Your Shopping Guide to the Best Self Tanner (That Won’t Leave You Orange)

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Self-tanning at home takes some practice, a little know-how and finding the right product for you. Thankfully, we have many more options to choose from now that are much better smelling and easier to handle than the ones we used back in high school. Of the hundreds of formulas out there, we've narrowed it down to 25 picks—from buttery lotions to airy mousses and easily totable wipes. Rest assured, no matter which one you go with, each of these self-tanners were chosen for their ability to deliver non-streaky, natural-looking color.

The Best Self Tanner at a Glance

Self-Tanning Tips and Tricks Only an Expert Celebrity Tanner Would Know

Best Overall

This bestselling brand has pretty much become synonymous with the words “self-tanner.” With a nod of approval from the golden goddess herself, Gisele Bündchen, it’s as foolproof as these things go thanks to the lightweight mousse formula. Apply it using the applicator mitt for a smooth, streak-free tan that lasts up to ten days.

The Drugstore Classic

This airy mousse is a longtime favorite for self-tanners everywhere thanks to its spreadable texture and quick dry down. Just pump it into your palms and smooth it over your skin, taking care not to apply too much around drier areas like your knees, elbows and ankles. The mousse dries down within a minute or so and the subtle tint is immediately visible with the color deepening over the next few hours. “This stuff is awesome and so underrated in my opinion,” says one fan. “I'd definitely recommend this for people with naturally lighter skin tones who want a dark tan that actually looks natural,” she adds. It's available in two colors: Light Bronze and Deep Bronze.

Best for Beginners

It’s hard to find fault with this drugstore fave. For starters, it has a clear, transfer-proof mousse formula that disappears into your skin as soon as you apply it, so you don’t get any staining, streaking or sticky feeling. There’s also coconut water and vitamin E in the formula, so it softens skin while giving you an even, natural-looking tan over the next four to eight hours. As one reviewer described, “it applies like water so you can literally wipe it all over your body like water, unlike a cream. Creams tend to stick too much to dry or creased areas causing that blotchy look. This didn't leave ANY blotchy areas. I like that it's buildable and doesn't just give an instant medium or dark tan, so you manage your level of intensity. This is one of the easiest and nicest tanners I've used.”

Best for Face

If a face cream and a self-tanner had a child, it would be this newly launched moisturizer from Coola. Easily incorporated into your daily routine, this lightweight formula is equal parts skincare (with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalene and green tea extract) and a natural DHA (which is the active tanning ingredient) that’s derived from sugar beet. As one reviewer explains: “I was very skeptical at first but I'm happy to have tried this moisturizer. It absorbs quickly and I love how it makes my face look naturally tan, hydrated and soft.”

Fastest Application

If you’re looking for a quick boost of color without the hassle or mess, try this lightweight mist. The mist itself sprays on evenly and dries quickly without dripping down your skin so you can get on with your day. As one Sephora reviewer raved: “The perfect self tanner doesn’t exi—Where do I begin? If you’re someone who procrastinates tanning because it’s tedious and time consuming, this is the answer to your prayers. Tanning takes ten minutes max with this."

Least Likely to Transfer

Our very own fashion editor, Abby Hepworth, is a fan of this self-tanning water because it makes her look like she “just spent a quick weekend sunning in the Hamptons.” Formulated with organic tanning actives and avocado, chia seed and coconut oils, it’s as hydrating as it is bronzing. Another key factor to note is that this self-tanner uses a color corrective approach to help users better customize their glow to their skin tone. The peach water has skin brightening properties, the green (shown above) reduces redness and the violet water cuts down on sallow undertones. According to Abby, there are “no streaks, no gross leftover smell and, perhaps most importantly, no signs that I would soon turn orange.” Oh, and because the formula is close-to-clear, it doesn’t leave bronze streaks on your clothes or bedding.

Best for Pale Skin

“I'm pretty pale normally, so I didn't want anything super drastic. This gives you a very healthy, glowy tan without looking fake,” says one reviewer (which was a shared sentiment among many of this tanning serum’s fans). With a sheer, lightweight formula and a pearlescent shimmer that instantly brightens skin, this formula uses sugar-beet derived DHA (the active ingredient that tans skin) to build a post-vacation glow that you can build on for more intensity. Another major plus is that it’s not messy. “I don't even need to wear gloves to apply it, I just wash my hands after the application and my hands and nails look perfectly fine,” says another user.

Best for a Deep Tan

It’s safe to say that the Aussies know a thing or two about tanning. This import from down unda promises “the ultimate Australian tan in minutes,” meaning a deeply bronzed glow. Using an applicator mitt, smooth the foam over your legs, arms and body in long, quick sweeping motions. Note: This formula is stickier than some and you have to be careful not to get your skin wet for at least an hour, after which point you can shower with warm water and gently pat dry to finish. An expert self-tanner extolled this formula saying it gave her “the deepest darkest color [she] has ever seen in [her] entire life.”

Best for Travel

Fans of the dermatologist’s daily exfoliating pads will appreciate that these come in similar, single-use packets that are easy to toss into a bag. To use, simply swipe the textured towel across clean, dry skin in circular motions; the color will begin to develop within an hour. The multitasking wipes also have other skincare benefits, like exfoliating dead skin and preventing blemishes thanks to lactic acid in the formula.

10. Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel

Best for Oily Skin

One of the OGs of the self-tanning game, this lightweight gel has garnered legions of loyal fans for its golden, never orange results. The smooth consistency and fast absorption make it a favorite for folks who don’t like the slick feeling that some other formulas give. As one reviewer describes, it’s “easy, no gloves, no tricks and gimmicks, gives great color with no spots or streaks” and it “fades evenly,” even as you shower and exfoliate.

Best for Dry Skin

Packed with 100 percent pure argan oil and coconut water, this liquid gold nourishes parched limbs while the natural DHA in the formula builds into a soft, caramel-toned tan within hours. The subtle scent is pleasant, and we appreciate that each bottle comes with a velvety soft mitt to ensure a streak-free (and enjoyable) application. Fans of this hydrating oil also noted that it it does not wear off in a patchy way, but rather it fades gradually and evenly.

Most Customizable

If you want to ease into self-tanning, we’d recommend these customizable drops. Add anywhere between two and six drops with your usual moisturizer and apply it to your skin in circular motions. The more drops you use, the deeper the color. (Just make sure to wash your hands well after applying.) The formula has raspberry seed oil, vitamin E and aloe vera, which hydrates skin as well. Longtime users recommend using the drops “sparingly over the course of two or three applications,” adding no more than one to two drops each time for the most natural looking results.

Best Budget

At just under eight bucks a tube, it’s the most cost-effective self-tanner of the bunch—it’s also incredibly easy to use. As the name implies, you apply it in the shower, just after you’ve rinsed off and are getting ready to step out. Simply massage it over your skin as you would a body lotion, rubbing it in thoroughly using circular motions. Pat your skin dry and wash your hands to finish. Don’t just take our word for it though; there are over 5,000 glowing reviews on Amazon alone praising the budget bronzer for its “natural color” and “lovely scent.”

Best Scent

This decadent lotion acts as a hydrating base that will accelerate your natural tan, so you get a deeper bronze while spending less time in the sun. As such, we do recommend layering a sunscreen before applying this to ensure you’re still getting protection from UV rays. The formula features coconut, argan and kukui nut oils, as well as Kona coffee plant extract, which give it a silky texture and delicious scent that several reviewers described as “chocolatey.”

Best for Acne-Prone Skin

If you frequently deal with breakouts below your neck (i.e., bacne and chestne), this spray tanner is a safe choice. It’s oil-free and non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores, and it has witch hazel to soothe skin. We also like the micromist formula that gives you an even application without the need to rub or massage on and it sprays at all angles so you can better reach your back. Make sure you spray in a well-ventilated area and keep the nozzle at least six inches away from your skin to ensure a subtle, even glow.

best self tanner vita liberata
Ulta Beauty

Best for Sensitive Noses

One the biggest complaints that comes with self-tanners, in general, is the slightly burned scent it gives off as it develops. Though it’s difficult to find one that eliminates that odor completely, this lotion comes the closest thanks to their “Odour Remove™ Technology” and organic, non-toxic ingredients. The creamy formula applies clear like a lotion and gradually builds into a subtle tan without staining your clothes or bedding. The only knock, according to one user, is that “it is perhaps a little too subtle,” in case you’re expecting a bigger color payoff.

Best for Sensitive Skin

If you’re looking for more color with fewer chemicals, this paraben-, phthalate- and synthetic fragrance-free formula is a solid bet. Instead, the creamy lotion is loaded with ingredients like shea butter and sweet almond oil to smooth and soothe easily irritated skin, while delivering a nice, golden glow. One fan claimed that it feels “like you’re putting on regular lotion except you end up with a natural looking color” that doesn’t look splotchy or streaky. “I even use it on my face and doesn't irritate my skin or cause breakouts,” raves another.

Cleanest Ingredients

If you're conscious about the ingredients in your products, try this UK import, which uses an Ecocert approved DHA, derived from sugar beet, to deliver a healthier (and healthy-looking) tan. Boosted with aloe vera, coconut oil, shea butter and jojoba, it moisturizes skin, while giving you a streak-free bronze. “I have a tendency to get eczema on my legs and this has been hydrating,” says one reviewer.

Longest Lasting

Another hit from this Irish import, this long-lasting mousse goes on smoothly without streaking and has little to no scent. It dries quickly, comes in three shades (dark, medium or fair) for your desired level of tan and promises to last anywhere between two and three weeks, as its name implies, before fading subtly like a natural tan would. “This stuff looks very natural and does not fade in a spotty way,” agrees one longtime user.

The Amazon Favorite

With a whopping nearly 9,000 reviews on Amazon, this top selling tanner has a cleaner formula than most (mostly organic ingredients like organic shea butter, aloe vera leaf juice, witch hazel extract and jojoba seed oil to name a few) and a “thick texture that goes on slightly white so you can see where you’ve put it.” According to fans, it has a “nice light coconut/vanilla scent” that’s “not as strong a smell as some self-tanners” and it develops into a “very natural tan color” that takes you “from ghostly to golden.” Given the thicker consistency, it does require some extra rubbing in, but rest assured, the additional effort is worth the glow.

Best for Tanning-phobes

If you’re more than a bit wary of trying self-tanner, you can always give this lightweight (and temporary) bronzing serum a go. Infused with hyaluronic acid and squalene, the multitasker revives dull complexions and blurs any redness with a few drops, while also protecting your skin with SPF 30. For more color, simply add more drops.

Best Texture

Originally launched as a limited edition product, the brand decided to keep this tanning butter in permanent rotation after receiving glowing feedback from their online community. The creamy formula is packed with ingredients like coconut and avocado oils to hydrate dry skin, while imparting a streak-free finish. One heads up though: This product does have a shimmer to it (which will become apparent if you step into the sun).

Best Kit

If you’re looking for a one-and-done sitch, we love this limited-edition collaboration between St. Tropez and Ashley Graham, which includes a tanning mousse and an applicator mitt. Loyalists of the brand’s OG formula (see above) will appreciate the richer, creamier texture of this formula, as well as the hydrating finish thanks to the addition of rosehip oil and vitamin E. As one reviewer shared: “I've been a user of the original St. Tropez for about seven years now. I will hands down say that this variety is better than the original. This has more of a true thick mousse texture vs. the original, making it easier to apply without streaks. The mitt glove is also a fluffier softer version vs. their traditional mitt. I found this mitt to help extremely in making the mousse apply more evenly. I didn't think St. Tropez could get better but I'm blown away!”

Best for Experienced Tanners

Fun fact: This Australian import is the top-selling tanning brand globally. Their hero product is this super lightweight aerosol foam. Beloved for its fast drying formula and fresh coconut scent, it absorbs almost instantaneously (which is why we’d recommend it for more experienced tanners who can work quickly with their mitts before the formula settles into the skin).

Best Splurge

Leave it to a luxe skincare brand like Sisley to turn self-tanning into a spa experience. With a plush, velvety mitt and an equally plush, skin-moisturizing formula, this cream has a nice slip to it and keeps skin moisturized and radiant, while imparting a golden glow that doesn’t look too dark or orange. Hibiscus flower extract in the formula gently exfoliates so you get a more even tan.

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...