Summer Is Dead (RIP) but These Drugstore Gradual Self-Tanners Are Giving Us Life

May the bronzing commence.

Ugh, sorry, we can’t believe we’re about to break this news to you, but…*takes deep breath*…summer is over. Yes, dead, gone, over, for at least four or five more months, which means unless you’re a fan of arctic temps, your outdoors time is probably going to be a bit limited for a while.

BUT, but, that doesn’t mean you can’t still trick yourself into feeling like you just spent the day chilling in the park (with sunscreen, of course) by adding a gradual self-tanner into your beauty routine for a super-subtle, bronzey glow. Which is why we’re so into these five top-rated, and insanely affordable, drugstore options, below. And remember: Only five more months of winter.

​1. Nivea Sun-Kissed Radiance Gradual Tanner & Body Lotion

tanning lotion

(Image credit: Nivea)

Nivea Sun-Kissed Radiance Gradual Tanner & Body Lotion, $7


Slather this lightweight, non-sticky lotion over your skin each night, and within five days, you’ll notice a sheer wash of bronze-y color. Nothing major, but then again, no risk of streaks, either.

2. Alba Botanica Sunless Tanning Lotion

tanning lotion

(Image credit: Alba Botanica)

Alba Botanica Sunless Tanning Lotion, $8


Alright, so technically this natural lotion wasn’t made to be gradual, but its shea butter and sweet almond oil formula is so thick and creamy (almost like a body butter), with such a small amount of DHA, that it takes a few days for any color to develop, earning it a spot on our gradual list.

3. Almay Healthy Glow + Gradual Self Tan

tanning lotion

(Image credit: Almay)

Almay Healthy Glow + Gradual Self Tan, $15


For the impatient multitaskers (which is pretty much all of us, let’s be real), this lightweight formula is part sunless tanner and part foundation, meaning each time you blend it over your skin in the morning, you’ll be left with a buildable glow by the time you wash it off at night.

4. Neutrogena Build a Tan Gradual Sunless Tanning

tanning lotion

(Image credit: Neutrogena)

Neutrogena Build a Tan Gradual Sunless Tanning, $14


Control freaks, meet your tanner of choice. Unlike some formulas that end up looking muddy or streaky on your skin if you reapply them too frequently, this sheer lotion pretty much asks for it, allowing you to use it just a few times a week, every other day, or even twice a day to customize how bronzed you want to look.

5. Jergens Natural Glow Revitalizing Daily Moisturizer

tanning lotion

(Image credit: Jergens)

Jergens Natural Glow Revitalizing Daily Moisturizer, $9


This little tube is a classic in the self-tanning world, and for good reason: It sinks into skin and dries to a matte finish, it’s goof-proof, and it doesn’t stink of DHA (the active tanning ingredient in every self-tanner).