Self Tanner

The Best Self Tanners

Last Updated: August 14, 2023

The quest for a golden, sun-kissed glow has never been easier, thanks to self tanners. Gone are the days of orange streaks and uneven tones; today’s self tanners are formulated to provide natural-looking tans with the comfort and convenience of home application. From lotions and mousses to sprays and oils, the range of options is extensive, catering to various skin types and tanning desires. Find the perfect self-tanner to match your skin tone and tanning goals with this comprehensive guide, whether you want a subtle bronze or deep tropical tan.

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If you’re in a hurry, check out our top pick:

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If you don’t want to read through the whole article and just want our recommendations, here they are:

Best Self Tanners

  1. Skinerals Californium​ – Editor’s Choice
  2. Beauty By Earth Self Tanner – Top Pick
  3. Tan Towel – Best Towelette 
  4. Fake Bake Flawless – Best Pump Spray
  5. Sun Laboratories Ultra Dark Lotion​ – Best for Fair Skin
  6. Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun​ – Best Budget Buy
  7. St. Tropez Self Tan Express
  8. Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam
  9. Miami Gorgeous LaPlaya Glow
  10. Fake Bake Flawless Darker

Self Tanning Tips

Before we get into our list, let’s get a few things out of the way. With using any self-tanning product, some measures are just standard practice and a must-do to achieve your best tan, these are:

  1. Always prep your skin first before applying your self-tanner, i.e., shower and exfoliate your skin and keep your skin hydrated the days before and after.
  2. When using self-tanners, limit your activity after application even after it dries. Self tanners continue to work overtime to gradually develop your tan so there are many things that can disrupt the coverage; sweating and rubbing against furniture, getting in and out of your car especially while wearing clothes can rub away the self-tanner so that you arrive at a blotchy and or streaky looking tan.
  3. Apply lotion on body parts that bend and crease such as the elbows, knees, wrists, and knuckles. The self-tanner will make these areas look darker than is needed and quite unattractive when it’s done developing.
  4. To prolong and maintain your tan, moisturize daily, exfoliate regularly and reapply the self-tanner as frequently as desired.

Now let’s get to it:

Award Winners

Editors’ Choice

Skinerals Californium

Skinerals Californium

at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $21

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  • It gives you a great sun kissed glow making your skin look toned and healthy
  • Safe for sensitive skin users
  • Little mess
  • Thin consistency makes it challenging to arrive at evenness during application
  • A bottle of this light foam type tanner doesn’t last as long as other lotion and cream types
  • Not much moisturizing effects

Skinerals Californium is an uber-effective self tanner that concentrates on using pure and natural skin nourishing ingredients to produce a high degree of care for your skin. It has our seal of approval for one of the highest-ranking self-tanners there is.

This self-tanner is a dark brown liquid that comes with a foam dispenser bottle. We suggest two pumps per application until you have covered the areas you want to get color and use with a mitten for best results.

The foam goes on smooth and easy and dries pretty quickly too. Its super lightweight formula makes it tolerable to leave on your skin for a couple of hours before showering; you also want to do this so that it fully penetrates and stains your skin to maximize the staying power. Your tan can last as long as six days before it begins to fade!

Read: Full Review

Top Pick: Self tanning lotion

Beauty By Earth Self Tanner

Beauty By Earth Self Tanner
Top Pick 200x56

at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $29

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  • Lots of healthy and natural ingredients (i.e., aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, argan oil, green tea and witch hazel)
  • Rich Moisturizer
  • Good for sensitive skin users
  • Lovely scent of a coconut and vanilla mixture
  • Palm staining – since there is no color you may forget to wash your hands
  • Short-lived scent
  • Not tinted to provide a proper color guide during application

We love Beauty by Earth for a number of reasons. For one, it gives the most dramatic yet natural looking tan you can achieve from a self- tanner.

The cream has a rich texture that not only goes on smooth but also leaves your skin feeling conditioned and soft after every use.

The color of the lotion is white, so there is no mess or color transfer to worry about. Once applied it develops and darken your skin tone to a rich bronzed looking sheen.

You should see your complexion significantly darken after about 2 hours and reaches its peak at 6 hours, after which you can shower. The great thing about Beauty by Earth and pretty much any self-tanner is that you can re-apply as many times as is desired to reach darker intensities of color.

Read: Full Review

Top Pick: Best Towelette

Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette Classic

Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette
Top Pick 200x56

at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $24

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  • No mess
  • Easiest application ever
  • Reusable towelettes for lasting usage
  • Great to use on your face
  • Only gives a slight tan, especially with persons with very pale skin tone
  • There are user complaints of streaky and blotchy looking tan results so focus on getting good coverage when using these towelettes

Tan Towels self-tan towelettes are quick fixes to arrive at tanned looking skin especially for beginner tanners or those who just can’t be bothered with the traditional application process. The great thing about these towelettes though, is how incredibly effective they are at getting you tanned. Rest assured, it will tan your skin but don’t expect elevated results in the end. It’s definitely the most effective towelette we have experienced using, the towelette is made of a pretty good absorbable material and is very well saturated with a nicely scented tanning solution.

Read: Full Review

Top Pick: Pump Spray

Fake Bake Flawless

Fake Bake Flawless
Top Pick 200x56

at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $19

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  • Gives terrific tanning results
  • It has a lovely tropical fragrance
  • Easily dispenses through its pump spray design
  • Dries quickly
  • Watch out for color transfer while your tan develops
  • Not very water resistant – avoid scrubbing and bathing in excessively warm water and only dab a towel on wet skin to dry

Looking to get a lasting golden tan? Then Fake Bake Flawless is the answer you’re looking for. No matter what skin tone you are, this self-tanner will give you a royal looking tan to last an entire week. Let’s be clear, you will experience fading approaching the 5th or 6th day, but it tapers down gradually and evenly to lighter shades, still providing added hints of color to your normal complexion.

Fake Bake Flawless is a lightweight, dark brown solution that dispenses from a pump spray bottle and is best applied with their very own professional mitten that is enclosed in the box. We suggest about 2 to 3 pumps per body area, gliding deep strokes all over. The color of the liquid serves as an excellent guide to assist in getting you even coverage. Allow the tan to develop for roughly 4 to 6 hours before showering, upon which the reveal of a golden sun-kissed tan will emerge.

Read: Full Review

Top Pick for Fair Skin

Sun Laboratories Ultra Dark Lotion

Sun Laboratories Self Tanning Ultra Dark Lotion
Top Pick 200x56

at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $28

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  • Significantly tans any skin type, whether pale skinned or olive colored
  • Makes you look naturally brown
  • Great scent – smells like cherries
  • Applies easily
  • Can get messy, use gloves when applying and let it dry properly before wearing clothes
  • Too dark to wear on the face so reduce wait time to about 30 minutes then wash the lotion off – continue to do this until a natural looking color is achieved

This is another quality brand of self-tanning lotion; Sun Laboratories uses some very beneficial additives in their lotions to condition your skin. There are sweet almond oil, aloe leaf extracts and vitamins E and C to revitalize and leave your skin feeling supple and soft after every use. We find that this self-tanner has the capacity to not only give you a deep dark tan but also moisturize your skin to produce the best overall appearance of your skin. 

The Ultra Dark version of this lotion is of a brown chocolate color and has medium consistency and a good texture – it’s light and has a silky feel, which makes it apply very easily and dries pretty quickly too. When applying, make sure to adequately coat your skin, then rub the mixture in a massaging method to avoid arriving at an uneven and streaky looking tan.

Read: Full Review

Best Budget Buy

Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun

Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun
Budget Buy 200x56

at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $10

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  • An affordable and effective sunless tanner
  • Gives you a rich bronzed tan
  • Trusted brand
  • Super light foam texture makes it harder to spread evenly over skin
  • Doesn’t last very long – fades after three days
  • Not recommended to use on your face

Good ol’ Jergens never disappoints, this instant glow natural sun self-tanner will get the job done and on a budget — it only costs 10 bucks on Amazon and pretty much the same at your local drugstore.

Jergens sunless tanner will give you a natural bronzed sun kissed skin tone easily after 4 hours; however, you will begin to see color transformations in as little as 30 minutes.

The mixture pumps out a very light foam puff, you will need to add about three pumps to your mitten or your hands if you prefer, and smooth over your skin then massage until it is completely absorbed. Avoid going over the same areas of your body and try to blend the mixture in a good as possible to not cause unevenness.

Best Of The Rest

St. Tropez Self Tan Express

St. Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse

at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $44

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  • Gives you a great color with little effort
  • Moderately lightweight formula enhances the application process
  • Fast acting and quick results
  • The tan doesn’t last very long, especially if you wash off after the first hour or so.
  • No skin nourishing elements to condition or moisturize your skin
  • It comes with a pretty hefty price tag

The San Tropez Express formula is crafted to speed up the tanning process time to just 1 hour. Gone are the days of waiting around for 4, 5 or even 6 hours to arrive at the perfect looking skin tone. If you are skeptical about what the makers of this self-tanner promise, then we’ve got news for you – they are spot on.

Users can depend on arriving at a beautiful and natural looking tan in rapid time with San Tropez Self Tan Express. This self-tanner dispenses in the form of a brown colored mousse with very good consistency to give you good coverage when applying. We recommend using a glove or tanning mitten and rub the solution thoroughly unto your skin to maximize the look of your tan.

Once applied the solution quickly absorbs into your skin and proceeds to darken your complexion. After an hour you will see a light hue cast over your skin tone and gradually darkens in the 2nd and 3rd hour. Then you can shower anytime you feel that you have reached the shade that suits you the most – it’s that simple.

Read: Full Review

Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam

Bondi Sands Self-Tanning Foam

at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $30

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  • Guarantees a sun kissed bronzed tan
  • It has a rich scent of sweet coconuts
  • The foam based tanner provides smooth application
  • Dries quickly
  • Doesn’t make your skin feel moisturized after application
  • Despite their advertisement, don’t wash off after an hour, you will not see any results. Should be left on your skin for at least 4 hours

Bondi Sands made our list of top picks primarily for its self-tanning capabilities. The tan it gives you is reminiscent of a pretty good suntan that you achieve after sitting out in the sun for a couple of hours. It leaves your skin with a beautiful bronzed glow especially if applied right.

This self-tanner is not overly laden with skin conditioning ingredients. However, you should rid your skin of any lotions or creams before application. So we advise showering with an excellent moisturizing bath gel, rinse properly and dry your skin thoroughly before applying this Bondi Sands self tanning foam. Use with a mitten and rub the solution into your skin via long massaging strokes for the best results.

Read: Full Review

Miami Gorgeous LaPlaya Glow

at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $18

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  • Gives one of the best golden tans ever
  • Good moisturizer – enriched with argan oil, coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, elderflower extract vitamin C and vitamin D
  • Safe to use on your face
  • Small bottle of 4.2 oz – wish we had more
  • Dull scent
  • Very lightweight so makes coverage challenging without a mitten

Now here is a little bottle of magic potion you have to try. Miami Gorgeous LaPlaya Glow will deepen the shade of your skin to a golden hue after only one use. It doesn’t get you dark brown like some other tanners do, it merely intensifies your own pigment to a golden sun kissed glow.

It’s important to leave the solution on your skin for an extended time to reap the full benefits, we recommend the entire day if possible but no less than 6 hours.
Miami Gorgeous LaPlaya is a super lightweight formula that is dispensed in the form of foam; it spreads nicely on the skin and goes on easy. Just rub and massage the self-tanner in long broad strokes all over your body, preferably with a tanning mitten then leave it to dry.

Fake Bake Flawless Darker

Fake Bake Flawless with Mitt

at Amazon
Price when originally reviewed: $22

See available offer

  • Gives you a dark yet natural looking tan
  • Non sticky and dries quickly
  • Great tropical scent
  • Easy application via its pump spray bottle
  • Excessively darkens your elbows, knees, and ankles, so we urge you to lotion those areas before applying this self-tanner
  • Can get very messy – apply with caution
  • Can make your skin look dirty if not applied correctly

Yes, Fake Bake Flawless gets even darker. With higher percentages of tanning ingredients, you can expect an elevated tan that lasts even longer. The lotion is colored, so it goes on dark. You need to allow your tan to sit and develop for at least 4 hours but go as long as you can to achieve better lasting results.

Best applied with a mitten, one is usually provided in their packaging, but you can always cop your own. Glaze your body with the lotion first then go over again a second time and rub the solution into your skin in deep, long strokes. Go over places that need blending.

Once your tan materializes, you should arrive at a dark brown skin tone, and you can even reapply for more dramatic results. However, this self tanner can get you really dark so we don’t advise more than one application a week but it depends on your own preferences and how pale you are.

Read: Full Review

Hello! I'm Mandi Colburn, the lead writer of Inspired by a California upbringing and a passion for health and fitness, I turned my fascination with sun exposure into a blog that offers credible, research-driven advice on tanning and skin protection. Welcome to, where my goal is to guide you toward a healthier, sun-kissed glow.