The 11 Best Self Tanners of 2022, Tested and Reviewed

Our top pick is Bondi Sands Aero Tanning Foam

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products. Healthcare professionals review articles for medical accuracy. Learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Self Tanning Hero 2

Byrdie / Leticia Almeida

As virtually every dermatologist will tell you, it's best to limit your exposure to the sun's UV rays—not only to avoid a painful sunburn but also to keep fine lines, crepey skin, hyperpigmentation, and other signs of photoaging at bay. If you still crave a bronzy, sun-kissed glow, self-tanner is where it's at.

Byrdie Tested & Approved

Our absolute favorite self-tanner was Bondi Sands Aero Tanning Foam, a luxurious mousse that earned 5s across the board for ease of use, transfer resistance, results, and longevity. That said, L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Water Mousse is a solid choice for anyone on a budget.

"Using self-tanning products at home decreases your exposure to premature aging, sunburn, and skin cancer caused by the sun and tanning beds," says celebrity esthetician and dermatological nurse Natalie Aguilar. "They contain an FDA-approved ingredient called dihydroxyacetone, commonly known as DHA, which temporarily tans the outermost layers of your skin."

To help you find the best option for your skin tone and bronzing goals, we tried nearly 15 formulas in The Lab, our in-house testing facility. Each product was rated on a scale between one and five (five being the best and one being the worst) for its ease of application, transfer resistance, results, and longevity.

Ready to glow? These are officially the best self-tanners on the market.

Best Overall: Bondi Sands Aero Self Tanning Foam

5
Bondi Sands Aero Aerated Self Tanning Foam

Walgreens

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Application
    5/5
  • White Sheets Test
    5/5
  • Tan Longevity
    5/5
  • Overall Results
    5/5
What We Like
  • Beautiful color

  • Doesn't transfer

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Mild odor

We tested some pretty impressive formulas, but in the end, Bondi Sands Aero was a clear winner. This luxuriously thick self-tanning mousse clocked perfect 5 out of 5 scores across the board for ease of application, transfer resistance, results, and longevity. Reminiscent of whipped frosting, our tester said it goes on smooth and is a breeze to spread into the skin. Not only that, but it dries quickly without a sticky feeling.

There are three bronze levels to choose from—dark, ultra-dark, and light-medium. Considering the deep color payoff of the darker options, our tester was worried this sunless tanner would bleed onto her clothes and sheets. Even though she's prone to night sweats, she was pleasantly surprised to see it didn't transfer at all. While she said the distinct DHA smell isn't entirely masked by the coconut scent, she was thrilled that her "beautiful golden tan" lasted almost three weeks.

Type: Foam | Key Ingredients: Dihydroxyacetone, jojoba oil | Size: 7.6 ounces | Scent: Coconut | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

bondi sands tanning foam

Byrdie / Leticia Almeida

Best Budget: L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Water Mousse

4.2
L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Water Mousse

Courtesy of Target

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Application
    4/5
  • White Sheets Test
    5/5
  • Tan Longevity
    3.8/5
  • Overall Results
    4.2/5
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Easy to apply

  • Doesn't transfer

What We Don't Like
  • Not the longest-lasting

Looking for something a bit more affordable? L'Oreal Sublime Bronze was the best budget-friendly option we tried in The Lab. Our tester, who's been using sunless tanner regularly since high school, gave the foaming liquid a 4 for ease of application, noting that it evaporates quickly into an invisible finish that later develops into a tan.

It earned a 5 for transfer resistance, with no streaks in sight, even after our tester "sweated buckets" during a boxing class. She awarded Sublime Bronze a 4 for results, noting the subtle yet mostly natural-looking color. While it's not the longest-lasting option we tried, this reasonably priced self-tanner is a solid choice for weekly maintenance.

Type: Foaming liquid | Key Ingredients: Dihydroxyacetone, coconut water, vitamin E | Size: 5 ounces | Scent: Coconut | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

L'Oreal Sublime Bronze

Byrdie / Leticia Almeida

What Our Testers Say

"This formula is a good choice to have in your rotation when looking for a tanner to maintain your tan without breaking the bank."—Emily Cieslak, Product Tester

Best Instant: St. Moriz Instant Fast Tanning Mousse

4.6
St. Moriz Professional Instant Fast Tanning Mousse

Ulta

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Application
    5/5
  • White Sheets Test
    5/5
  • Tan Longevity
    4/5
  • Overall Results
    4.5/5
What We Like
  • Nice texture

  • Doesn't transfer

  • Natural-looking

What We Don't Like
  • Noticeable odor

  • Mitt sold separately

Want instant results? St. Moriz Instant Fast Tanning Mousse is your best bet. Our tester gave the buttery-soft, foamy formula a 5 for ease of application, explaining that it went on with little effort using the brand's applicator mitt (sold separately). She awarded it a 4.5 for results, noting how natural her tan looked just two hours after spreading it on.

With no marks to be found on our tester's robe, it also scored a 5 for transfer resistance. This sunless tanner faded gradually over the course of a week, so we gave it a 4 for longevity. Our tester mentioned a noticeable DHA smell, but considering the agreeable price point, it really held its own against higher-end formulas.

Type: Foam | Key Ingredients: Dihydroxyacetone, olive oil, vitamin E | Size: 6.7 ounces | Scent: Coconut, fruity | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

St. Moriz Fast Tanning Mousse

Byrdie / Leticia Almeida

What Our Testers Say

"It went on so smoothly and buffed out into a natural-looking tan. A week later, I still have glowing skin that's fading evenly."Alyssa Kingham, Production Manager

Best Gradual: Vita Liberata Advanced Organics invisi Foaming Tan Water

4.5
VITA LIBERATA Foaming Tan Water

Byrdie/Vita Liberata

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Application
    5/5
  • White Sheets Test
    5/5
  • Tan Longevity
    3/5
  • Overall Results
    4.5/5
What We Like
  • Easy to apply

  • Goes on clear

  • Doesn't transfer

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Not the longest-lasting

For a more subtle look, reach for Invisi Foaming Tan Water. After trying it out firsthand, our tester awarded it a perfect 5 out of 5 for ease of use, transfer resistance, and results. She liked that the frothy foam was lightweight but not runny. While the included applicator mitt isn't the highest quality, it made it easy to spread into an even layer.

Our tester let this self-tanner do its thing for about 10 hours before showering and said it didn't transfer at all before or after. Though the results weren't super noticeable against her melanin-rich skin, it's a great option for folks looking to gradually build a natural-looking sun-kissed glow. We gave Invisi Foaming Tan Water a 3 for longevity, so you'll want to keep applying it every few days.

Type: Foaming liquid | Key Ingredients: Dihydroxyacetone, aloe | Size: 6.8 ounces | Scent: Mild fruity, licorice | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Invisi Tan Water

Byrdie / Leticia Almeida

What Our Testers Say

"This at-home tanner provides a healthy, natural glow with minimal mess and no transfer. I'll definitely be returning to this one."Eden Stuart, Associate Editor

Best for Beginners: Loving Tan Deluxe Face Tan

5
Loving tan deluxe face tan

Byrdie/Loving Tan

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Application
    5/5
  • White Sheets Test
    5/5
  • Tan Longevity
    5/5
  • Overall Results
    5/5
What We Like
  • Easy to apply

  • Natural-looking

  • Non-streaky

What We Don't Like
  • Small amount

If you're a self-tanning novice, this little pink tube is for you. As the name suggests, Deluxe Face Tan is intended for use on your face, but the easy-to-spread formula is a solid option for full-body bronzing. Our tester awarded the cream 5s all around for ease of application, transfer resistance, results, and longevity.

Reminiscent of a tinted moisturizer but with a better color payoff, she said the hydrating formula was a dream to apply. It takes about two hours to develop and delivers a noticeable natural-looking glow like you just got back from the beach. The color wasn't streaky or blotchy at all and faded gradually over the course of a week.

Type: Cream | Key Ingredients: Dihydroxyacetone, aloe, green tea | Size: 1.6 ounces | Scent: Fruity, fresh | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

What Our Testers Say

"I was so impressed with the color payoff—it gave me a beautiful sun-kissed look that lasted all week long."Alyssa Kingham, Production Manager

Best for Dark Skin: St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse

4.3
St. Tropez Tanning Essentials Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse

Courtesy of Sephora

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Application
    5/5
  • White Sheets Test
    4/5
  • Tan Longevity
    3/5
  • Overall Results
    4.5/5
What We Like
  • Easy to apply

  • Non-streaky

  • Minimal transfer

What We Don't Like
  • Not the longest-lasting

  • Flimsy mitt

  • Pricey

For deeper skin tones, we recommend St. Tropez. Our tester gave the brand's Extra Dark Bronzing Mousse a 5  for ease of application, noting how effortlessly the dense, frothy foam spreads into the skin. She gave it a 4 for the white sheets test, as it transferred slightly but stayed put for the most part.

This self-tanner earned a 4.5 for results, offering immediate color payoff and a gradually deeper bronzing effect that develops throughout the day. Our tester left it on for about 10 hours before showering (a little longer than recommended) and said a lot of pigment rinsed off, leaving her with a natural-looking, mostly even, sun-kissed look. We gave this bronzing mousse a 3 for longevity, so you might need to apply it regularly to keep up the results.

Type: Foam | Key Ingredients: Dihydroxyacetone, caramel | Size: 6.7 ounces | Scent: Light and fresh | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

What Our Testers Say

"Despite the initial shock at how dark the mousse looked while it was setting, this self-tanner washed off to reveal a nice, even, natural-looking bronze."Eden Stuart, Associate Editor

Best for Face: Elaluz Overnight Facial Glow

4
elaluz overnight facial glow

Byrdie/Elaluz

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Application
    5/5
  • White Sheets Test
    5/5
  • Tan Longevity
    3/5
  • Overall Results
    3/5
What We Like
  • Easy to apply

  • Doesn't transfer

What We Don't Like
  • Not the longest-lasting

  • High price per ounce

You're wise to be a little pickier about what you put on your face, which is why we appreciate the subtle, gradual results of Elaluz Overnight Facial Glow. After trying it out, we gave the cream 5s for ease of use and transfer resistance. It goes on like a moisturizer and develops overnight while you get your beauty sleep without leaving marks on your pillow.

This sunless tanner scored 3s for results and longevity. However, less-than-drastic effects are often ideal when applying a bronzing formula to your face. Our tester said it helped even out her skin tone, allowing her to go makeup-free with confidence.

Type: Cream | Key Ingredients: Dihydroxyacetone, fruit enzymes, shea butter | Size: 1.7 ounces | Scent: Eucalyptus, rose | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Drugstore: SOL by Jergens Sunless Tanning Medium Water Mousse

4
Sol by Jergens
Our Ratings
  • Ease of Application
    5/5
  • White Sheets Test
    5/5
  • Tan Longevity
    3/5
  • Overall Results
    3/5
What We Like
  • Nice texture

  • Easy to apply

  • Doesn't transfer

What We Don't Like
  • Not the longest-lasting

  • Slightly orange

The best drugstore option is undoubtedly Jergens. Praising the light, foamy, easy-to-spread texture, our tester gave the brand's Sol Water Mousse a 5 for ease of application. She also awarded it a 5 for transfer resistance, as nothing came off on her clothes.

While the color payoff was good, the effects leaned slightly orange, so we gave it a 3 for results. (Our tester said it's better for folks with olive-toned complexions, as it brought out the reddish-pink undertones in her skin.) This sunless tanner also earned a 3 for longevity, so you'll need to keep applying it every few days.

Type: Foaming liquid | Key Ingredients: Dihydroxyacetone, coconut water | Size: 5 ounces | Scent: Coconut, passionfruit | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

SOL by Jergens Self-Tanner

Byrdie / Leticia Almeida

What Our Testers Say

"This light water mousse is very easy to apply and smells incredible, thanks to passionfruit essence and coconut water."—Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, Product Tester

Best Oil: Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Glow Drops

5
isle of paradise self tanning drops

Byrdie/Sephora

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Application
    5/5
  • White Sheets Test
    5/5
  • Tan Longevity
    5/5
  • Overall Results
    5/5
What We Like
  • Easy to apply

  • Non-greasy

  • Natural-looking

What We Don't Like
  • High price per ounce

If you've yet to try self-tanning oil, allow us to introduce you to your new favorite formula. Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops clocked a 5 for ease of application—just mix a few drops with your moisturizer of choice and rub it in like a lotion.

Passing the white sheets test with flying colors and delivering a gorgeous sun-kissed glow that lasts a whopping two weeks, our tester gave the non-greasy oil 5s across the board for transfer resistance, results, and longevity. Available in dark, medium, or light, the customizable color is even, streak-free, and natural-looking. What's more, it won't leave you with that distinct DHA smell.

Type: Oil drops | Key Ingredients: Dihydroxyacetone, coconut and avocado oils | Size: 1 ounce | Scent: Mild fresh | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

isle of paradise tanning drops

Byrdie / Leticia Almeida

Best Water: SKBC H20 Glow Face Tan Water

4.8
SKBC Glow face tan water

Byrdie/SKBC

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Application
    5/5
  • White Sheets Test
    5/5
  • Tan Longevity
    4/5
  • Overall Results
    4.7/5
What We Like
  • Doesn't transfer

  • Goes on smoothly

  • Refreshing scent

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for body

  • Needs to be reapplied often

Earning 5s for ease of use, transfer resistance, and results, H20 Glow was an all-around hit with our tester. The clear liquid goes on effortlessly—a couple of spritzes are all you need—and feels super refreshing, like a hydrating facial mist.

Our tester applied an even layer to her face before bed and said she woke up with "the most beautiful sun-kissed results." This self-tanner earned a 4 for longevity since it fades within a few days, but if you ask us, the subtle effects are actually preferable for facial bronzing. Our tester was also a big fan of the fruity watermelon fragrance.

Type: Clear liquid | Key Ingredients: Dihydroxyacetone, aloe, coffee extract | Size: 6.8 ounces | Scent: Fruity | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Tan Towel Self Tan Towelettes

4.9
Tan Towel Half Body Towelettes

Courtesy of Walmart

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Application
    5/5
  • White Sheets Test
    5/5
  • Tan Longevity
    4.5/5
  • Overall Results
    5/5
What We Like
  • Spreads easily

  • Dries quickly

  • Doesn't transfer

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Slight odor

Tan Towel definitely makes the best self-tanning wipes. These user-friendly disposable towelettes scored 5s for ease of application, transfer resistance, and results. Our tester noted how you only need one to coat your entire body and don't need to wipe it off or shower afterward.

There are three bronzing levels to choose from to complement different skin tones. The results develop gradually within a few hours, offering a natural-looking sun-kissed glow with no streaks in sight. We gave these tanning wipes a 4.5 for longevity, as the results last up to a week. You might notice a slight DHA odor, but nothing over the top.

Type: Disposable towelettes | Key Ingredients: Dihydroxyacetone, tea tree oil | Size: 5–50 towels | Scent: Mild fresh | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Tan Towel total body towelettes

Byrdie / Leticia Almeida

What Our Testers Say

"These wipes truly took me by surprise because, like similar products I've used, I expected it to leave streaks. I was so happy to find that it gave me an even and subtle glowy tan instead."—Taylor Rock, Product Tester

Final Verdict

The best self-tanner we tried was Bondi Sands Aero Tanning Foam, a luxuriously thick, non-sticky mousse that earned 5s across the board for ease of use, transfer resistance, results, and longevity. That said, L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Water Mousse is a solid choice for anyone on a budget.

How We Tested

The Byrdie editorial team took our time researching today's top sunless tanners, combing through product reviews, and consolidating expert insights into formulations. We selected 14 formulas to try out in The Lab, our in-house testing facility in Brooklyn, where they were rated on a scale from 1 to 5 based on ease of application, transfer resistance, results, and longevity. After testing all the products, we compiled our insights and narrowed down our favorites into various categories.

Other Options We Tested

Vita Liberata Ten Minute Tan

Though Vita Liberata Invisi Water was a hit with our testers, the brand's Ten Minute Tan left something to be desired. The gel-like lotion wasn't very absorbent or easy to apply, and it left patchy, steaky results—plus it's on the pricier end for a self-tanner.

Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self-Tanning Oil

This sunless tanning oil was easy to apply using the included mitt, but our tester said it's runny and generally messy. While it does provide a natural-looking bronze glow, there was a bit of color transfer onto fabrics. And considering the higher price point, this just wasn't our favorite in the end.

Meet the Expert

  • Natalie Aguilar is a celebrity aesthetician and a dermatological nurse.
  • James Read is a self-tanner expert and the founder of his own eponymous line of self-tanning products, James Read Tan.

What to Look For in a Self-Tanner

Gradual formulas

If you consider yourself a self-tanner novice, start out with gradual formulas. These will allow you to slowly build up your color to your desired shade rather than leaving you with an instant tan that could end up being too intense for your skin tone. Plus, gradual tanners tend to be formulated as lotions and creams, which will provide extra hydration benefits.

Mousses and mists

If you consider yourself a more confident tanner, mousses and bronzing mists are best. These tend to be a bit stronger, providing you with a more intense, deeper color that lasts longer than gradual formulas. With that in mind, if you’re experienced with self-tanners and looking for a quick, on-the-go solution, reach for express formulas. And with any body product, express or not, Read recommends always using a tanning mitt to apply.

2-in-1 formulas for the face

When it comes to using self-tanners on your face, Read recommends looking for 2-in-1 formulas that double as skincare. Products that contain hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, antioxidants like vitamins C and E, and other brightening and smoothing ingredients will ensure your complexion looks its very best, all while providing a post-vacation glow sans sun. According to him, tanning drops, water mists, and overnight serums are your best options. “Also, make sure it’s translucent, as these don’t block your pores,” he adds. Additionally, you should also avoid anything too dark or instant and never use a product formulated solely for the body.

“Depending on the self-tanner brand, you can reapply within 3-7 days,” suggests Aguilar. Her two biggest tips to keep your tan and your skin in perfect condition? “Moisturize your skin with a hydrating body lotion and always protect it with sunscreen.”

What Is Byrdie Verified?

Did you notice the Byrdie Verified seal of approval at the top of this story? This seal means that our team has researched and tested every product on this list using a unique methodology that’s designed to focus on what our readers really want to know—and to deliver insights that you can’t find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands and PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are fully our own. If you visit links within our content, we may receive commissions from your purchases, but we never receive any compensation or consideration for the content of our recommendations. In short, the Byrdie Verified seal stands for product recommendations you can trust.

Why Trust Byrdie

Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer and regular contributor at Byrdie, where she covers skincare, makeup, and other color cosmetics. With expert insight from an esthetician and dermatological nurse in mind, she compiled insights from our in-house testers, pored over product specs, and rounded up our top picks for this story. Theresa has substantial experience researching, testing, and writing about beauty and lifestyle products. She has tried sunless tanning products from several of the above brands, including St. Moriz, St. Tropez, Jergens, Isle of Paradise, and Tan Towel.

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 contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Related Stories