Spring is here and summer is right around the corner. So if you’re craving a sunkissed glow (without that sunkissed damage or dangerous tanning beds), you’re here on a mission for the best self tanner. And it just so happens that our Shopping Editor has done all the self tanning research for you, so you can skip the many (many, many) mistakes she’s already made. These are our favorite tried-and-tested self tanning products and a full breakdown of each one, so you’ll be able to pick what works best for you.

First, let’s go over a few tanning basics that’ll help you make the best choice.

Self-Tanning Tips:

  • Exfoliate and shave before self tanning. That’s rule #1.
  • No matter what products you use prior to self tanning, either make sure it’s totally oil-free (it’ll break up the tan formula), or use an oil-free wash after scrubbing down to get any oils off your skin.
  • Always use a little body lotion on areas where your skin is thicker or drier; it’ll absorb product faster and the lotion adds a layer of protection.
  • If you have light hair, protect it. Use a headband, or, better yet, a shower cap, to prevent stains.
  • Regardless of your haircolor, take some petroleum jelly or a bit of hair conditioner on your hairline to avoid product buildup.
  • Be prepared to avoid getting wet during development. No rain, sweat, washing dishes. No water. Even small drops will show up on your skin if it hits you while your tan is working.
  • Wear loose clothing. Either dark colors or clothes you don’t care about getting stained. We also go for darker colors the day after we tan, even once we’ve rinsed, just to be sure.
  • Sleep on dark sheets, sheets you don’t mind staining, or invest in a tanning sleep sack.
  • Use a blow dryer on cool or stand in front of a fan until you’re completely and totally dry before getting dressed.
self tan sleep sac
Tan Fan


How to Apply Self Tanner:

Do we recommend using your bare hands to self tan? No. Do some people do it with great results? Yes. If you do go that route, just make sure you wash your hands really, really well afterwards. Otherwise, we’d much rather go with any of these mitt options:

  • STEUGO Self Tanning Mitt Applicator Set (includes a back applicator: think how you use a towel to dry your back off from the shower or pool)
  • Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Kabuki Brush (you can combine this with a mitt applicator, and/or use it for contouring, ankles, feet, hands, and wrists)
  • Bronze Tan Self Tanning Facial Brush (go slow, blendblendblend, and use a little product at a time. You can always add more. Don’t forget your ears, and into your hairline—unless you’re a blonde. Then, just take it as close as possible without actually touching your hair.)
  • If you absolutely can’t stand the idea of using anything but your hands for application, then try latex salon gloves and make absolutely sure they’re powder-free.
tanning application set

How to Get Self Tanner Off Hands:

Okay, so you completely skipped our advice, or you had a few little splotches on your palms. Obviously, washing and using one of the scrubby options we mentioned on your palms will majorly help, but you can also take half a lemon, press it into rock salt (or table salt if that’s all you have), and scrub your palms gently. Be super careful of papercuts or hangnails, of course.

A Note on ‘Color Guides’:

Many self tanners include a color guide. It’s a non-staining tint added to the formula so you can see where the product is and where you need to add more. It is not the color you will end up with. It’s designed to be seen, not always to look perfect. You might see greenish, ashy, or orange tones in it, but don’t let that scare you. It’s just the color guide. It will rinse off in the shower, so when you see that color going down the drain, again, it’s not your actual tan. Color guide only. Okay? Okay.

So now that we’ve covered all the self tanning secrets, let’s get to the good part.


St. Tropez Express Self-Tan

Bottle of St. Tropez self-tan
St. Tropez

This one’s for those of us who are in a hurry to get our glow on. St. Tropez Express Self Tan develops in just 1-3 hours. This beauty is at the top of the list of best self tanner, even among its 6-8 hour cousins. You can customize your color, thanks to the darker-as-it-develops formula, so keep it on for 1 hour for a light glow, 2 hours for a medium natural tan, and 3+ hours for a rich, dark tan.

The St. Tropez Express Self Tan has a warmer brown base color, so if your skin leans to extremely fair or you have red undertones, you might want to do a patch test first to make sure it doesn’t develop into a color that appears reddish or muddy. Did we mention St. Tropez is Ashley Graham-approved and lasts up to a full week? We thought you’d like that.

St. Tropez Self Tan Express Mousse
Formula: Mousse
Development Time: 1-3 hours
Color: Light, Medium, & Dark depending on development time
Color Guide: Yes
Self Tanner Experience Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced

St. Tropez Self Tan Express Mousse ($46.00)—Buy Here!


Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam

Bottle of Bondi Sands tanning foam
Bondi Sands

Aussies know a thing or two about tanning, so it’s no surprise Bondi Sands is a leader in the best self tanner department. Available in Light/Medium, Dark, and Extra Dark, it’s lightweight and has a scent that’s more coconutty than chemical. Bondi Sands is also formulated with aloe to help moisturize your skin. It has a green base, but don’t let that scare you. Self tanners with green/green-blue bases don’t put you at risk for turning orange at all, regardless of your skin tone.

Just like on the color wheel, green hues neutralize red and orange shades. The result is an olive brown tan once you rinse it off, but don’t be surprised if the guide color makes your skin look green as it develops! Similar to what happens when you color your hair, what you see during development isn’t what you’ll end up with. Trust the process (and do a patch test if you’re using a formula for a new time). Bondi Sands can be washed off in an hour, but leaving it on up to 6 hours gives you the full effect.

Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam
Formula: Lightweight foam
Development Time: Up to 6 hours for full color
Color: Light/Medium, Dark, and Extra Dark
Color Guide: Yes
Self Tanner Experience Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced

Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam ($24.00)—Buy Here!


Coco & Even Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Self Tanning Mousse

bottle of coco & eve self tanner
Coco & Eve

If you’re sensitive to scent, or would just prefer to avoid that classic self tan smell, Coco & Eve Self Tanner actually smells good! It has a tropical mango and guava scent that makes it pleasant to have on and pleasant to be around (no complaints from your fam!) while it develops. That’s not where the benefits end, though. Coco & Eve moisturizes, dries fast, and starts developing in just 2 hours.

Coco & Eve Self Tanner actually has a grey-green base, so not only does it eliminate red and pink tones, the grey color helps to create a really rich color (it also means you might have an ashy look as it develops, but like we always say, it’ll wash off, so trust the process). It also works really nicely to blur any imperfections so your color is even. As a bonus, Coco & Eve has a sunless tanning kit that includes their velvety tanning mitt (honestly one of the best we’ve ever used), a kabuki brush for your hands, feet, and face, and the tanning mousse.

Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Self Tanning Mousse
Formula: Non-sticky mousse
Development Time: 2 hours-overnight (if you’re a first-timer or very fair, Coco & Eve recommends rinsing after 2 hours to determine your ideal developing time)
Color: Medium, Dark, and Ultra Dark
Color Guide: Yes
Self Tanner Experience Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced

Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Self Tanning Mousse ($35.00)—Buy Here!

Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse

bottle of Jergens self tanner

Jergens has been a big name in self tanning for years, thanks to their Natural Glow 3-Day Gradual Self Tanning Moisturizer that launched in 2005. Don’t want to wait 3 days? We don’t blame you.  Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse is almost as fool-proof as their gradual lotion formula. It develops instantly and darkens gradually over the hours following into a gorgeous summery color.

Another major bonus? It dries in 60 seconds. If you know anything about self tanning, you know that it can take so long to dry, so a minute? We’ll absolutely take it. Jergens Self Tanner is also incredibly affordable at under $15. For someone who’s new to sunless tanning at home, it’s an awesome option for starting out! It has a neutral brown base that complements most skin tones without orangey results. This one is also a bit more subtle than other options, though it can be reapplied the next day for additional color.

Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse
Formula: Quick-drying mousse
Development Time: Overnight is ideal so you can determine if you want a second application the day after
Color: Light Bronze, Deep Bronze
Color Guide: Yes
Self Tanner Experience Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse ($12.18)—Buy Here!


Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Lotion

bottle of beauty by earth self tanning lotion
Beauty by Earth

Organic aloe vera, shea butter, and botanical extracts, and no harmful additives and dyes make Beauty by Earth Self Tanner a great choice for natural tanners. It’s a natural formulation that includes lean ingredients you can feel good about. Although it does have a warm base color, it’s derived from sugar-beets, so it doesn’t react with your skin in a way that results in an orangey tan.

Because it’s a lotion form, it’s exceptionally hydrating, courtesy of coconut oil, and doesn’t have any funky smell at all. While it doesn’t have a color guide, it goes on white, so you’ll know where to rub it in, and you won’t risk staining your sheets, clothes, or towels as it develops! Beauty By Earth Self Tanner is also designed to be used on your face if you want, even if you’re acne-prone. This is another buildable tanner, so add another application if you don’t feel dark enough.

Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Lotion
Formula: White-to-clear lotion
Development Time: 8 hours
Color: Fair to Medium, Medium to Dark
Color Guide: No (but goes on white-to-clear)
Self Tanner Experience Level: Beginner/Intermediate

Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Lotion ($34.99)—Buy Here!


b.tan disco candy tan!

bottle of b.tan self tanner

b.tan has a huge range of super popular self tanners, ranging in color from Dark, Darker, to Darkest Possible. There are so many options, it’s hard to pick the best in the collection, but disco candy tan! is one of their best sellers, and for good reason. Not only do you get a candy-scented dark tan, it lasts! disco candy tan’s claim to fame is that it’s sweat-proof and transfer-resistant, so this is the self tan that goes as hard as you do.

Although it falls into the Darkest b.tan category, you can adjust your color: rinse it after just 1 hour if you want a more subtle color, or leave it on 4+ hours to head into Darkest territory. b.tan is another extremely affordable brand that doesn’t compromise on your results.

b.tan disco candy tan!
Formula: Mousse
Development Time: 1-4+ hours
Color: Darkest (medium/dark)
Color Guide: Yes
Self Tanner Experience Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Experienced

b.tan disco candy tan! ($9.97)—Buy Here!


Loving Tan 2 Hour Express Mousse

bottle of Loving Tan self tanner
Loving Tan

The self tanner that took social media by storm, Loving Tan self tanner is loved by influencers and non-influencers alike. Their 2 Hour Express Mousse is one of their hero products, offering a seriously rich tan in very little time. When we say ‘seriously rich tan’, we mean it. Available in Medium, Dark, and Ultra Dark, Loving Tan self tanner is ideal for intermediate and experienced-level tanners. Even the Medium is a deeper color than others we’ve used, so it’s best left to those of us who have a good idea of how we like our self tans to look, or if you’re craving a truly dark glow. It’s not one you want to experiment with your first time.

Another green-based formula, as dark as you may get, you’ll still skip the orange (but don’t freak out when you see the color guide; it’s definitely a reddish brown). Although, yes, with any self tanner, blending during application is extremely important, with the Loving Tan 2 Hour Express Mousse, it’s imperative. It dries and sets super fast, so you’ll need to work quickly (another reason this is best suited for more experienced tanners) and in small sections to avoid streaks. You can rinse it off after just 2 hours, and your tan will continue to develop over the next 24 hours. Try to skip the moisturizers and oils during your development period, even after you’ve first rinsed off.

Loving Tan 2 Hour Express Mousse
Formula: Mousse
Development Time: 2 hours to rinse; 24 hours for full development
Color: Medium, Dark, Ultra Dark
Color Guide: Yes
Self Tanner Experience Level: Intermediate/Experienced

Loving Tan 2 Hour Express Mousse ($38.67+)—Buy Here!


Bali Body Self Tanning Mousse

bottle of bali body self tanner
Bali Body

We’re headed into extremely dark territory here, folks, so we’ll say right off the bat: don’t use this one unless you’re prepared to be very, very dark and you’re comfortable with your self tan application skills. Dark tans make mistakes more obvious, so if you don’t apply it correctly, it’ll show. But, if you’re ready to go for the gold(en), Bali Body Ultra Dark Self Tanning Mousse is one you should reach for.

Bali Body self tanner is a deep (deep!) tan with a green base that’s even suitable for sensitive skin! Chamomile extract, antioxidant coffee seed extract, and and pomegranate extract all work together to hydrate and soothe more sensitive skin types. Similar to other super deep self tans, the color guide is almost a chocolate color, but it won’t be your end result.

Bali Body Self Tanning Mousse
Formula: Mousse
Development Time: 3-4 hours for a medium/dark tan; 8 hours for the darkest tan possible
Color: Dark, Ultra Dark
Color Guide: Yes
Self Tanner Experience Level: Intermediate/Experienced

Bali Body Self Tanning Mousse ($30.95)—Buy Here!


Tanologist Express Self Tan

bottle of tanologist self tanner

Keeping it clear is Tanologist’s specialty. Their Express Tan water-to-foam formula spreads and blends really easily, and it’s a clear mousse, so you won’t have to deal with any color transfer onto your clothes, sheets, or furniture. Colorless formulas also help prevent clogged pores and dry skin since they have fewer ingredients. It’s also safe to use on your face.

But the clear mousse doesn’t take away from the great glow it provides. Tanologist Self Tanner starts developing in just an hour and deepens the longer you let it develop. Luckily, it’s not uncomfortable to have on—it’s not tacky or sticky. Keep it on overnight for maximum color and it can last up to a week!

Tanologist Express Self Tan
Formula: Water-to-foam
Development Time: 1 hour – overnight
Color: Light, Medium, Dark, Extra Dark
Color Guide: Extra Dark formula only
Self Tanner Experience Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Experienced

Tanologist Express Self Tan ($13.96)—Buy Here!


MineTan Color Correcting Violet Self Tanner

bottle of minetan violet self tanner

We’ve talked about green bases, but let’s take a minute to appreciate violet-based self tans. Not only does violet work in a similar way to reduce gold/orange/yellow tones (if you’ve ever used a violet shampoo to remove brassy tones in your hair, it’s the same concept here), it also brightens up your skin to prevent that muddy or shadowy effect that can happen with dark tanners. The MineTan Violet Self Tan Foam is inspired by the tan you’d naturally achieve from a Mediterranean vacation.

Another 1 hour express formula means you don’t have to wait long for your new color to take hold. Avocado and vitamin E oils keep your skin happy and we’re loving how fast it absorbs and dries, too! If the Violet version isn’t quite what you’re looking for, MineTan also offers Caramel, Dark Ash, and Olive.

MineTan Color Correcting Violet Self Tanner
Formula: Mousse
Development Time: Rinse with lukewarm water for only 45 seconds after the first house (or longer), and your tan will continue to develop for the next 8-16 hours (then you can take your regular shower again)
Color: Violet, Caramel, Dark Ash, Olive
Color Guide: Yes
Self Tanner Experience Level: Beginner (just pay close attention to what your ideal base color is for your skin tone)/Intermediate/Experienced

MineTan Color Correcting Violet Self Tanner ($26.96)—Buy Here!


Isle of Paradise Self Tan Water

bottle of isle of paradise tanning water
Isle of Paradise

Spray your way to an even tan! Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Water is a spray-on formula that’s so light and non-sticky, plus this application method makes it go by a lot faster than other tanning options. There’s also no smell or might-transfer-onto-everything tint.

Isle of Paradise’s Self Tanning Water is also safe for your face. Between washes, products, and makeup, your face (and hands) is the place you’re likely to notice a fading tan much faster than the rest of your body. A few quick spritzes at the end of your nightly routine a few nights a week will keep your complexion warm and glowy. Afraid of using a dark tan formula on your face? Snag a bottle of the next shade down and warm it all the way up with some strategic makeup placement.

Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Water
Development Time: 4-6 hours
Color: Light, Medium, Dark
Color Guide: No
Self Tanner Experience Level: Beginner/Intermediate/Experienced

Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Water ($30.40)—Buy Here!


Norvell Venetian Sunless Self Tanner Mousse with Bronzer

bottle of norvell self tanner

Norvell is a professional tanning brand that can be found in tanning salons and used by tanning pros! With that in mind, you might’ve heard of their Venetian Tan formula; it’s super popular with paid tanning services. Venetian Tan is a purple based color that brightens, blurs, and keeps those reddish-orange tones away! It’s available in different formulations, but the mousse is easy to control and the color guide is excellent, so it’s one of our faves.

Norvell Venetian Tanning Mousse is created to mimic the tans you’d see on the French Riviera, so you can feel super fancy even if you haven’t made it on your dream vacation yet. These pros have also figured out how to virtually eliminate that self tanner smell and added in anti-aging and skin hydrating ingredients, too. Skip the tanning booth and get the same results at home!

Norvell Venetian Self Tanning Mousse
Lightweight mousse
Development Time: 8+ hours (no shortcuts with this professional formula!)
Color: Dark
Color Guide: Yes
Self Tanner Experience Level: Intermediate/Experienced

Norvell Venetian Self Tanning Mousse ($34.60)—Buy Here!


How to Remove Self Tanner:

If you have any lingering tanning product on your skin before your next application, or a few mistakes happen, this one is big. There are self tan remover products out there that can gently clear your skin of any old, fading color, but they work best on older product. If you decide after 24 hours you don’t like your color, these products aren’t likely to work the way you’re hoping (and that’s why we always suggest starting with a patch test before loading up your whole bod).

For Your Body: We usually prefer going with good old fashioned exfoliation. Use a skin-smoothing mitt like this one, or those scrubby little shower gloves like these. You can also add an in-shower body scrub like this, this, or this. Do not use those mitts, gloves, or scrubs on your face. Do not. Do not. Please.

For Your Face: Since we’re absolutely not using body exfoliating products on our faces (right? right?), we like to opt either for a high-quality chemical exfoliator that you can apply with a cotton pad, like this one, or a gentle physical exfoliating scrub specifically designed for your face, like this one, this one, or this one.

tub of OUAI body scrub


All the products listed are independently & personally selected by our shopping editors.

If you buy something from the links in this article, we may earn affiliate commission or compensation. Prices and availability reflect the time of publication.

All images courtesy of retailers.

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