I'm what some might consider a self-tan connoisseur and, if I'm being honest, a little bit of an addict—a sticky and dynamic dependency I describe in detail. Thus, I won't drag you through the trenches (again) of my years upon years of stained sheets, clothes, and psyche. Instead, this post is an answer of sorts. After vowing to lessen a steadfast grip upon my stash of dark (and even ultra-dark) tanning elixirs earlier this year, I promised to do better when it came to embracing my natural pallor.
Of course, as luck would have it, this commitment was bound right before summer, when I've historically felt the most temptation to apply my tanning tonics with little to no abandon. (For your information, I've always approached self-tanner with a Cady Heron–inspired, the-limit-does-not-exist philosophy.) But this year, I told myself, this year would be different. And so far, for the most part, it has been.
To be clear, I've still received a handful of complementary spray tans. (I mean, what kind of beauty editor would I be to decline such appointments?) And I have semi-guiltily negotiated my favorite self-tanners when there's a special occasion in question. However, I would say 80% of the time this spring and summer, I've just let my skin be. I do have a dirty little secret, though.
In lieu of my overwhelming collection of bronzers, I've cultivated an entirely new kind of product stash—one featuring gold-flecked body oils, rose quartz–infused illuminating potions, blueberry-spiked shimmer numbers, and so much more. Just because you don't like (or in my case, want to avoid) self-tanner, doesn't mean you must forsake gleaming skin. In fact, far from it. Case in point: the 14 glowy-skin elixirs below, which don't tint your skin (or at least not significantly) but do impart the most addicting of sheens.
Keep scrolling for the ultimate list of glowy-skin products if you're not actually looking to bronze the heck out of your skin this summer.
I love anything and everything from James Read (he's also the loveliest person), but if I had to pick a current favorite formula, this convenient wash-off one would be it. Warning, it does deliver a subtle tint of color, but said tint mostly serves to even out imperfections and not actually make you look like you've been sunning yourself in Ibiza for two weeks straight. Plus, unlike most other wash-off tan/glow/foundation formulas I've tried, it doesn't leave your skin until you want it to, and it even passed the white-sheet test after a night out with flying colors.
Oh, and did I already mention it smells good? (The icky telltale scent alone is enough to try ditching self-tanners for good this summer.)
Before going out, I usually mix it with a little bit of lotion or body cream, which not only diffuses the color a bit but also helps it meld and blend into the skin better.
When I asked my fellow Byrdie editors in our Gchat what products (excluding self-tanners) make their skin glow, Editorial Director Faith Xue immediately mentioned this pick from dermatologist-approved brand Avène. Great for even the most sensitive of skin, it has radiance-enhancing nourishers like avocado oil, thermal spring water, and vitamin E to give skin not only a lit-from-within finish but superior health and hydration as well. It's also noncomedogenic, hence it won't clog your pores, hence you won't end up with any unexpected body breakouts this summer.
"Deven (Byrdie's skin-blessed beauty director, FYI) only just recently introduced me to the amazingness of Vita Liberata's Body Blur," Faith also mentions. Frequently used by celebrity makeup artists, and a red carpet nonnegotiable, this wonder cream essential does exactly what you'd surmise the from the name alone—blurs and blends away any imperfection so one's legs look basically airbrushed.
Personally, I liken the finish to that of a Barbie, although I realize that might not be the most popular comparison to make. That being said, regarding the impeccably even finish, it's 100% spot-on. There are three different hues to choose from, and if you're going for a less-tanned finish, I recommend opting for whichever shade most closely resembles your natural tone. I love this one shown above in Latte Light.
If you've ever dreamed of having the legs of Chrissy Teigen, for starters, same, and secondly, look no further because you're staring at her mesmerizing collaboration with the glow-inducing goddesses of Becca.
"As a paler, office-bound individual, I'm not always looking for diamond-bright shimmer and tons of bronze pigment. As such, Chrissy Teigen's latest collab with Becca, a super-subtle but insanely beautiful Glow Body Oil, was the perfect in-between," extolled senior editor Hallie Gould in a recent review. "It's luxurious-feeling but lightweight, illuminates your skin like a subtle highlighter, and smells like summer (bergamot and sandalwood, to be exact). But it doesn't sparkle too much or tan too heavily.
I apply it in the morning and throughout the day."
Although I only recently discovered this standout organic skincare line (psst, Meghan Markle loves it too!), the infatuation has hit me hard. And this shimmering blueberry-infused number is no exception. Thanks to a host of organically sourced skin fare and with skin-improving ingredients like shea butter, CoQ10, antioxidants, salicylic acid, vitamins, and mica (for that sparkle!), your skin (and camera roll) will thank you for it.
I get it—$230 is a big investment when you can find body creams one-twentieth of that at your local drugstore. Except, of course, this isn't your average body cream. And you most certainly can't find this at the drugstore. Although the name is misleading (the cream is not, in fact, infused with diamonds), it does glide on like a dream, it does tighten and tone (temporarily) your skin, and it does impart the dewiest, slightly shimmering sheen. By far, it's the dreamiest thing I've ever slathered all over my body.
You know how some beauty products look downright enchanting but then just don't deliver under pressure? Yeah, not the case with this cult favorite from Kopari. If pressed, I'd admit it's my favorite from the brand's luscious collection of coconut-based skincare. Shimmery but not too shimmery, it's just the antidote for any dull skin situation—be it body or face.
Magnolia, vanilla bean, orange blossom, gardenia… If any or all the above sound perfectly wondrous to you, look no further when shopping for you twinkling summer body elixir of choice. And to take things up one more octave, it also boasts a lovely ingredient list which will give you the plush, fully hydrated skin of your summertime dreams. (Think exotic things like African marula, moringa, baobab, and Kalahari melon.)
If you fall on the pale side of the spectrum (like Hallie and I) and want a touch of color (seriously, just a smidge), consider this peachy-toned self-tanning mousse from Isle of Paradise, which left both of us equally impressed. I know, I know—I said no self-tanners. But considering the almost alien-esque naturalness this one imparts (I mean that in a good way), I almost don't even consider it a self-tanner. More like a mousse-y dose of health and radiance you should surely gift your skin with this summer.
Of course, if you have darker skin, reach for the other two shades in the line—medium (aka green) or dark (aka violet). And for what it's worth, the signature self-tanner smeller (damn, you DHA) is almost undetectable with this formula.
Not to be dramatic, but when I credited the face version of this illuminating serum as "one of the most exciting discoveries of my entire life" last month, I was actually pretty serious. Infused with chia seed oil and a pretty wash of glistening sheen, it's currently my most prized item of skincare. Thus, you can imagine my delight when I discovered Maya Chia has a limited-edition version of the same potion—but for your body. Other starring ingredients include cranberry, pomegranate, sweet orange, neroli, and other luxe oils like grape-seed, borage, pumpkin, marula… Need I go on?
It's intoxicatingly pretty.
I would say that when I want the most natural of shine payoff but want to smell as if I personally just dropped down from the heavens, this is my number one go-to. When you initially squeeze it out of the tube, it comes out like a balm, but upon contact with your skin, it immediately melts into the most luxurious oil, giving your skin the most flattering of glows. Oh, and that divine scent I mentioned? It's courtesy of pink grapefruit, Australian sandalwood, and bergamot, strategically accented by argan, coconut, monoi, and grape-seed oils.
(And if you feel so inclined, you can also use it on your face or even on parched split ends to lend an extra hit of nourishment.)
This handy little tube from Victoria's Secret is a wallet-friendly option that still delivers on the spectrum of shine and universal flattery. Whenever I'm pressed for time but still want to reinvigorate my legs with a little bit of life, I'll roll this gel-lotion hybrid up and down my legs—starting at my ankle, going up to my thigh, and back down again—to disperse the product. Then, I'll rub it in. (It also makes your legs look amazing in photos.)
"In just eight hours, Sol de Janeiro's latest glowy launch sold out. The shimmery oils impart a pretty sheen along with a bit of a tint, like you were just vacationing in Ibiza," says Faith. (She and I are especially fond of this skin-transforming elixir for summer.) It does come in two shades, but Ipanema Sunset is less gold and more naturally tones in terms of its finish than its equally sparkly sister, Copacabana Bronze. Ultimately, it's up to you, your skin tone, and the hue you're after—pick your poison—either caramel-pistachio-laced formula is intoxicating.
Expertly formulated to impart the dewiest of rose-kissed glows, this new number from cult-loved brand Herbivore, graces skin with the ultimate kick of hydration and luminosity this summer. It boasts all the most coveted oils found in today's world of skincare (think camellia, jojoba, and coconut), which are delicately complemented with a non-saccharine scent of rose, orchid, and jasmine. Just make sure to give it a good shake before pumping a few healthy servings into your palm pre-application. (Some separation is to be expected.)
Next up: Did you catch our Byrdie Readers' Choice Awards? Discover all of your makeup product picks here.