Raise your hand if you've felt personally victimized by a self-tanner. Same. It seems like no matter what formula you slather (or spray, or wipe) on, you will inevitably be left with weird streaks, blotches, and patches that scream, "HEY! This tan is fake!" But it's not your fault (well, it might be a little bit your fault)—self-tanners are finicky beasts that require a bit of patience, some trial and error, and, most importantly, a really good formula, whether it's in the form of drops, serums, wipes, or a cream. Summer is here, and I know you want to lay out. But save yourself and your skin from harmful UV rays and opt for a faux glow. We promise, your hours of tanning are not worth the wrinkles or worse, the melanoma.
Below you'll find the truly excellent self-tanners that, as long as you follow the basic instructions and tips outlined below, won't leave you looking like an orange, streaky mess—which means you'll be free to spend your time doing something other than Googling "how to remove self-tanner." And, hey, even if you hate the results (but trust us; you won't), self-tanners fade after a week anyway, so the commitment level here is pretty low. Best of all, brands are releasing high-tech, advanced formulas that are specifically made to give you a gorgeous glow that people won't be able to tell is fake. Get ready for the bronzed skin of your dreams.
This foaming tanner develops in just two hours, so you don't have to go to bed wondering what your tan will look like. With eco-friendly and hydrating ingredients, you'll know that your smooth, tan legs didn't come at the expense of the environment.
Want to stay away from thick, heavy lotions, lest you look like a grease ball? This is the one for you. This serum goes on light, moisturizes while it gently bronzes, and will build up to a natural, non-streaky tan—in short, it does the job.
Think of this little bottle of lightweight lotion as a gradual self-tanner on steroids. Like most gradual tanners, it’s diluted enough that it’s virtually impossible to mess up, but unlike most gradual tanners, you’ll actually be able to see a noticeable (and very realistic) glow after just one use.
With this hydrating gel, you can alternate your glow to suit your mood: subtle for brunch, extra for the beach. The gel formula is easy to apply and spread. Plus, it’s tinted, so you know exactly what real estate you’ve already covered, for a consistent end result.
This user-friendly spray pump makes applying this feel like a breeze. Expect a glowy tan to appear four to six hours afterwards. Even better? Brighter skin. This organic blend is formulated with color-correcting actives that are clinically proven to even your skin tone. Nothing's worse than a spotty tan—you'll never have to worry about missing a spot with this.
Streaks are a dead giveaway, and a mousse makes application that much easier. And it dries quickly, so you won't be staining your couch or favorite sweatpants.
Shea butter, jojoba oil, and coconut oil give this highly-adjustable liquid its hydrating kick to the effects last even longer. Hop in the shower after just an hour for a more subtle shade, or leave it on for the afternoon for maximum results.
Vow to avoid that fake tan look that took over the early 2000s at all costs. Opt for more subtle self-tanners that bring out your skin's inner-glow. On those especially sluggish days when you look like you'd rather stay in bed and you need a boost, lean on this tanning mist. It will enhance your skin's natural glow while protecting it from harmful UV rays with a hefty dose of SPF 40. Think of it as a mist that will give your face and body an extra pep in its step in the glow department.
The brand's Bio-Renewal complex makes this as much a skincare product as it does a tanner. Mix a couple drops into your A.M. face cream or post-show lotion for a subtle but sultry bronze.
Tanning newbies, fear not. This long-lasting mousse formula makes application a breeze and leaves less room for streaky error.
Ok, you hit the beach, and you've got a *flawless* base tan. To maintain that flawless hue on your face, a subtle daily-use cream is the ideal solution. The sugar beet-derived DHA helps gradually guild and maintain that glow while it hydrates and softens skin.
Encapsulated technology helps this hydrating formula penetrate deeper and slowly release DHA (the magic ingredient in most tanning products) so your color lasts longer and develops more evenly. This provides a medium tan that lasts up to ten whole days.
Maybe you don't need an instant, vacation-level tan and you just want to add a little warmth as the summer goes on. Dior's formula adapts to your skin's pH to give you an even, gradual bronzing you can build on.
Dry, rough skin around the elbows and knees can be a dead give away when it comes to your faux glow, as pigment will get stuck on creases and flakes. This hydrating formula contains Argan oil and vitamin E to condition skin, and the mitt will buff away the dry patches.
If your go-to self tanner tends to get stuck on those dry flakes by your nose (any everywhere else) this hydrating option kills two birds with one stone. Its gradual color tans the face little by little so you can capture the perfect shade, while hyaluronic acid gives skin an extra moisturizing boost for a bouncier complexion.
Need a boost of warmth for an event tonight, but don't want it to stick around? This rinse-off formula crates a flawless, 'just got back from an island' glow that only comes off when you shower.
If you usually end up with bronze handprints all over your sink mid-tan, put down the glove and pick up the bottle. This spray nozzle makes distributing the water-based liquid all over the body a breeze, and it's got hydrating rose water and coconut oil in it to boot.
Sometimes, a slow and steady tan leading up to vacation is your best bet for longevity. A subtle bronzed finish is exactly what this light-as-air lotion will do, which is the best fake it 'til you make it to the beach approach. Plus, the delightful watermelon scent screams sun is coming.
This citrus-scented lotion treats skin while it gives it a gradual glow. Plum almond oil improves elasticity while apple pectin makes skin more supple.
Meet the handheld version of your typical tanning salon, minus the possibility of catastrophe. Simply insert the pods into the lightweight, cordless machine for an even airbrushed tan on-the-go.
For experienced self-tanners, this bronzing mousse offers quick, impactful results like no other. The lightweight formula spreads easily, doesn’t streak, and leaves skin nicely hydrated. Also, the coconut scent transports you right to the beach.
Whatever your destination, this click-and-go pen is easy to use and transport. Layer it with your favorite all-over tanner of choice. It’s perfect for fixing up awkward tan lines, correcting missed spots, or just dabbing here and there as your summer color fades.
These booster drops should be mixed with your moisturizer of choice for a youthful, glowy tan. They fade as naturally as a natural tan would, but without the harmful UV rays. This product lasts for days so you don't have to worry about packing it for vacation for a re-up.
This weightless, easy-to-spread formula actually treats the skin while it absorbs. It helps hydrate and plump the skin so your bikini looks that much cuter.
This supremely hydrating body treatment imparts believable sun-kissed color that makes it look like you spent an afternoon lying by the pool (with appropriate sunblock; the shade payoff is extremely natural). Because it’s so nourishing, it can also soothe your parched skin after you’ve actually been at the beach.
This self-tanning serum does for your body what skincare does for your face. Hyaluronic acid traps in moisture so you don't get any of those dry, patchy tanned areas. Caffeine in this serum helps firm your skin, so you can leave your house feeling toned and tan.
For the girl who already has her perfect lotion picked out, these tanning drops can be added to transform any product into a tanning lotion. Whether you have a cream, an oil, or a serum that you like best, this product lets you keep your faves in rotation but adds a natural-looking glow.
This bronzing gel was formulated for men, but can be enjoyed by anyone. It leaves an incredibly natural glow, making it look like you just sat by the pool for a few minutes without SPF. You can use it all over for a full-body and face tan, or just in a few areas for a tailored look.
If the airport might as well be your second home, pack a few of these trusty glow pads in your bag if bulking up your suitcase with another beauty product just isn't feasible. These mini dosed towelettes might look small, but they pack a mighty punch full of exfoliating alpha beta ingredients that have major anti-aging benefits. Besides that, the obvious does occur: smooth this all over desired areas, wash your hands, then wait for a gradual glow to appear in two to three hours.