Some people are born with melanin that can withstand the heat, but my fair skin and the summer sun have never gotten along. My skin just doesn’t tan as much as I want it to. That’s why I’ve always been a fan of self-tanning.

With a self-tanner, I can have a healthy glow when I want it and I don’t have to take any risks sunburn or skin cancer in the process.

But given my decade (or more, TBH) experience with suntan lotion and self-tanners, I’ve learned a thing or two about getting that golden glow without the sun.

The first step to creating a fake tan that will have people wondering which beach you just got back from is finding a quality sunless tanner. And believe me, there are a lot of them doubtful there that can make you too dark, orange or streaky which can take a long time to wear off.

Fortunately, the list below has been vetted based on reviews, beauty editor’s picks, or my own personal experience. Keep reading to learn about the best suntan and bronzer for face and body.

The difference between bronzer and self-tanner

The list below includes both bronzer and self-tanners (some self-tanners contain bronzers, FYI).

A self-tanner is a product that contains a color additive, usually dihydroxyacetone, aka DHA, an ingredient that reacts with the skin to make it darker. Due to the nature of the product, the tan cannot be “washed off”.

The color usually lasts about a week, depending on how much you sweat and shower, and if you moisturize.

A bronzer is a product designed to give you a bronze glow, but it doesn’t “tan” your skin, and the color is only temporary.

It’s just a layer of color, like makeup, that you put on your face and body that can be washed off.

Sephora / St. Trape

There are so many reasons why this tanning mousse is one of the best products I’ve ever tried. Firstly, I love that the foam holds the bronzer in, so you can see exactly where you’re applying it, so you don’t end up with embarrassing white spots where you missed it.

Second, the foam dries very quickly, so you don’t have to wait forever to get dressed. Finally, this self-tanning product works really fast – within hours, but I usually leave it on overnight and wash off the bronzer in the morning. The color looks really good – it’s brown, not orange, and it lasts.

You only need to apply once to get great color, but depending on how dark you want to go, the product can be built up so you can reapply.

One tip, don’t forget to apply the foam with a tanning mitt, as it dries very quickly, your hands will also stain faster. A self-tanning mitt made by Saint-Tropez is perfect for this.

Sephora/Tan Luxe

This Tan-Luxe Serum is the perfect multi-tasker when you need color as well as hydration, antioxidants and SPF all in one product.

I use this serum under my moisturizer and it gives you a natural glow and feels great. But don’t just take my word for it—Allure’s beauty editors said it’ll give you an “otherworldly glow.”

I love that it contains SPF so I can put it on before going out and come back glowing and redness free. The color is subtle and buildable, so you can wear it every day until you get the result you want.

You can build up the color depending on how many drops you use at a time – start with a few drops and you can build up to 12 drops for a more noticeable result.

Drunk elephant

Drunk Elephant Bronzing Drops are so much more than a bronzer – they contain a blend of nourishing oils and protective antioxidants. ​Although the color washes off, it looks so good when you add it to a tinted moisturizer or even as a base for a subtle bronze glow.

Sephora / Paradise Island

Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Water is Sephora’s best seller. The waters come in three different varieties that contain color-correcting active ingredients.

If you have redness, green water can help counteract it, peach can brighten your skin, and purple can help reduce orange tones so you always look your best.

You apply the spray directly to your face and then blend with your mitt or hand (don’t forget to wash them afterwards!).


Jergens Natural Glow is a classic self tanner that gives you a natural tan (I’ve used it almost every day for years) and is a best seller on If you want a proven, no-fuss body lotion for self-tanning, this product is a good choice.

It’s affordable and the results aren’t dramatic – perfect for those new to sunless tanning who want a gradual tan and subtle glow. This sunless tanning lotion comes in two shades: medium for fair skin and medium tan for medium to dark skin tones.

Walgreens/Bondi Sands

If you are looking for a similar but more affordable product than St. Tropez, Bondi Sands self-tanner is a similar option, but for less money.

This foam is on the same level as a mousse for tanning without the sun. Like foam St. Tropez, Bondi Sands foam dries quickly and results appear within hours. The longer you leave it on, the more dramatic the results.

You can buy Bondi Sands foam in light/medium or dark, and a self-tanning mitt is also sold to help with application.


Supergoop’s sunless tan is like a lotion but sprays on for easy application. You can use it on your face or body, but I prefer to use it on my body, especially when I’m going out. This tanning product is lightweight yet hydrating and easy to apply to legs or arms. However, it doesn’t contain bronzer, so make sure to spray the color liberally where you want it and blend well too.

After application, the product is easily washed off the hands. When I used this spray, I noticed that it gave my pale skin a subtle healthy glow. If you’re looking for a more dramatic tan, be sure to try the St. Tropez, but it’s great for everyday use.

More skin care essentials

The information contained in this article is for informational and informative purposes only and is not intended to provide health or medical care. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional with any questions you may have about your health or health care goals.

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