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When you want to get that Greecian goddess glow without putting your skin at risk of all of the dangers of indoor tanning, there’s always one handy product that’s there for most of us, and that’s self-tanner. But there can be a few downsides to opting for a faux tan via the bottle of the wrong tinted goop: streakiness, cheese-puff orange tint, and the mess it can leave around your bathroom. While being extra diligent and getting the right tint for you can be an easy fix to most of those problems, one of the biggest concerns we hear about is how harsh some self-tanners can be on sensitive skin, causing anything from itchiness to rashes and hives.
So, if you’re on a quest for a bronzed glow year-round sans the irritation, then we have some news for you. With all of the gentle formulas currently on the market, there’s a self-tanner for sensitive skin you can grab to create that sunless tan of your dreams.
Below, we rounded up the best self-tanners for sensitive skin on the market.
Best Overall: Skinerals Californium Sunless Bronzer
This organic, all-natural, and vegan sunless tanner is as pure as pure gets. It contains lavender oil, orange peel oil, vanilla bean extract, and shea butter to help you achieve your desired glow while being kind to your skin, and to Mother Earth. The formula itself is a lightweight mousse that dries quickly without any strong odors or streakiness left behind. We should also mention that all of the ingredients are ethically sourced, plus it’s fragrance-, cruelty-, sulfate-, and paraben-free. So much yes.
Best DHA-Free: The Chemistry Brand Glow Oil
This dry body oil contains no DHA, and instead relies on a raspberry-based keto-sugar oil for an immediate golden glow. Beyond the exclusion of DHA, this formula also doesn't contain water, alcohol, oil, silicones, nuts, and gluten. Pretty impressive, huh?
"Not only does it smell good, but it offers a gradual tan," recommends Jenna, a Byrdie reader with a DHA allergy. "It definitely [allows for] an easy application and fades evenly. I don't apply it more than two days in a row, and I have a nice glow that lasts about three to four days after."
Best Foam: Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam
This fan-favorite self-tanner is free of all the nasties, and totes itself as the world’s first self-tan body treatment with full skincare benefits and 100% natural DHA. As a refresher, DHA is the active ingredient in self-tanners and spray tans and one that many sensitive-skin folks may be allergic to. DHA can be derived from natural sources, however, which is why this pick is particularly great for all skin types, including sensitive. Another perk? it smells delicately of tropical mangoes and guava, a far cry from the harsh scents of other formulas.
Fair warning: Don’t let the color of this bronzing foam throw you off. It’s developed with a green-grey base to prevent your skin from looking orange, so you have an even and natural tan.
Best Drops: Tan-Luxe The Face Self-Tan Drops
If you don't mind shelling out a bit for a self-tanner, reach for this cruelty- and toxin-free concentrate. Unlike traditional self-tanners in squirt bottles, this one has a dropper to dispense the liquid, making it look more like a face serum than anything else. Here's how it works: Place a few drops of the organic formula into your moisturizer, serum, or face oil and voila you have yourself a custom self-tanner. Bonus: In addition to a natural-looking tan, the formula nourishes skin thanks to the inclusion of aloe vera, raspberry seed oil, and vitamin E.
Best Scent: COOLA Organic Sunless Tan Anti-Aging Face Serum
Here's another serum-like self-tanner for your face we absolutely love, and one we totally recommend if you're big on sweet scents—hint: this guy smells of piña coladas and masks any traditional self-tanner odor—and fast results. No surprise here, but this lightweight formula gives your face a natural tint of color with each and every use, but it also acts as a serum to nourish your skin and prevent dryness.
It does have DHA, but it's derived from sugar beet and Eco-Cert approved as a natural tanning ingredient. There's also centella asiatica (an ingredient found in cica creams) to help reduce signs of aging, and fan-favorite hyaluronic acid to amp up the moisture. The results? Smoother, firmer skin with a healthy radiance boost.
Best for Body: M-61 Hydroboost Body Butter Gradual Tan
If you’re looking for a product that will cover you from the neck down, then this self-tanner should be at the top of your list. This gradually tanning body butter is meant for daily use so you can build up your faux tan to your desired color. Plus, its ultra-light, buttery formula glides and absorbs easily into your skin, and is formulated to promote a firmer, soothed, and hydrated feel. It’s formulated with skincare heavy-hitters like centella asiatica, aloe, hyaluronic acid, and vitamins B5 and E to give your skin exactly what it needs for a radiant glow look year-round.
Best Mist: St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist
It doesn't get more lightweight than this mist. A few spritzes on your face will leave your skin feeling hydrated and refreshed, while adding a subtle hint of color to give your complexion that beachside glow, even in the dead of winter. Its formula is fueled by 100% natural tanning agents and hibiscus extract to soothe, refresh, and rejuvenate your skin. Choose to spritz this on over or under makeup (pro tip: don't skip your neck and chest); the tan will build gradually over the next four to eight hours.
Best Shimmer: Sol De Janeiro Glowmotions
This glitter-filled bronzing lotion is light on the skin and dries instantly, while natural ingredients like cupuaçu butter, açaí oil, and coconut oil work hand-in-hand to nourish dehydrated skin. It comes in five different glitzy shades to give your skin the glow and shine it’s been craving, without causing any irritation or breakouts because it's free of sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, phthalates, mineral oil, coal tar, and much more.