The Top 5 Self-Tanning Products for a UV-Free Natural Glow

top self tanners

Last Updated on July 1, 2024

There’s something about natural sunkissed skin that immediately makes us feel more youthful and vibrant as we soak up the summer days and all the fun that comes with them. That glowing amber tan makes us appear more vibrant and alluring in those string bikinis and flowing sundresses. 

Unfortunately, extended exposure to sunlight – enough to tan your skin – is also associated with long-term skin damage, including skin cancer and early signs of aging like sun spots and wrinkles.

How can you achieve your natural glow without the risk of all that UV radiation beaming through your dermis? The answer is, of course, self-tanning products. These products add a modest yet beautiful tint to your skin that looks like you have basked your entire body in the sunshine while skipping harmful rays. Not to mention, you have complete control over your tan lines – or sensual lack thereof.

Let’s explore the top five self-tanning products for summer 2024.

What is a Self-Tanner?

A self-tanner or self-tanning product is a pigment lotion or serum that helps darken your skin without sunshine or tanning beds. It’s not like paint; the tan sets in over a few hours. Self-tanner is gently applied to the skin with broad wipes. The tanner then sets, and you can shower one to three hours later to reveal your final color.

Most self-tanners last three days to a week at most, giving you a brief vacation-ready glow that fades quickly enough to recover from mistakes if you are a self-tanning beginner. Self-tanners can come in lotions, spray, foaming mousse, or loaded into disposable fabric wipes.

What to Look For in a Self-Tanner

When looking for the best self-tanning product for you, it’s important to compare a few key features. Each self-tanner is different, both in your application experience and in the final effect. We can spotlight six key aspects of self-tanners that will help you determine which tanner is “best in class” for all the important features.

Color Transfer

Does the tanner color transfer to your clothes after you put it on? Many of the best self-tanners are quick-drying, so you can safely change clothes after application without ruining your favorite jammies with tan-colored stains.

Color Shade

Tanners tend to come in a wide range of colors to help you find that sweet spot between your natural skin tone and the tan you want. However, some brands only have one color. These tend to be bold dark tans or gradual tans where you can build the color, which brings us to the next point.

Buildable Color

Buildable color tans gently darken each layer so you can build to the tan you want. A single application gives you a soft sunkissed glow, while a more liberal application can give you a deeper summer tan.

Tinted Guide Color

Self-tanners have an over-time effect, where the longer it sets, the darker you tan up to the product’s maximum. However, some formulas have a “guide color” showing you the approximate shade during application, while others don’t. Beginners should always choose products with a guide color so you can achieve even distribution until muscle memory kicks in, and you can use products without a guide color.

Beneficial Skin Formula

Does the product contain ingredients that are good for your skin? There are drying and non-drying tanners, but there are also tanners with bonus goodies like vitamin E, aloe vera, etc., that give your skin a health boost at the same time.

Lasting Duration

Finally, how long does the tanner last? Like many “summer temporary” looks, most tanners fade within a few days or a week at most. Longer-lasting tanners are ideal if you want to avoid re-applying all season, but even these last only a short time.

  1. Best Tanner For Beginners: Vita Liberata Tanning Mousse
For Beginners
Vita Liberata Clear Mousse for Natural Tan Looking Result, With Organic Botanicals, Fast drying, Hydrating Formula for Long Lasting Tan, 6.76 Oz
$35.00 ($5.18 / Fl Oz)

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
07/01/2024 08:24 pm GMT

If you’re new to self-tanning, we suggest you start with the Vita Liberata Tanning Mousse. It has a color tint to guide the application with a buildable color design, so you can choose the exact tan you want as you go along. Unlike most tanners, this product is not intensely perfumed for those who prefer unscented skincare products, and it comes in two shades: medium and dark. 

Vita Liberata also has good lasting quality, reaching 3-4+ days when tested. The mousse foam applies evenly without drips or streaks, giving a nice, even tan, and dries without a sticky or heavy sensation on your skin. The formula also does not color-transfer once completely dry, which doesn’t take very long.

This formula is for beginners and is still a favorite for long-time self-tanner users.

      2. Best Tidy Tanner: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads

Best Tidy Tanner
Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad Intense Glow for Face: for Dull Skin Lacking Radiance & Glow, (20 Towelettes)

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
07/01/2024 08:27 pm GMT

Check out the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads if you want a no-mess tanning product. The entire tanning formula is contained in a large damp towelette, which applies a smooth, easy layer of tanner to your skin: no drips, no streaks, and no question about whether you missed a spot. 

The application is super convenient and fast, and it’s a great solution if you need to keep your tan up during a longer summer vacation. The scent of each towelette is light and fresh, and the formula can help fight blackheads in addition to providing a nice tan. The tan tends to last longer, often over four days, before noticeably fading. You should know there is no guiding color tint, and the tan has a deeper glow than you might expect after curing. It’s an instant tan in a little packet with zero cleanup.

Testers advise at least two wipes to cover your entire body, but just one if you’re only worried about your face, chest, arms, and legs.

     3. Best Overall Tanner Experience: Bondi Sands SelfTanning Foam

Best Experience
Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam | Lightweight, Self-Tanner Foam Enriched with Aloe Vera and Coconut Provides an Even, Streak-Free Tan | 6.76 oz/200 mL
$21.80 ($3.22 / Fl Oz )

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
07/01/2024 08:29 pm GMT

Bondi Sands SelfTanning Foam gets an honorable mention and is a favorite from multiple online reviewers for the season. It provides a positive overall experience, ranking above average in every category.

This self-tanning foam goes on smoothly and even, assisting in a streak-free shine. It also dries quickly, minimizing the risk of color transfer so you can get back into your pajamas within a few minutes of application. It has a strong coconut smell, but that’s normal for most self-tanners. In fact, it’s the signature self-tanner scent.

Bondi Sands also gets kudos for a skin-beneficial formula that doesn’t dry you out and fades evenly. Unlike others with only one or two options, this product offers a great selection of shades so you can match your tan to your skin tone and desired tan darkness.

    4. Best Speedy Self-Tanner: Jergens No Wait Tropical Tan Mousse

Fastest Tanner
Sol by Jergens, Sunless Self Tanner Mousse, No Wait Tropical Tan, Instant Color No Transfer, 5 Minute Tan, Medium, Cruelty Free, Vegan, Suitable for Sensitive Skin, 5 Oz
$24.98 ($5.00 / Fl Oz)

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
07/01/2024 08:36 pm GMT

If you want to set your tan quickly and know the final shade without a long wait, your best bet is Jergens No Wait Tropical Tan Mousse. True to its name, you’ll see the effects quickly without hours of waiting for the tan to set in. It comes in medium and dark, and the fast-setting formula allows you to darken your shade much more quickly. 

Jergens doesn’t have a problem with color transfer, and the color lasts for at least three days before fading is noticeable. Testers report that the application is super easy, but you will need to buy a separate application glove because it doesn’t come with one.

     5. Best Drugstore Tanner: L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Water Mist

Best Drugstore Find
L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Self Tanning Facial Mist, Water-Based Formula, Coconut Water & Vitamin E, 3 fl. Oz
$14.80 ($4.93 / Fl Oz)

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
07/01/2024 08:37 pm GMT

If you find yourself on a sudden adventure and need a self-tanner, you won’t have to special order L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Mist. This product can be found in many local drugstores, including Walgreens and Target. The bottle is well-designed, and the spray goes on evenly despite the reputation of spray bottle tans. Spray can be a little challenging for beginners, but L’Oreal did a good job with the product bottle and spray top design to ease the learning process.

This formula is also surprisingly long-lasting for an emergency drugstore buy, lasting up to five days or more.  It comes in one shade, but you can build that shade over time. Plus, it’s infused with Vitamin E to nourish your skin at the same time.

Like it? Share with your friends!