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If you've been reluctant to try self-tanners in the past, we don't exactly blame you. Some of the glow-inducing formulas get a bad rap for creating unsightly streaks, color transfer onto clothing and orange fingers.
But for every bag egg in the crate, there are dozens of good ones—and those are the self-tanners we swear by for a bronze glow sans skin damage (and any of the aforementioned side effects). These formulas apply evenly, dry quickly, and make your skin look like you just came back from a tropical beach vacation without ever putting you at risk of UV damage, including premature signs of aging, dark spots, and even some skin cancers.
Intrigued? Read on to learn about the best self-tanners you can buy now.
Best Overall: Coola Sunless Tan Dry Body Oil Mist
This lightweight Coola body oil mist doesn't have a strong, headache-inducing scent (unless the smell of piña colada and coconut bothers you), nor does it rub off on your sheets. What it does do is leave an even, natural-looking tan that lasts about three to four days.
The formula—an antioxidant blend of argan oil, vitamin C, hibiscus, and chamomile extract—dries quickly for natural-looking radiance to build up a new tan or maintain an existing one. Bonus points for being organic, non-GMO, vegan, cruelty-free and formulated without synthetic colorants.
Best Budget: Jergens Natural Glow Daily Skin Moisturizer for Body
If you're a self-tanner newbie, this classic Jergens formula is a great place to get your feet wet. It's an easy-to-use body lotion available in two shades (fair to medium and medium to tan) to create a gradual, natural-looking tan. Apply it as you would any other body lotion to boost moisture and slowly enhance your natural skin tone.
Best Versatile: Baja Bae Bronze Tanning Lotion
Reap the benefits of three different products—a sunless tanner, tinted moisturizer, and highlighter—all in one. The application is also a cinch; there's no tanning mitt involved, all you have to do is apply this lotion as you would any other to extend the life of your tan. You can even apply it onto your face to replace your tinted moisturizer for a dewy skin look.
Check out our list of the best after-sun lotions for soothed skin.
Best Gradual: Jergens Natural Glow Wet Skin Moisturizer
This works slower than the other self-tanners on the list (the color develops gradually over about a week), but like other Jergens lotions, it doesn’t leave streaks or rub off on clothing or sheets. The application is easy: Lightly dry your skin post-shower (so you're not dripping wet) and apply the lotion onto clean, damp skin and allow it to fully absorb.
See reviews of the best self-tanners at Walmart.
Best Instant: Sephora Collection Tinted Self-Tanning Body Mist
This budget-friendly self-tanner comes in a standard spray can and is a good option for fast, easy application. The mist instantly creates a realistic-looking tan that doesn’t look orange and fades gracefully without the tell-tale patchiness. Because the mist can travel when sprayed, reviewers recommend using the spray away from any valuables.
Best for Face: Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drops
Not only is this self-tanner pretty to look at, but it's also one of our favorites to give facial skin a bronze glow. Here's how it works: Apply a few drops of this concentrate into your serum, face oil, or moisturizer to immediately transform it into a custom self-tanner. It features special tanning actives that work with your skin tone to deliver natural-looking results, all while giving the skin an added moisture boost thanks to raspberry seed oil, aloe vera, and vitamin E.
Best for Travel: Kate Somerville Somerville360 Self Tanning Towelettes
Self-tanners that come in aerosol cans can be a logistical challenge when traveling. Save room in your carry-on and dodge a potential TSA nightmare with these compact self-tanning towelettes.
You can slip the wipes into your makeup bag or suitcase, and the towelettes work just as well as conventional self-tanners. They’re also formulated for your face and body so you don't have to carry more than one product with you. While the color does take a few hours to develop, the formula itself dries quickly with no streaks so you can wear clothing and go on with your day without waiting.
Interested in reading more reviews? We rounded up the best drugstore self-tanners on the market.