Self-tanning (fake tan) has evolved significantly over the past decade, leaving behind the days of blotchy, smelly, and orange formulas. With today’s innovations, self-tanners have become more inclusive, catering to all skin tones, so everyone can achieve a glowing and radiant look. Our editors have spent months testing various self-tanners, both old and new, to bring you a comprehensive list of the 25 best self-tanners.
Whether you prefer foams, creams, or towelettes, there’s an option for everyone. Read on to discover the top self-tanners that experts and beauty enthusiasts swear by, along with tips to avoid streaks and splotches, even if you’re a beginner.
What To Look For In a Self-Tanner (Fake Tan)
Your main priority should be to choose a product that compliments your skin tone to achieve a very natural-looking tan without any side effects. You also need to consider which parts of your body you plan to use it on. Not all products on the market have the same ingredients and from experience, some can cause rashes, burning sensations and other irritable side effects.
When choosing a self-tanner, consider options that contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) of no more than 10% concentration. This ingredient is a simple form of sugar called ketoses. It’s also known as glycerine and is derived from sugar beets, sugar cane and the fermentation of glycerin.
This FDA-approved ingredient binds to dead skin cells, temporarily darkening the skin. Look for self-tanning products such as mousses, lotions, serums, bronzing drops, or wipes that utilise DHA for a safe and effective tanning experience. MRCP and FRCP certified dermatologist, Dr Moumita Chattopadhyay, recommends products with DHA for a natural-looking tan.
Prepping Your Skin and Applying Self-Tanner
Before applying self-tanner, it’s crucial to exfoliate your skin to ensure an even and long-lasting tan. Dr Chattopadhyay advises using lotion on areas like eyebrows, hairline, hands, and feet to prevent uneven colouration. For a smooth and streak-free application, consider using gloves or a tanning mitt to apply the product in long, even strokes. Take your time and work on one area at a time to ensure complete coverage.
Tips For Extending Your Self-Tan
To prolong the lifespan of your self-tan, follow these expert tips. Avoid sweating, intense workouts, and be cautious with your eating and drinking habits to prevent accidental contact and smudging. Additionally, celebrity tanning artist Isabel Alysa suggests using a setting powder, such as Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, to enhance comfort and prevent creasing.
Now, let’s dive into the top 25 self-tanners of 2023, recommended by dermatologists, tanning specialists, and our beauty experts.
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1. Best Overall: St. Tropez Self Tan Luxe Whipped Crème Mousse
St. Tropez’s Self Tan Luxe Whipped Crème Mousse is a highly acclaimed self-tanner known for its natural-looking finish. This beloved product is favoured by beginners and professionals alike. Achieve a beach-kissed glow with a formula that dries quickly, providing a streak-free and vacation-worthy tan.
2. Best for Firming: Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Moisturiser + Bronzer
For those seeking an instant and affordable tan, Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Moisturiser + Bronzer is an excellent choice. This formula provides an immediate tint and gradually deepens into a natural-looking shade, giving you that “just got back from Miami” glow.
3. Best for Face: L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Lotion
When it comes to self-tanning your face, it’s essential to choose a product specifically formulated for delicate facial skin. The L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Lotion (which replaces the serum/gel) is a top pick for its lightweight and non-greasy formula. This lotion is enriched with antioxidants and hydrating ingredients to nourish the facial skin while delivering a gradual and natural-looking tan when you’re not wearing makeup.
4. Best for Sensitive Skin: Bondi Sands Aero Aerated Self-Tanning Foam
Sensitive skin requires extra care and attention, and the Bondi Sands Aero Aerated Self-Tanning Foam is perfect for those with delicate skin types. This gentle foam formula is infused with aloe vera and coconut, known for their soothing and moisturising properties. It glides effortlessly onto the skin, providing a seamless and streak-free application.
5. Best Gradual Tanner: Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops
If you prefer a more gradual tan that allows you to customise the level of colour, the Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops is an excellent option. These drops can be mixed with your favourite moisturiser or serum, allowing you to control the intensity of your tan. Available in three colour-correcting shades (Peach – Light, Green – Medium, and Violet – Dark), these drops also help to even out the skin tone and provide a natural-looking glow.
6. Best Mousse: Loving Tan Deluxe Bronzing Mousse
For a luxurious and salon-worthy tan at home, the Loving Tan Deluxe Bronzing Mousse is a favourite among tanning enthusiasts. This lightweight mousse glides smoothly onto the skin, dries quickly, and develops into a natural-looking tan in just a few hours. The formula is also transfer-resistant, ensuring minimal staining on clothes or sheets.
7. Best Cream: Tan-Luxe The Butter Illuminating Tanning Butter
If you prefer a rich and hydrating cream formula, Tan-Luxe The Butter Illuminating Tanning Butter is a fantastic choice. Enriched with shea butter, vitamin E, and raspberry seed oil, this buttery formula deeply nourishes the skin while providing a radiant and streak-free tan. The gradual colour build-up ensures a natural-looking result.
8. Best Towelettes: Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face
For on-the-go tanning and easy application, the Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face is a convenient option. These individually wrapped towelettes are infused with exfoliating acids and anti-ageing ingredients, making them a skincare and tanning powerhouse. The pads deliver a natural and even tan while gently exfoliating the skin for a smoother complexion.
9. Best Oil: COOLA Organic Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist
If you love the idea of a sun-kissed glow with a touch of hydration, the COOLA Organic Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist is a must-try. This lightweight and fast-absorbing dry oil mist provides an effortless application and leaves the skin feeling nourished and moisturised. Infused with organic botanicals and antioxidants, it delivers a natural-looking tan while promoting healthier skin.
10. Best Serum: Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster
For a customisable and radiant tan, the Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster is an innovative serum that allows you to control your desired level of colour. Simply mix a few drops with your moisturiser or serum, and watch as your skin develops a beautiful and natural-looking glow. The lightweight and non-oily formula makes it suitable for all skin types.
11. Best Spray: St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist
For a refreshing and easy-to-use self-tanning spray, the St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist is a top choice. This lightweight mist is infused with 100% natural tanning agents and hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid. It provides a gradual and buildable tan while leaving the skin feeling revitalised and rejuvenated.
12. Best for Quick Results: Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse
If you’re looking for quick and immediate results, the Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse is an excellent option. This fast-acting formula dries in just 60 seconds and provides an instant bronze glow. It also contains moisturisers to keep the skin hydrated and soft throughout the day.
13. Best for Body: St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse
When it comes to achieving a flawless tan on the body, the St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse is a tried and true favourite. This lightweight mousse formula is easy to apply and quickly absorbs into the skin. It delivers a streak-free and long-lasting tan that develops within a few hours and lasts for days.
14. Best for a Subtle Glow: Vita Liberata Fabulous Self-Tanning Gradual Lotion
If you prefer a subtle and gradual tan, the Vita Liberata Fabulous Self Tanning Gradual Lotion is a fantastic choice. This lightweight and hydrating lotion can be applied daily to build a natural-looking glow over time. It’s formulated with organic botanicals and infused with Vita Liberata’s signature Odour Remove technology for a pleasant application experience.
15. Best Liquid for Face and Body: Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tanning Liquid
For a versatile self-tanning product that works equally well on the face and body, the Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tanning Liquid is highly recommended. This liquid formula is easy to apply with the included professional mitt, ensuring a streak-free and even tan. It dries quickly and develops into a natural-looking bronze shade that lasts for days.
16. Best for Longevity: Bali Body Self-Tanning Mousse
If you’re looking for a self-tanner that will stay put and maintain its colour for an extended period, the Bali Body Self-Tanning Mousse is an excellent choice. This lightweight mousse formula provides a deep and long-lasting tan that can last up to a week from one application. It’s also enriched with nourishing oils such as castor oil and antioxidants to keep the skin hydrated and radiant.
17. Best Fragrance: Sienna X Q10 Self Tan Tinted Mist
If you prefer a self-tanner with a pleasant fragrance, the Sienna X Q10 Self Tan Tinted Mist is worth trying. This tinted tanning mist not only provides a natural-looking tan but also has a refreshing fragrance that leaves a delightful scent on the skin. The formula is quick-drying and delivers an even tan with a streak-free finish.
18. Best Natural and Organic: Eco By Sonya Driver Face Tan Water
For those who prioritise natural and organic ingredients, the Eco Tan Face Tan Water is a fantastic choice. This award-winning product is made with certified organic and natural ingredients, including aloe vera, rose geranium, and chamomile. It provides a gradual tan while nourishing and hydrating the skin, leaving it feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
19. Best for Fair Skin: Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse
If you have fair skin and want to achieve a natural-looking tan without risking an orange or overly dark tan, the Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse is an ideal choice. This mousse formula is specifically formulated to suit fair skin tones and provides a subtle and buildable tan. It lasts up to 2-3 weeks, giving you a long-lasting glow without the need for frequent reapplication.
20. Best for Dark Skin: Loving Tan 2-Hour Express Deluxe Bronzing Mousse
For individuals with darker skin tones, the Loving Tan 2-Hour Express Deluxe Bronzing Mousse is highly recommended. This mousse formula is designed to complement and enhance dark skin, providing a rich and deep tan. It develops quickly within two hours, allowing you to achieve a beautiful bronzed look without the need for an extended wait time.
21. Best Vegan Option: James Read Gradual H2O Tan Drops Face
For those who prefer vegan and cruelty-free self-tanning products, the James Read Gradual Tan Drops Face is an excellent choice. These drops are vegan-friendly and formulated without any animal-derived ingredients. They can be mixed with your favourite moisturiser or serum, allowing you to customise the level of colour and achieve a natural-looking tan while adhering to your ethical preferences.
22. Best Budget-Friendly: Banana Boat Self-Tanning Lotion
If you’re looking for an affordable self-tanning option that doesn’t compromise on quality, the Banana Boat Self-Tanning Lotion is a great budget-friendly choice. This lotion provides a natural and streak-free tan while moisturising the skin. It’s also suitable for sensitive skin and offers a wallet-friendly solution for those who want a sun-kissed glow without breaking the bank.
23. Best Overnight Treatment: Tan-Luxe Sleep Oil Rejuvenating Miracle Tanning Oil
For a luxurious overnight self-tanning treatment, the Tan-Luxe Sleep Oil Rejuvenating Miracle Tanning Oil is worth considering. This innovative oil works its magic while you sleep, combining tanning actives with skin-loving ingredients to deliver a gradual and natural-looking tan by morning. The nourishing formula also helps to hydrate and rejuvenate the skin, leaving it soft and glowing.
24. Best Lotion for Face and Body: Clarins Self Tanning Milky-Lotion
If you’re looking for a versatile self-tanner that can be used on both the face and body, the Clarins Self Tanning Milky-Lotion is a fantastic option. This lightweight and hydrating lotion is formulated with Clarins’ exclusive Multi-Cellular Protection Complex, which helps to shield the skin from the harmful effects of free radicals. It provides a streak-free tan that looks natural and radiant on both the face and body.
25. Best for Quick Touch-Ups: Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Illuminator
When you’re in need of a quick touch-up or want to enhance the appearance of your legs, the Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Illuminator is a go-to product. This lightweight and water-resistant formula instantly illuminates and smooths the skin, giving your legs a healthy and sun-kissed glow. It’s easy to apply and perfect for last-minute touch-ups before a special event or a day at the beach.
Remember to always exfoliate and moisturise your skin before applying fake tan for the best and most even results. Additionally, it’s important to follow the instructions provided by each product and perform a patch test to ensure compatibility with your skin. Sunless tanners can irritate dry skin so make sure your skin is well moisturised to not only avoid irritation but to maximise a healthy glow that looks natural.
By using some of the recommendations in this list you’ll find the right fake tan for you. Whether that’s a golden tan that looks natural or something with orange hues, to an ultra-dark finish be sure to try some for yourself. If you aren’t a fan of foams or sprays then you might prefer tanning instant gel instead. P.S. – The Clarins Instant Gel – 125ml is worth trying!
Happy (fake) tanning!