To some people, having tanned skin is a luxury because it indicates that you have the time to vacation or laze about at the local beach or pool on the weekends. However, exposing your skin to UVA and UVB rays from the sun has irreversible consequences, from sun spots to skin cancer. Luckily, sunless tanning exists!
Self-tanning products—like the ones on this list—use an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone, which reacts with dead skin cells and darkens them, according to the Mayo Clinic. Before you apply any selfless tanner, you should wash, exfoliate, and moisturize the skin so that the tanning product does not cling to any dry patches and darken some parts of the skin more than others. If you’re not using a mitt, make sure you wash your hands well after application, so bronzed palms don’t give away the secret to your sun-kissed complexion.
1. For a quick tan: Loving Tan 2 HR Express Self Tanning Mousse
In the age of instant gratification, of course there’s a product that’ll give you a bronzed body in a short turnaround. When you wash this tanning mousse off after two hours (per the instructions), you’ll already see the results, but some users say they leave it on for even longer for a darker tan. One Ulta reviewer writes: “My absolutely favorite self tanner! It applies so evenly, I only have to wait two hours, and it’s one of the few tanners that doesn’t turn me orange!!”
2. For a tan on a budget: Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse for Body
At one time, everyone and their mother used Jergens Natural Glow Daily for gradually adding color in the summer months, which is still a great product if you want subtle, slower developing results with daily application. But now the classic drugstore brand makes a formula for faster, more noticeable tanning. The mousse dries within a minute, so you can dress while you wait for the color to fully develop over several hours. Writes one Amazon reviewer: “I've never used tanner before but after a few rounds with this, I feel like a pro! It's really easy and gives a great tan. People tell me I've been getting some sun when in reality it's all this Jergens! Now my whole girl gang is on board with this foam.”
3. For an organic self-tanner: Beauty by Earth Self Tanner
If you seek out skin products specifically marketed as cruelty-free and organic, the brand Beauty by Earth is likely on your radar already. With more than 3,900 reviews on Amazon, its tanning lotion is loved for natural-looking results and the white formula that won’t leave behind stains on sheets or clothing. One Amazon reviewer writes: "Aside from the ingredients being the best, the color I get is incredible and I love that it's buildable if you want to get a darker tan... I absolutely love it and will never be without!”
4. For a moisturizing tan: Tarte Brazilliance PLUS+ Self-Tanner + Mitt
While mousses make for an easier application, lotions provide more hydration for the skin. This one from Tarte is loved for its smooth, moisturizing consistency that doesn’t leave streaks, blotchiness, or an orange hue behind. Bonus: It comes with a mitt for application, so you won’t have to worry about ruddy palms. One Sephora reviewer’s take: “The mitt makes the application so fast and easy, the color is like a brown undertone whereas most self tanners have an orange undertone. The product smells pretty good and goes on pretty streak-free. I have also noticed that the color lasts for about an entire week!”
5. For a spray tan: Coola Gradual Tan Dry Body Oil
If you’re someone who prefers spray sunscreen as an application method, you may also enjoy a spritzable tanning option. (Though, like spray sunscreen, you should rub into the skin after spraying it so you evenly coat the skin’s surface.) Reviewers love the easy mist application, natural results, and how simple it is to touch-up as the tan fades. One Ulta reviewer writes: “It's super easy to apply and I've gone through an entire bottle without feeling like it looked patchy or orange. It fades in a couple days, but it's so simple to keep up with if you wanted.”
6. For a beginner: St. Tropez Tanning Essentials Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse
Let’s be real: Applying self tanner can be intimidating, especially to a newbie. St. Tropez sells a beginner-approved option that’s loved for its quick-drying application and lightweight feel. One Sephora reviewer writes: “I was worried that despite the great reviews, this product would be hard to use for a beginner but that was not the case at all. This product was easy to apply and looked great. I have received so many compliments on my natural-looking tan.”
7. For a concealing tan: Vita Liberata Body Blur Instant HD Skin Finish
With any tanning product, the hope is that spider veins or discoloration on the skin will disappear under the layer of color. The Vita Liberata Body Blur is specifically designed to smooth the skin using light-reflecting properties. One Sephora reviewer says: “This is the best tanning product I have ever used! Not only does it give me a beautiful natural-looking color but also covers any marks and blemishes I have and want to conceal.”
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.