The 8 Best Tanning Wipes for a Natural Glow

Our best overall pick is Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette Classic

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
woman with tan skin

Stocksy

The safest and only way to tan, self tanning used to be a messy, stinky, complicated undertaking. But fortunately, innovations in beauty mean we’re now able to access hard-working, pleasant formulas that serve up natural color without streaks or stains.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Our best overall pick is Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette Classic which is so easy to use and offers a natural, glowy self-tan. If you’re prepared to splurge, the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta® Intense Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Both Body and Face not only gives you a self-tan, it helps exfoliate and nourish your skin with active ingredients.

Tanning towelettes are one such invention that is pure genius: a pre-soaked wipe that deposits tanning actives all over (and sometimes, added skincare ingredients) before it develops into a golden glow. They’re simple, mess-free and great for travel—all desirable attributes when it comes to DIY self tanning.

The active ingredient that makes self-tanners work is DHA (dihydroxyacetone), a sugarcane-derived ingredient that gives skin its color, explains beauty expert Natalie Ferrari. While this is the heavy-lifter, Ferrari explains that additional hydrators like hyaluronic acid are great inclusions as they will prolong results and prevent peeling. 

We conducted hours of research on the best tanning towels, evaluating each on ease of application, effectiveness, and any extra features. We considered dozens of products and expert tips for achieving the most natural-looking finish every single time. 

Keep scrolling for the very best tanning towels to glow all day long.

Best Overall: TanTowel Self-Tanning Towelettes

TanTowel Self-Tanning Towelettes

Amazon

What We Like
  • Pleasant smell

  • Different shades

  • Contains cucumber and vitamin E

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

These Tan Towel Classic Towelettes were formulated in Australia, so you know they’re going to deliver a natural-looking glow. They contain DHA to add color, while cucumber and vitamin E help to mitigate dehydration. There’s also Deep, Medium and Light variations available so you can tailor to suit your skin tone. We love these half-body sized towels to target exposed spots (if you want an all-over glow, opt for the full body size). Simply swipe over clean skin before bed, let it develop and rinse in the morning. 

Active Ingredients: DHA | Size: 10 half-body wipes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Skin: Comodynes Natural & Fast Bronzing Towelettes

Comodynes Self-Tanning Towelettes

Walmart

What We Like
  • Color develops in 3 hours

  • Biodegradable fibers

  • Hydrating 

What We Don't Like
  • Wipe itself is quite small

These biodegradable towels are free from oils, perfume and colorants, so they’re a great choice for sensitive skin. There’s an ingredient called Butylene Glycol as well, that’s thought to help with moisture retention in the top layers of the skin. The wipes themselves are on the smaller side, so work well if you want to tan smaller areas like the face, neck and chest.

Active Ingredients: DHA and erythrulose | Size: 8 towels | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Budget: Jergens Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Towelettes

Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Full-Body Towelettes

Amazon

What We Like
  • Great price

  • Mango pineapple scent

What We Don't Like
  • Only one shade

For a healthy glow on a budget, look no further than these easy towels from Jergens. They contain an active pairing of DHA and erythrulose for noticeable but natural color, while the generous size affords an all-over application. The tropical mango fragrance is a fun touch, as well. 

Active Ingredients: DHA and erythrulose | Size: 6 towels | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Gradual: M-61 PowerGlow Peel Gradual Tan

M-61 PowerGlow Peel Gradual Tan

M-61

What We Like
  • Builds up color gradually

  • Exfoliates through hydroxy acids

  • Contains further antioxidants for skin benefit

What We Don't Like
  • Very subtle result

  • Small in size

Prefer a more subtle hint of color with added skin benefits? These multi-purpose wipes from M-16 are seriously impressive. They’re soaked in a blend of alpha and beta hydroxy acids, so they gently exfoliate and refine the skin whilst also leaving behind a layer of DHA for a natural glow. They’re designed for gradual use, so the results are cumulative. 

Active Ingredients: DHA, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid | Size: 30 towels | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Face: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Intense Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face

Dr Dennis Gross Face Tanner

Sephora

What We Like
  • Skincare benefits 

  • Smoothing and refining

  • Natural results

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

These facial tanning towels from Dr. Dennis Gross are like a one stop shop for glow. Not only do they work to smooth skin texture and decongest pores (thanks to the inclusion of exfoliating acids), but also build up gradual color. The DHA is even microencapsulated, which is supposed to ensure a longer-lasting result. 

Active Ingredients: DHA, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid | Size: 20 towels | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Splurge: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad for Body

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta® Glow Pad™ For Body With Active Vitamin D

Sephora

What We Like
  • Great size

  • Claim to minimize hair growth and thickness

  • Fights irritation and scarring

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Dr. Dennis Gross also does an iteration of the above for the body, in a bigger towel format and enriched with vitamin D. It dries quickly and doesn’t have a sticky finish, so can be easily worked into your beauty routine to maintain smooth, glowing body skin. Try it underneath your moisturizer once or twice a week. 

Active Ingredients: DHA, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid | Size: 20 towels | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Drugstore: L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Towelettes for Body

L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Sunless Self-Tanning Towelettes

L'Oreal

What We Like
  • Contains alpha hydroxy acids

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Strong scent

Leave it to L’Oreal to create a simple, easy tanning towel that ensures a natural-looking level of color. They contain an amount of DHA for visible results, as well as vitamin E for additional nourishment. According to reviews, these do have a slight fake tan smell, but it should disappear after a shower. 

Active Ingredients: DHA | Size: 6 towels | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Dry Skin: Jergens SOL Self Tanning Towelette Wipes

Jergens SOL Self Tanning Towelette Wipes

Amazon

What We Like
  • Contains hydrating coconut water

  • Lovely scent

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Clear, so missing parts is easy

These wipes are quick, easy, and smell like a pina colada. They contain a mix of DHA and natural sugars that react with the skin, imparting a subtle golden tint. They also contain coconut water, so they’re cooling and leave the skin feeling super soft

Active Ingredients: DHA and natural sugars | Size: 10 wipes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

Truthfully, we can’t go past the iconic Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette Classic formula for ease of application, and a self-tan that looks super natural. If you’re prepared to splurge, the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta® Intense Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Both Body and Face is seriously impressive, providing glow, exfoliation, and skin nourishment with one swipe.

Meet the Expert

Natalie Ferrari is a leading beauty expert in Sydney, Australia, who’s salon The Parlour Room is unofficially known as the best spray tans this side of the equator.

What to Look For in Tanning Towels

Topical DHA

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is almost synonymous with sunless self-tanners. This FDA-approved plant compound is a sugar molecule that reacts chemically with the amino acids in the outermost layer of the skin, producing pigmentation.

Exfoliants

Exfoliants may help prevent streaking by sloughing off dead skin cells. Look for acids like AHAs and BHAs, salicylic acid. If your sunless tanning wipes do not contain exfoliants, simply add this step with another exfoliating product in the shower before application.

Moisturizers

To keep your complexion looking smooth and hydrated, look for ingredients that add or protect moisture and calm the skin, such as vitamin E, chamomile, aloe, and glycerin.

FAQ
  • Do Self Tanning Wipes Work?

    Self-tanning wipes work to provide a subtle tint to your skin. A natural compound derived from plant sugar molecules called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) interacts with amino acids in the top layer of your skin to produce pigment.

  • How Long Does it Take for Self Tanning Wipes to Work?

    Self-tanning wipes typically work within 2 to 4 hours. Some wipes contain an initial tinting ingredient that leaves a glow while the DHA takes time to interact with your skin to produce pigment.

  • How Long Do Tanning Wipes Last?

    Tanning wipes typically last about a week. However, this can be shortened if you exfoliate in the shower or shave. Some tint will wear off gradually. Staying moisturized can help your self-tan last longer. Maintain your tan by applying a fresh wipe every 3 to 4 days, and build up your tan to a darker shade by applying every 2 days.

  • How Do You Use Tanning Wipes?

    Follow the directions on the package of tanning wipes you've purchased. Most products say to exfoliate and moisturize before hand to get the best streak-free results. Apply the tanning wipes in broad strokes with some pressure. Avoid putting on any tight clothing for at least 10 minutes. Maintain your tan by applying every 3 to 4 days, and build up your tan by applying every 2 days.

Why Trust Byrdie

For this roundup, we checked in with a tanning expert, and sifted through stacks of internet reviews to ensure we’re only including the best of the best. We may have road tested the formulas, as well.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Draelos ZD. Self-tanning lotions: are they a healthy way to achieve a tan?. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2002;3(5):317-318. doi:10.2165/00128071-200203050-00003

  2. Ciriminna R, Fidalgo A, Ilharco LM, Pagliaro M. Dihydroxyacetone: An Updated Insight into an Important Bioproduct. ChemistryOpen. 2018;7(3):233-236. Published 2018 Mar 6. doi:10.1002/open.201700201

  3. Ciriminna R, Fidalgo A, Ilharco LM, Pagliaro M. Dihydroxyacetone: An Updated Insight into an Important Bioproduct. ChemistryOpen. 2018;7(3):233-236. doi:10.1002/open.201700201

  4. Ciriminna R, Fidalgo A, Ilharco LM, Pagliaro M. Dihydroxyacetone: An Updated Insight into an Important Bioproduct. ChemistryOpen. 2018;7(3):233-236. doi:10.1002/open.201700201

Related Stories