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 to have gorgeously bronzed skin.
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.
This user-friendly spray pump makes the 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.
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 tanner has almost 12,000 rave reviews on Amazon, thanks to its natural tone and lasting hue.
You want to stay away from thick, heavy lotions, unless you want to look like a grease ball. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 know that your smooth, tan legs didn't come at the expense of the environment.
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.
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.
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.
If you've ever been stuck with that awkward, one-shade pancake situation after using a body tanner on your face, here is the solution. The drops gradually give your skin a golden glow that's buildable so you don't overdo it.
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.
If you’re unsure of how glowy you want to get (and for how long), this body bronzer takes the guesswork out. It’ll leave you with a gorgeous sunned look that stays put all day (and doesn’t transfer) but washes away with makeup wipes or your favorite shower gel.
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 quick-dry tanning lotion gives you a gorgeous bronzed look all while avoiding all the drawbacks that some of your old self tanners have. It is specifically formulated to not include that classic self-tan smell, and special ingredients treat your skin for a healthy, lifted feel.
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.
Some spray-tans-in-a-can feel wet and uneven when you apply them, but this formula is fast-absorbing, lightweight, and leaves you with a completely even finish. It also dries down on contact, so you won't need to worry about leaving part of your tan on your furniture. Just make sure to stand outside or in your shower when you spray it on—or you'll be left with gold walls and floors.
A two-in-one lotion that leaves skin with a just-napped-on-the-beach glow and just-came-from-the-womb softness? Not a hard sell. Dry-skin haters can thank the formula's shea and mango butters for its creamy texture and moisturizing finish—a total rarity in self tanners—while faux-tan newbies can rest assured that the color payoff is truly even and subtle.
I know the idea of rubbing a wipe soaked with self-tanner all over your body sounds like a recipe for a messy, streak-filled disaster, but these low-maintenance towels are shockingly good at their job. Not only do they gently buff away dry patches as you wipe them on (dry patches = the ultimate enemy of a smooth tan), but—added bonus—their tea tree oil–infused formula will fight breakouts each time you use them.