The 14 Best Self-Tanners on the Market Today

01
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Which Self Tanners Work Best?

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From left: Getty Images, Decleor and Kate Somerville

Ever since a bronzed Coco Chanel came back from a Mediterranean vacation in the 1920s and made the tan the hottest fashion accessory, women have been going ga-ga over golden skin and these self-tanners will allow you to get a golden glow without the damaging effects of the sun.

But first, here are a few application tips to ensure your color is even, smooth, and long-lasting:

  • Most tanners give you a few shade options. If you are fair, do not choose a darker option or your bronzed skin will look fake, fake, fake.
  • Always exfoliate before applying self-tanner.
  • Most self-tanners are buildable, meaning you should apply a few days in a row to get a deeper tan, but some tanners will give you immediate color.
  • To keep the color from darkening on your knees, heels, and elbows, we highly recommend moisturizing those areas first. If you are a pro self-tanner, invest in XEN TAN Blending Balm, you won't regret the purchase. Buy it from Amazon.com.
  • After you apply a cream, gel or spray, expect the "tan" to take 2-4 hours to develop.
  • Apply a luminizing cream or highlighter for extra glow.

02
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Tanwise Self Tanning Lotion or Mousse, $18

This one is so beloved because, unlike other self-tanners that will streak in the rain or wash off in one shower, the color stays on "forever." It does, however, go on very dark and must be blended quickly or it will stain in streaks.

Our advice: try this because it's so great. But wear gloves to apply.

03
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Banana Boat Sunless Summer Color Self Tanning Lotion, $8.50

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Banana Boat

For an inexpensive self-tanner, Banana Boat's Sunless Summer Color Self Tanning Lotion doesn't streak, dries quickly and allows for a deep tan without the damaging effects of the sun. You can use it on your body or face. Pictured here is the deep dark color, but there are lighter options for those of us with fairer skin.

This is the top-selling and best-rated self-tanner on Drugstore.com.​ Buy it from Amazon.

04
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St. Moriz Self Tanning Spray in Medium, $7

St. Moritz Self Tanning Mousse. Amazon.com

This is another highly recommended self-tanner. Make sure to either buy one that comes with a mitt or buy the mitt separately. The color goes on without streaking, leaves a gorgeous, natural shade and lasts a long time.​ Buy it from Amazon.

 

05
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James Read Self Tan Express Glow Mask Face, $38

James Read self tanner for the face
James Read Self Tan Express Glow Mask Face. Amazon.com

So you want to tan your face and not just your body. Can you reach for your favorite self-tanner for the body? Not so fast. While some self-tanners are formulated for both, we recommend trying a self-tanner created just for the face.

Why? You may prefer a more subtle tan on your face that's guaranteed not to streak. Texture is also important.  For your body, a thicker texture is welcome, but for the face, it's nice to have a more sheer texture that goes on more smoothly. James Read makes a great self-tanner for the face. Buy it from Amazon.

06
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Australian Gold Faces Sheer Coverage Kona Infused, SPF 45, $8.99

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You get so much in one loud package: self-tanning cream, bronzer and sunscreen (SPF 45). Don't let the obnoxious packaging fool you, this stuff is highly rated for providing instant glow while keeping skin from burning.

The secret to this product is that it's buildable and will leave you glowing over the course of 2-3 days of applications. Added bonus: it's water-resistant, so you can swim and sweat with no worry. Plus, users report it smells divinely tropical.​ Buy from Amazon.

07
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Nature's Gate Glow Lotion, Medium Skin Tones, $13.99

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Nature's Gate

We love this self-tanner because it's one that works well and gets rave reviews but also has no parabens, phthalates or petrolatum. It's also super moisturizing because it contains seven moisturizing ingredients including shea butter, apricot kernel oil, soybean oil, vitamin E and sweet almond oil.​ Buy from Amazon.com.

08
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L'Oreal Sublime Glow for the Body, $11.49

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L'Oreal Sublime Glow. L'Oreal

This is a great, inexpensive gradual tanner. Testers found it best to apply product over the course of a couple days so the tan could gradually grow darker. Apply after you exfoliate in the shower and apply a thin layer of moisturizer.

Overall, testers loved the shimmer it leaves behind and the price. Some found the smell inoffensive while others found it strong. One con is the product tends to be runny and many testers would have preferred a pump. Still, this is a quality self-tanner for the money.​ Buy from Amazon.

09
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Laura Mercier Bronzing Gel for the Face, $32

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Laura Mercier Bronzing Gel. Laura Mercier

Unlike other self-tanners, Laura Mercier's bronzing gel is meant to be used to enhance the tan on the face. The company suggests dabbing a bit on AFTER tinted moisturizer and BEFORE powders.

A bit pricier than M.A.C. and other bronzers on the market, testers found it's well worth the price. This bronzer provides a "just tanned" look with a touch of rose. Warms the skin and adds a spark of shimmer.​ Buy from Amazon.com.

10
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St. Tropez Whipped Bronze Self-Tanning Mousse for Face and Body, $32

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St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse. St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse

This salon brand is beloved by celebs including Elle MacPherson. You apply this and within a few hours, you'll have a deep, naturally-looking tan. This is not a gradual self-tanner. Because the product is fast-acting and dries quickly, testers recommend using the pad that St. Tropez makes for their self-tanners. 

Testers found their tan deepened over three hours. Testers also found that Whipped Bronze has a more pleasant fragrance than other self-tanners they tried. Ideal for the entire body, including the face.  Buy from Amazon.

11
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Tantowel Plus Self Tanning Towelettes, $22

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Tantowel Towelettes have been around for a while and continue to be beloved for providing a hands-on tan in wipe form without costing a fortune (Kate Somerville makes a pricey popular tan towel, too). You'll love how easy it is to apply—simply wipe on and go. Plus, it has a great citrus scent. Some women report you can put the towel back in the packaging and reuse it again and again. The tan gradually builds over a couple hours. 

Some reviewers report the tan doesn't last as long as pricier versions.​ Buy it online from Amazon.

12
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'Aroma Sun Expert' Self-Tanning Milk Natural Glow, $36

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Decleor

You'll find Decleor products to be one of the best and least pungent self-tanners you'll try. Testers found the product to be almost perfect: Hydrating (cheaper tanners will dry skin out), non-streaking, natural, no orange color and with a bit of shimmer. Like all self-tanners, Decleor products do smell. The tanning agents are 100 percent organic and are suitable for face as well as body.​ Buy it from Amazon.

13
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Clarins Liquid Bronze Self-Tanner for the Face, $37

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Clarins

The highest rated and most loved Clarins self-tanner on Makeupalley.com. Reviewers raved about the ease of use, didn't complain about the smell and said the product worked great on oily skin.​ Buy it online from Amazon.

14
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Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel, $37

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Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel. Clarins

You can't go wrong with any of Clarins' self-tanning products. All of them get great reviews on the various sites we researched when looking for the best products. But of all the gels and creams, this particular self-tanning gel from Clarins gets the most reviews. It's beloved for giving skin a soft glow without being obvious. It's lightweight, non-oily and dries quickly so you don't have to wait before dressing. Users recommend exfoliating first before applying.​ Buy it online from Amazon.

15
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Kate Somerville Tanning Towelettes, $48

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Kate Somerville Tanning Towelettes. Kate Somerville

Kate Somerville's Tanning Towelettes are the luxe version of Tantowels. They are more expensive but reviewers report the "tan" lasts much longer than the tans you get from cheaper towelettes. You won't get streaking and you can reapply as needed for a deeper tan.

Like with many self-tanners, your bronzed glow will take 2-4 hours to develop after you apply, so keep that in mind if you want to glow at an event.​ Buy it online from Amazon.