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The Best Self-Tanning Lotions in 2021
Want a natural-looking tan without sun damage? Self-tanning lotion is the answer. Spending time in the sun or using tanning beds can damage your skin, but a self-tanner is an easy way to get that bronzed glow without harm.
It’s normal to be concerned about using the right self-tanning lotion. After all, anyone that has experience with a self-tanner can probably recall a zebra streak experience or an Oompa Loompa-style orange color fail. Plus, self-tanners were once associated with a very specific, not-so-pleasant aroma.
But self-tanning lotions have come a long way over the years. Now, it’s easy to find ones that provide a natural glow — no orange tones, no streaks, and no nasty odors.
Self-tanning lotions are largely personal, though. Most will give you a beautiful tan, but it’s up to individual preference to decide on using a mousse, a spray, a gradual cream, or a lotion. Most self-tanning lotions have a main ingredient of DHA, which is what gives you the tan. Anyone with dry skin may prefer a cream or lotion for additional moisture, and sprays are helpful for tanning those hard-to-reach-spots.
If you’re looking for that natural sheen, here are 15 of the best self-tanning lotions to use.
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Best overall self-tanning lotion: St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse
The St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse’s four-to-eight-hour set time is worth the wait, as it gives pale skin that summer, sun-kissed glow without orange tones or streaks.
The non-sticky, quick-dry mousse formula is easy to apply, and the resulting tan can last up to 10 days thanks to ingredients like ultra-hydrating jojoba. Plus, its musky, floral aroma ensures you won’t have that telltale self-tanner odor post-application.
Best self-tanning lotion for cellulite: Jergens Natural Glow +FIRMING Self Tanner Body Lotion
Price: $20.75, two-pack
Best for fair-to-medium skin tones and anyone with cellulite, Jergens Natural Glow Firming Self Tanner body lotion creates a subtle, gradual tan without streaks while deeply moisturizing skin.
Ingredients such as collagen, elastin, and green tea help reduce the appearance of cellulite in just seven days, leaving skin not only tanner but also smoother and visibly firmer.
Best self-tanning lotion for sensitive skin: Beauty by Earth Self Tanner
For a blotch-free, dark tan, Beauty by Earth Self Tanner is a vegan self-tanning lotion that works to deeply bronze even the fairest skin.
The chemical-free formula is ideal for sensitive skin. It has no parabens or phthalates and contains ingredients like organic aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba, and DHA for a dark, irritation-free tan.
Best gradual self-tanning lotion: Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk
This milky self-tanning lotion is best for daily use, as it gradually builds a tan that develops little-by-little with various applications. The Bondi Sands Gradual Tanning Milk has ingredients like aloe vera, vitamin E, and cocoa butter to hydrate skin as it slowly creates a natural-looking tan.
This Australian formula has a beachy coconut scent that will take you to the shores of Bondi Beach for a sun-free tanning experience.
Best self-tanning lotion and mitt kit: Bipin Self Tanner and Tanning Mitt
Price: $19.99, two-pack
Self-tanning lotion is much easier to apply evenly with a mitt, and the Bipin Self Tanner comes with a soft, velvet mitt for a simple, streak-free application.
Tans using this product take up to six hours to develop, and can last up to seven days. The sunless tanning lotion bronzes white hydrating skin and smells delicious with its sweet, inviting vanilla fragrance.
Best self-tanning lotion for face: Sun Laboratories Tan Overnight Sunless Self Tanning Lotion for Body & Face
Channel your inner sun goddess with this overnight self-tanning lotion. Although it’s safe to use on both body and face, ingredients such as vitamin E and D make it especially apt for face use, brightening and smoothing skin as it tans.
The Sun Laboratories Tan Overnight Sunless Self Tanning Lotion will fully work within eight hours (overnight), but streak-free results are slowly visible starting three hours after application.
Best organic self-tanning lotion: Botanic Tree Organic Self Tanner
Made in the USA, this organic, all-natural sunless tanner prides itself on creating the perfect sunless tan on any skin tone without looking orange. Botanic Tree Organic self-tanner absorbs into skin quickly without staining clothes or sheets.
Ingredients such as shea butter and organic fruit extracts hydrate and soften skin for a moisturized, healthy-looking tan. The product contains no parabens or toxic chemicals for natural bronzed hydration.
Best fast-drying self-tanning lotion: Mine Tan.Body.Skin. Express Self Tanner in Caramel
For a golden finish, the Mine Express Tanner in caramel is perfect for those wanting a fast-drying, medium color glow. The foaming product, best for anyone wanting a very natural-looking tan, dries in just one hour.
Free from sulfates, parabens, palm oil, and mineral oil, it’s safe for all skin types, even sensitive skin. And with ingredients like coconut oil, avocado oil, and vitamin E, it moisturizes and smooths skin as it tans.
Best self-tanning lotion mist: L’Oreal Paris Skincare Sublime Bronze Self Tanning Mist
The L’Oreal Paris Skincare Sublime Bronze Self Tanning Mist has an angled applicator that helps spread the mist to all those hard-to-reach spots for a streak-free application. In just two to four hours, a smooth and even sunless tan develops.
The fast-drying product is best for those wanting an all-over face and body tan. The spray mist ensures the self-tanner is eventually distributed for a perfect glow.
Best hydrating self-tanning lotion: Tan Physics True Color Sunless Tanner Tanning Lotion
With a neutral scent and easy spray applicator, this tanning mist gives users a natural and glowing tan.
The Tan Physics True Color Sunless Tanner not only tans, but also hydrates skin with key ingredients like coconut oil, organic aloe vera, and argan oil. Natural caramel and sugars make for an even, beautiful tan, and the hydrolyzed collagen helps skin appear plump and youthful.
Best instant self-tanning lotion: Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Body Mousse
Even those with fair skin can get a flawless bronze color with the Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sunless Tanning Mousse. The lightweight texture makes it easy to apply, and the product will darken even the lightest skin tones to a natural tan.
For those that desire a deeper tan, use the Jergens self-tanning mousse each day to watch the color increase and darken. The mousse, which has a pleasant, tropical scent dries in just 60 seconds.
Best streak-free self-tanning lotion: Jergens Natural Glow 3-Day Self Tanner Lotion
This moisturizer gradually tans over the course of a few days with daily use, creating a golden tan without orangey lines or streaks. It’s meant to be used as both a regular moisturizer and a self-tanning lotion that deeply penetrates skin for a hydrated, natural-looking glow.
Formulated with antioxidants and vitamin E, this Jergen self-tanning lotion keeps skin soft and smooth and even helps maintain a natural tan for longer, too.
Best self-tanning lotion for anti-aging: Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Self Tanner Mousse
This fast-drying vegan bronzing tanner mousse has anti-cellulite and anti-aging ingredients like amino acids, raw virgin coconut, and natural botanicals to infuse skin with moisture and fight hyperpigmentation while creating a natural tan.
Fruity ingredients like fig, banana, and papaya work together to treat wrinkles and signs of aging — and give the self-tanning lotion a delicious fruity smell, too.
Best dark self-tanning lotion: Mine Tan. Body Skin Express Dark Self Tanner Treatment Foam
The Mine Express Dark Self Tanner Foam has quad bronzing tan activating intensifiers to darken even lighter skin tones without turning skin orange. Appropriate for both face and body, the vegan self-tanner uses ingredients like grapeseed oil, coconut oil, and vitamin E to darken and hydrate skin without clogging pores.
The sustainable tanning foam uses 100% natural DHA and even the packaging is made from recycled materials.
Our Hot Take
Self-tanning lotions have come a long way over the years, but they aren’t all created equal. It’s important to consider factors such as skin tone, skin imperfections, desired level of tan, and how quickly you’d like to see results when shopping for a self-tanner.
For those with fairer skin or anyone needing extra hydration, a gradual release self-tanner that doubles as a moisturizer is a solid bet. It’s easier to build a streak-free, even tan with a gradual self-tanner, so it’s also a great choice for beginners. Anyone with skin concerns like aging should consider using a self-tanning lotion with additional ingredients that nourish skin and prevent wrinkles.
Self-tanner is largely a personal choice; some might prefer a foam formula, others a mousse, spray, or cream. Just like perfume or other skincare products, certain scents might appeal to others. But when choosing the best self-tanning lotion, just make sure to select a product with an active ingredient of DHA to ensure that you’ll actually become tanner. Beyond that, any other ingredients that give you a healthy glow and address additional skin concerns are icing on the cake.
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