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We all know the negative effects the sun can have on our skin. SPF is so important, but it often stops us from getting that natural, healthy looking glow many of us want in the summer or even all year around. That’s where at-home self-tanners come in. Giving your skin a sunless tan can give you that extra boost of color you want without the harmful rays of the sun damaging your skin.
Whether you want immediate color that washes off in your next shower or a gradual tan than builds up subtly over time, you can find an option that works for you at an affordable price. Self-tanners come in every shade, so even the palest skin won’t turn out orangey and the darkest skin can still reap the benefits of a sun-free glow.
The number one rule to remember when applying a self-tan: don’t use too little product. The biggest mistake people make is using a little bit of product to cover a big area, so make sure you’re covering every inch of your skin for the most natural, even looking tan. And if you go overboard, grab a lemon and massage it on the streaky parts to fade them.
Best Overall: Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Light Bronze Tanning Mousse
Whether you’re a self-tanning newbie or a total pro, a mousse formula is an easy way to get a natural looking tan in no time. Just use a few pumps on each limb and blend it in with a tanning mitt. You’ll see the color glide over your skin so you know where you need more and where you need to blend a little extra. Then, the color fully develops over the next few hours to your perfect shade.
Best of all, this formula dries in 60 seconds so you don’t have to worry about it rubbing off on your clothes or sheets. And it lasts for a few days, so it won’t wash down the drain right away.
Best Lotion: Neutrogena Build-A-Tan Gradual Sunless Tanning Lotion
If an instant tan is not your speed, a lotion is a great formula to try out. This one from Neutrogena builds your color over time, so you won’t wake up the next day with a major tan. But after a few days of using the lotion, you’ll notice a subtle glow. And if you want to keep going darker, you can just keep using it.
It dries in about five minutes and you’ll notice a change in color over a few hours. If you want to kick your color up just a notch or two, this is a great place to start.
Best Spray: L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze ProPerfect Salon Airbrush Mist
If you want the experience of getting a professional spray tan but you’d rather do it in the comfort of your own home, this spray is perfect. It has a 360 degree wide angle applicator so you can get a continuous spray of product for a nice, even tan on every inch of your skin. This also means you won’t get a bunch of tanning formula on your hands which can often makes your hands dark and splotchy if you’re not careful. Plus, it dries quickly so you can spray it on and head out the door.
Best for Face: L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Serum
When it comes to tanning your face, it’s important to choose the correct formula. The pH of the skin on your body is different from the pH of your face, so the color in self-tanning products develops differently depending on the pH. So, if you apply the same product to your face and your body, that color may turn out darker or more orange on your face—which isn’t ideal.
L'Oreal Paris designed this tanning serum that is safe to use on both your body and your face. It’s streak-free and gives your complexion a natural glow that doesn’t look too dark or orange. After applying it for just three days, it’ll last about two weeks.
Best Budget: Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning Spray Mist Airbrush Color
You can easily shell out a ton of money on tanning products, but why do that if you don’t have to? This affordable formula is super affordable and effective. It’s formulated with aloe, so it’s soothing for skin that’s been out in the sun. And the spray nozzle makes it easy to apply at any angle—even upside down.
Thanks to the time release technology behind it, once you spray it on, it’ll continue to give you a glow for seven days, so you don’t need to keep applying it multiple times each week.
Best for Pregnancy: Tan Towel Half Body Towelettes
Most self-tanning formulas are safe for pregnant women because the main active ingredient in tanning products, dihydroxyacetone or DHA, is a simple carbohydrate often derived from natural sugars. Applied topically, it’s totally safe to use.
Applying a tan while you’re pregnant, however, can be a hassle. If you’re worried about trying sunless tanning because of potential streaks, these tanning wipes make it so much easier. You can apply the tan exactly where you want it and it’s formulated to work for face and body. If you need a partner to apply it to the places you can’t reach, they’re less likely to mess anything up if they’re inexperienced.
Best for Legs: Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Leg Makeup
Admittedly, this formula isn’t technically a self-tanner. It’s body makeup. But it’s a product that celebrities and makeup artists swear by for getting one-night-only color that looks amazing on your legs, whether you’re in a dress or walking on the beach in a bikini.
It’s a water-resistant formula, so it won’t run off like foundation or other kinds of makeup. The makeup only comes off when you scrub it in the shower. It sprays on flawlessly to make your legs look airbrushed without looking unnatural or cakey. So, if you’ve got veins or scars you want to cover up, or you just want a little extra glow, this is a great option.
Best for Olive Skin: Fake Bake Flawless Self Tan Liquid
For beautiful olive skin tones, the last thing you want is a fake looking orangey tan. This liquid self-tanner gives a natural golden glow instead. It comes with a mitt, so you can blend it all over for a streak-free finish.
Reviewers say the product is scent-free and that it gives a nice glowy tan.
Best for Dark Skin: Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning Lotion Deep Dark Color
If you want a deeper glow than you already have, or even if you’re pale and want a darker tan, this lotion is a great choice. It gives you color right away unlike some other lotion formulas. According to users, it gives off more color than many other formula’s they’ve tried, which is great for people with deeper skin tones who haven’t been able to find a self-tanner than worked for them.
Best for Fair Skin: Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer
If you have very fair skin, jumping into the self-tanner world can be scary. One day you’re super pale and then next you can end up looking like you’re covered in Cheetos dust. That’s why a gradual tanning formula is a good choice for fair skin. It never just turns your skin tone a totally different color; it enhances it slowly. Depending on how often you apply it, you can control how dark you want your tan to go.
This one is formulated with vitamin E and antioxidants to keep your skin healthy and hydrated while you wear it.