The 21 Best Self-Tanners of 2024

Bring on the bronze.

two models after applying self-tanner
(Image credit: retailer)

If you’re on the hunt for a just-off-the-beach bronze before summer kicks into full gear, we have some good news. Getting a gorgeous, glowy, and, most importantly, even tone has never been easier thanks to the best self-tanners on the market. With everything from facial tanning drops to gradual lotions and tinted creams that come with buffing mitts for easy applications, there are tons of streak-free formulas that’ll leave you looking like you just hopped back from the beach. When you're done, the only makeup you'll need is a great bronzer to finish the look.

While a perfect tan is the end goal, anyone that’s tried their hand with self-tanner knows that streaks and patchiness can creep up. To help you avoid blotchy color or distinct lines around the wrists and ankles (the worst!), we've consulted tanning expert and celebrity makeup artist Tarryn Feldman for her tips and techniques on getting a summer-worthy glow from the comfort of your own home, not to mention making your tan last. Ahead, we've pored over reviews and put our favorite self-tanners to the test to bring you this ultimate list of the best products the market has to offer. So when you're ready to transform your winter skin, grab one of these vetted formulas and get your glow on. 

Overall

The Best Self Tanner Deals

Bondi Sands Pure Self Tan Foaming Water Dark, $27 $13.50

Bondi Sands Pure Self Tan Foaming Water Dark, $27 $13.50

If you want the deepest tan you can possibly get, Bondi Sands' tanning water is for you. Make sure your skin is exfoliated and prepped before you put a layer allllll over, wait 30 minutes, and then do it all again. Thanks to the hyaluronic acid and vitamin-C infused formula, you'll be left with a deep shade that has a gorgeous glow.


Sephora Collection Self Tanning Body Mousse, $18 $12.50

Sephora Collection Self Tanning Body Mousse, $18 $12.50

With the "clean at Sephora" label, you have a little peace of mind using this natural origin DHA self tanner. Mousse application can be tricky, so make sure your skin is exfoliated and hydrated before you lather it on. After that, it's pretty foolproof. Use your circular motions and let it dry before you get dressed, and you'll be in good shape. This is also a great option for anyone with skin that needs a little TLC. Aloe is a star ingredient in the formula to provide a soothing feel.

What to Look For in Self-Tanner

  • Formula

Before you grab the first self-tanner you see and get to work, you'll want to make sure that you have the right formula to suit your needs. While mousses and foams may be the first thing that comes to mind with self-tanners, there are plenty of other options available, so consider the effect you're going for and your skin needs before landing on a product. 

  • Mousses and foams typically produce fast results, but can be tricky to get a streak-free tan if you're inexperienced. 
  • If your skin is on the drier side or if you're afraid of dramatic color, self-tanning lotions may be your best bet, as they offer gradual results with the bonus of added moisture.
  • Then there are tanning drops, which you typically mix in with your favorite moisturizer.
  • Color

This may sound obvious, but you absolutely need to pay attention to the shade of self-tanner you're using. I'll never forget when I opted for an ultra-dark shade in the dead of winter and ended up looking like I slept in the tanning bed for eight hours. If your skin is on the paler side, start off with a self-tanner that advertises as "light" or "medium" if you want the most natural-looking glow. Remember: you can always add more self-tanner to achieve a darker look, but if you go too dark, then it's tricky to go back. If you have a darker skin tone, opt for a "deep" shade for a more even, glowy look. 

The Best Self Tanners

How to Prep Your Skin for Self Tanner

The secret to a faux tan that looks real as can be? The right preparation. “Shaving and exfoliating is the key to an even tan as it flattens and evens the skin’s surface,” Feldman explains. 

While any physical exfoliant will get the job done, Feldman is a big fan of the St. Moriz Pro Exfoliating Skin Primer, which is specifically formulated for tanning prep. Plus, it's “gentle for sensitive skin users, and won’t cause breakouts prior to application.” 

How to Apply Self Tanner

While some of the easier-to-use formulas (read: gradual tanning lotions or facial drops) are pretty self-explanatory, there are a few tips and tricks for getting a flawless finish with trickier textures like mousses or foams. Haphazardly applying the product is a huge no-go—you’ll be covered in streaks. Instead, build up the self-tanner with long, sweeping motions. Feldman recommends patting the formula dry with a tanning mitt, buffing out the product with a big powder brush and allowing the formula to dry completely (!!) before putting on clothes. 

As for the tricky areas like the knees and elbows? “Do a layer normally and let it dry. Then, do a layer [with the joint] bent,” Feldman advises. 

Meet the Expert

Tarryn Feldman headshot celebrity makeup artist.
Tarryn Feldman

Tarryn Feldman is a Nashville-based celebrity makeup artist and specializes in tanning. Her work includes red carpet hair and makeup, music video hair and makeup, and editorial hair and makeup. She has over 15 years of experience, with clientele including Kelsea Ballerini, Chelsea Handler, Reese Witherspoon, and Kaitlyn Bristow.