November 30, 2023

Self-tanning takes some trial and error, but we want to make it easier and share our favorite self-tanning products that have never left us streaky, patchy or orange. From tanning drops to tanning mousses, our personal testing has led us to the top brands — like St. Tropez, Bondi Sands and more — that give a natural-looking tan from head-to-toe.

Whether you’re after immediate results or like to build up your color gradually, our picks have you covered. These trusted self-tanners help us stay ahead of the seasons and walk into summer already looking golden and glowing.

If you’re naturally fair, but want to trick people into thinking you have a golden glow all summer long then this is the tan for you. Express tanners are great if you’re pressed for time or just can’t stand the lingering scent of fake tan for too long. As a decade long self-tan user, this St. Tropez tanner (and the brand’s entire tanning line) has to be one of the best I’ve tried. I love that the mousse is colored, so I can actually see if I’ve missed any spots during application and it fits great into my night time wind down routine — apply a layer post-shower, then watch a few episodes of your favorite show or tackle a few chapters of a book, rinse off and go to bed without worrying about your sheets getting scented or stained in the process. I wake with a beautiful, natural looking glow that will normally last me about a week of wear before I need to reapply. — Jillian Tracy, editorial coordinator

I’m such a huge fan of Tanologist that before it was easy to find in the US, I put a trip to an Irish drugstore on my itinerary to stock up while abroad. Thankfully, the brand is now readily available at Target. I mix the Tanning Drops into my face and body moisturizers for a flawless glow that isn’t orange or fake looking. The Self-Tan Water spray is also an ingenious product that produces the perfect spritz for an even, all-over tan that won’t stain your clothes or sheets. I love that the brand offers an array of easy-to-use products and various levels of tan. — Lindsey Smith, associate editor

Jergens’ self-tanner was the first one I tried at 14 years old. I overdid it and ended up with some orange appendages, but since then I’ve finessed my technique and found that the drugstore staple can achieve a natural looking tan with some patience. It’s a gradual tanner, and I prefer applying the Fair to Medium shade every other day to see how the color develops. I’ve found that applying it right after my regular body lotion helps avoid patchiness. I’ve also learned to always wash my hands after using the self-tanner. By the end of a week (and two to three applications), it delivers a noticeable tan that looks like I spent the day at the beach. The color usually lasts four to five days, and then I’ll do another application to maintain it. — Sophie Shaw, associate beauty editor

These are the only facial tanning drops that don’t make me break out! I love self-tanning but have very acne-prone skin. I started to only tan my body because most self-tanners I tried made me break out a few days later. I now can only use these and I love them because they provide such an even, glowy tan and I don’t have to deal with pimples. They also have body drops that give such a nice non-orange color and don’t fade as quickly as other drops I have tried. I would definitely recommend these if you have sensitive skin or just want a tan that will last a while and leave your skin acne free! — Hannah Lauson, senior digital content strategist

As a pale person, I love having all the aesthetic benefits of a tan while still being slathered head to toe in layers of protective sunscreen. But self tanners can get costly if you’re really committed to maintaining a tan longterm. That’s why I love the near $20 price point of this Bondi Sands tanner. I normally apply this before bed so the color can develop overnight while I sleep, and while you might notice some initial color rubs off on your clothes, I’ve never had it stain anything permanently. I find this works best as a tanner that enhances the natural tan you acquire from being outside and less as a miracle product for a pale-to-bronze instant transformation. One bottle of Bondi Sands normally lasts me the entire summer if I reapply about every two weeks and has never left me with streaks, patches or a concerning orange tint when I apply it correctly. — Jillian Tracy, editorial coordinator

I picked up this travel-sized Vita Liberata self tanning lotion on a whim and I’m so glad I did. It only took a few days to start seeing results and the included tanning mit made it easy to apply. It’s non-greasy and looks natural. The Body Blur is a unique product that is basically body makeup but it gives you a great tan that also lasts after a shower — it’s great to use if you have a natural tan and are trying to keep your glow without going back in the sun. — Lindsey Smith, associate editor

For a head-to-toe fake tan, I recommend investing in Saltyface’s Essential set. The kit includes a tanning brush and mist top (which you can swap out for the Tanning Water’s dropper) that make the Tanning Water super easy to apply. I prefer to mist the brush with the tanning water, and then buff that into my face for light and even coverage. I also make sure to blend it into my hairline, behind my ears and onto my neck and décolletage. It takes 24 hours to fully develop and I love the warmth that it brings to my complexion. For the rest of my body, the Tanning Foam provides a quick tan that is natural-looking and streak-free. A little goes a long way and it gives a darker shade than other self-tanners I’ve tried, so I’ll even apply a bit of body lotion and rub it in at the same time as the foam and then rinse it off before the full 24 hours. — Sophie Shaw, associate beauty editor


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