bronze color, interacts with your skin's pH, which means things like your period and when you shower can affect how well your skin accepts the tan.
"I can tell within two seconds, within that first spray, if you've showered right before, which is not good," Brittney Bennett, a spray tanner at Be Bronze Tanning Studio in Los Angeles, tells POPSUGAR. "If you shower, I like a good 12 hours but a minimum of four hours prior — shower, shave, exfoliate — because if you do it right before, your tan will be 20 to 30 percent less dark. Same thing with your period. The pH balance of your skin is what the tan is working with."
Ahead, we've curated expert advice, bestselling formulas, and customer favorites to make shopping for your next self-tanner a little easier.
When to Get a Spray Tan
After getting a spray tan, you might notice that distinct tan smell, but avoid spritzing a fragrance to mask it. "A patchy neck can be caused by perfumes and products left on the skin before application," says Sophie Evans, St. Tropez's skin finishing expert. She suggests the St. Tropez Tan Remover Mousse ($18-$44) if the patchiness is too noticeable to cover with makeup. "You can also apply a little loose translucent powder after your tan application to avoid any dark neck creases."
When it comes to big events, Evans suggests giving your tan 24 hours to develop and settle before the event. "If an event is Saturday, I recommend getting a tan on Thursday night," she says. "Sometimes, a self-tan instant bronzer can take two showers to remove fully. You could also opt for a clear water mousse or gel, like St. Tropez's Purity Water collection. This range contains no bronzers, so there is nothing to transfer. Plus, you can wear it all day without feeling sticky or the need to shower."
How to Get the Perfect Tan on Your Hands
"People always get the hands wrong," says James Read, founder of James Read Tan. "I recommend you work the excess tan using a tanning mitt from the arm and stop just as you come to the hands. Then, using a small amount of moisturizer, lightly buff to blend over the hands. Then, using a tanning mist, spray over the hands, then buff again using a mitt. I always do two coats — don't forget to do the Gaga claw."
How to Fix Your Tan If You Get Wet
The most common questions experts get are how to fix a mishap if you happen to get wet or sweat before it's time to rinse your tan. There are options, but the timing is crucial.
"How much time has passed will determine the best course of action," says Veronique Munro, founder and CEO of Infinity Sun. "If it happens within an hour of your spray tan, it may be best advised to rinse off and respray. If several hours have passed, it is likely that the tan has begun developing enough to when you take your first shower and remove the cosmetic bronzer, your tan will be even." (Most airbrush tans include a cosmetic bronzer, which produces the immediately tanned look while the actual tan is developing and washes off in the shower.)
How to Tan Dry Areas
"A common tanning mistake for beginners is applying too much tan to drier areas, such as hands, elbows, knees, and feet, which results in an uneven finish," says Clara Anderson, head tanner of Vita Liberata. "To avoid this, apply a light layer of an oil-free moisturizer to those areas prior to tanning and use a makeup brush to buff product lightly over the skin. Don't forget to wipe the knuckles and the palm of the hands clean when you're finished to remove any excess product, giving the most natural finish."
Anderson also suggests wearing loose-fitting pants instead of a skirt, dress, or shorts so the tan doesn't move if your legs rub together. "This will help the guide color remain even on the skin as well as ensure you don't rest your hand on your leg and have the product develop on your palm," she says.
Now that you've got all the facts about spray tans, it's time to answer the one question we're all thinking: what is the best self-tanner? We've rounded up the best picks, and whether you're looking for the best self tanning lotion, a mousse, or a mist, there's no shortage of good finds ahead.
— Additional reporting by Angela Elias and Renee Rodriguez
Best Self-Tanner For Face
If you've been searching for the perfect self-tanner for your face that won't leave you looking orange or streaky, this product is for you. One of our editors even gave up foundation after realizing this product gave her the most natural looking glow year-round. Read the full review here.
Best Oil Self-Tanner
This oil-based self-tanner is so good that it won a POPSUGAR Beauty Award this year. It has a quick-drying formula and an ultra fine spray, which our editors say allows you to tan your whole body in just two minutes.
Best Self-Tanning Lotion
Dolce Glow Des Nuda Gradual Self-Tanning Lotion isn't just editor-loved, it's also Miley Cyrus's favorite self-tanner. If that doesn't get you on board with this lotion, we're not sure what will. Read our full review here.
Best Self-Tanner Wipes
These self-tanning wipes not only give you a glow, but they also help exfoliate your skin and keep it feeling fresh. It comes with 20 towelettes, and reviewers say it leaves a subtle glow without the intense self-tanning odor.
Best Drugstore Self-Tanner
This affordable option is perhaps the most well-known drugstore self-tanner. The daily lotion builds up over time and also keeps you moisturized. Our tip: if you want an even more gradual glow, mix it with your regular body lotion. While it does have a slight self-tanner smell, it's far less pronounced than other competitors on the market.
Best Self-Tanning Mousse
If you have mousse in mind, get this beginner-friendly option. It's a Sephora bestseller, with customers praising its easy application. It also dries quickly and doesn't smell too strong. Sephora notes that it's especially good for minimizing the look of uneven textured skin.
Best Self-Tanner For Hands
If you're looking for the best self tanners for your hands that won't leave you streaky or the wrong color, try these self-tanning drops. "People always get the hands wrong," founder James Read says. "I recommend you work the excess tan using a tanning mitt from the arm and stop just as you come to the hands, then, using a small amount of moisturizer, lightly buff to blend over the hands. Then, using a tanning mist, spray over the hands, then buff again using a mitt. I always do two coats — don't forget to do the Gaga claw."
Best Self-Tanning Spray
If you're looking for a self-tanner that isn't a mousse or lotion, a lightweight spray might be for you. This popular option is a favorite: just mist it on and blend, and you'll have a glow overnight. It comes in three different skin-tone options, and it even has eco-friendly hand refills.
Best Fast-Drying Self-Tanner
Bali Body Self Tanning Mousse ($22, was $31)
Looking for a choice you can apply quickly? Customers love this self-tanner for its lightweight, fast-drying application. It has a light floral scent that doesn't smell like an instant tanner, so you can wear it throughout the day. It has more than 6,000 reviews and a 4.5 rating, so it's well vetted.
Best Self-Tanner For Beginners
If you're looking for a clean and affordable option, try this self-tanning mousse. You can feel good about the vegan, organic, and cruelty-free choice without breaking the bank, and the easy-to-use formula is great for beginners. Plus, you can pick it up on your next Target run.
Best Non-Streaky Self-Tanner
This self-tanner is gaining popularity for being a lightweight foam that can be applied easily and without creating a streaky look. The forgiving formula is not only easy to apply, but it also gives you a natural-looking tan, so it's a fantastic option for beginners. It comes with a mitt for application, is available in three shades, and also offers a bit of hydration to keep your skin moisturized.
Best Gradual Self-Tanner
Formulated with ingredients like vitamin E and aloe vera, this self-tanner will keep you moisturized and glowing all year long. Just mix anywhere from two to six drops into your daily moisturizer and wait for your instant glow to start showing. Be sure to apply it in a circular motion so you get the perfect finish.
Best Self-Tanner on Amazon
If you're looking for a bestseller you can snatch up on Amazon, get this popular option. With more than 1,800 reviews (and great before-and-after photos), it's a reliable and affordable buy. Unsurprisingly, it's also an editor-favorite choice. For more details, read our Miami Gorgeous Self Tanning Mousse review.