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We’ll give you the bad news first: Summer only lasts three months out of the year. But here’s the good news: You can still get a tan all year round. Even better, the bronze glow we’re talking about doesn’t involve subjecting yourself to the sun’s harmful UV rays, so there’s no skin damage.
Quality self-tanners are sitting right in your local drugstore, and they've come a long way from sticky formulas that leave the skin looking streaky and orange. This new wave of self-tanner delivers a glow that looks and feels natural. Plus, they've got loyal followings from tons of users who rave about their effectiveness. There are plenty of ways to get a sun-kissed look too, from mousses to serums to sprays to lotions, so you can pick whichever suits your skincare style.
To make sure you stay in the loop, we've rounded up the best drugstore self-tanners you can find.
Best Overall: Jergens Natural Glow Self Tanning Daily Moisturizer
This multitasker is the ultimate twofer: It doubles as a moisturizer and is packed with antioxidants like vitamin E. To ensure the most natural finish, it’s available in shades for two skin tones: Fair to Medium and Medium to Tan. Use it at least once a day to see some color in about a week.
Best Budget: L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Serum
Get a sun-kissed glow with staying power. Use this serum three days in a row for a tan that lasts up to two weeks. The lightweight formula feels more like a body lotion than a tanner, making for easy application that goes on smooth. Not only is the finish even and streak-free, but it has a very subtle shimmer to give your skin that extra glow.
Best for Pale Skin: St. Moriz Instant Self Tanning Mousse
Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin and oil often found in anti-oxidant blend topicals or moisturizers. It also helps soothe the skin and protects the lipid barrier.
It’s understandable that those with pale skin would be wary of self-tanners, but there’s nothing to fear with this convincing formula that leaves a golden glow. The guide color shows you where to apply, making it easy peasy, and the mousse formula is simple to work with. Just be sure to use the applicator mitt to avoid staining your hands. The tanner includes olive milk and vitamin E to nourish the skin.
Best Natural: Sun Bum Natural Browning Tanning Lotion
Carrot seed oil is an essential oil, which has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties
There are no icky ingredients in this natural, vegan, and cruelty-free formula. This tanner moisturizes while bringing a nice color and works by accelerating the sun-triggered tanning process in your skin. It contains carrot seed oil, coffee, vitamins C and E, organic coconut oil, aloe vera leaf juice, macadamia nut seed oil, and papaya fruit extract to nourish skin while doing its job.
Best for Olive Skin: Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning Lotion
Aloe vera is a naturally derived ingredient known for its soothing and moisturizing properties. The aloe plant's inner gel mucilage (the part that's used in skin care products) is made up of 99.5% water.
This smart formula features self-adjusting color, so it knows exactly what shade you need and the control is in your hands. The tinted oil-free lotion makes it easy to see where you’ve already applied to avoid streaks, leaving a golden brown glow once it dries in just minutes. Plus, it’s infused with aloe and vitamin E to moisturize skin.
Best for Dry Skin: Australian Gold Instant Sunless Tanning Lotion
For a balance of tanning ingredients and hydrating skincare, Australian Gold’s sunless tanning lotion delivers. Think natural, golden-looking glow and nourishing, skin-conditioning maka extract and vitamin B (as well as caffeine to energize and tighten your skin).
Best Gradual: Nivea Sun Kissed Radiance Gradual Tanner & Body Lotion
When you build color over time, that tends to bring more natural-looking results. That’s exactly what the Nivea Sun Kissed Radiance Gradual Tanner & Body Lotion does. You’ll never have to worry about taking it too far with your color, which will look even and streak-free. The skin-boosting formula is infused with ginkgo extract, grape seed oil, and Hydra IQ technology that moisturizes skin for up to 24 hours.
Best Towelette: Jergens SOL Self Tanning Towelette Wipes
Swipe on these self-tanner towelettes from Jergens SOL and you'll be set with a sun-kissed (and streak-free!) glow for days. Formulated with an active ingredient that's derived from natural sugars, coconut water for extra hydration, and passion fruit essence for a lovely scent, these towelettes are truly pleasant to use—plus, they're large enough that you never feel like you're running out of formula before covering your body (which can be a deal-breaker).
Best for Face: Almay Healthy Glow Foundation Makeup + Gradual Self Tan
This foundation gradually tans your face while you wear it. Even before your tan has set in, it brings a flawless faux glow with medium coverage that seamlessly blends into the skin. The tan lasts for up to three days after you wear the foundation, and wearing it for at least three consecutive days will build up your color. It’s available in three shades: Light, Light/Medium, and Medium.
Best Spray: Neutrogena MicroMist Airbrush Sunless Tan
There has seriously never been an easier self-tanner to apply than Neutrogena's Micro-Mist. The brand always delivers dependable skincare, and its self-tanner is no different. The product comes in two colors, from medium to dark intensity, so you can choose the most natural fit for your skin tone. Because it's applied as a mist, the color is delivered evenly and can be built up to deepen as desired.
Best Scented: Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tan Liquid
Fake Bake's option delivers super natural-looking color payoff without all the gross stickiness associated with self-tanning lotions. It comes with a built-in color guide so you can see where you’re applying as you go, ensuring foolproof, streak-free tan come four to six hours. It also smells like a tropical paradise, which is never a bad thing.
Best Fast-Drying Formula: NKD SKN Pre-Shower Gradual Tan Lotion
In just three steps, 10 minutes, and a quick shower, NKD's formula makes it so you don't have to wait to rinse off (the hardest thing about sunless tanner, IMHO). Instead, you just apply it generously to your skin, wait 10 minutes, and rinse it off. Then, the tan will activate and gradually develop over the next four to eight hours.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any self tanners from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.