The Best Self-Tanners

The Best Self-Tanners

Although we all know that spending too much time in the sun isn’t good for the skin, many of us still crave that gorgeous, bronze glow. Luckily, there are many self-tanning formulas on the market that deliver incredibly natural-looking results that are never streaky or orange! Self-tanners have come a long way from those stinky, oompa-loompa ones we had years ago.

The only problem is that choosing the perfect formula can be a bit overwhelming. There are mousses, lotions, oils, serums and sprays. There are instant, gradual, untinted and long-lasting formulas that come in various shades. It can be intimidating simply finding the right self-tanner, let alone applying it!

As a self-tanner junkie, I’ve tried ’em all (well, most of them). I’ve rounded up my favorites for each category or concern to help you narrow down your options. A word of warning—you’re going to see a lot of St. Tropez and Vita Liberata (in fact, there are only two products that aren’t from these two brands). To me, they are the cream of the crop when it comes to self-tanners. Each brand has products that excel in their own category, so I wanted to help guide you in choosing the best one for you.

Now, let’s get that faux glow on!

  • 1 of 12 Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse
  • Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse
  • Let’s face it—self-tanning isn’t always the most convenient thing to do. Especially if you’re going for an intense result, you’ve got to be diligent with exfoliating, moisturizing dry areas, applying evening, avoiding water and dealing with a bit of stinky DHA scent. If you want your self tan to last as long as possible, go for Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse ($54).

    It’s the best all-round self-tanner in my opinion because it delivers a natural-looking color and the pHenO2 technology helps the color stick around for up to 4x longer than a regular tan—great for those who don’t want to be reapplying every 4-5 days.

    BUY IT: Sephora

  • 2 of 12 St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse
  • St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse
  • Darkest Tan

    Some want a subtle glow and some want to look like they just got back from a 2-week vaca in the Bahamas. St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse ($44) will deliver the latter. The darkest, deepest, richest tan you can get from a bottle and it still looks totally natural looking.

    Be warned though, the color guide on this one has a slight green hue, so you don’t want to be walking around during the day with this on. I like to apply this one before bed time and shower it off in the morning to reveal a gorgeous, deep tan (plus, it surprisingly doesn’t rub off on your sheets)!

    BUY IT: Sephora

  • 3 of 12 Vita Liberata Deep Face Untinted Self Tan Lotion
  • Vita Liberata Deep Face Untinted Self Tan Lotion
  • Won’t Stain Your Sheets

    If your bed sheets are an investment and you absolutely do not want any chance of staining, go for a self-tanner without a color guide. The actual self-tan you develop is a chemical reaction with your own skin, not a dye, so if you choose a formula without a color guide there is nothing to rub off.

    I’ve used the Vita Liberata Deep Face Untinted Self Tan Lotion ($29) for a long time and have never had it rub off onto my white bed sheets or clothing. St. Tropez has also launched an untinted collection in the USA which I’m trying to get my hands on too.

    BUY IT: Sephora

  • 4 of 12 St Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mist
  • St Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mist
  • Best For Touch-Ups

    A mousse or lotion texture is the best to get your base tan, but I love keeping a self-tanning mist on hand for touch-ups (whether you missed a spot or just to keep your color going strong). The St Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mist ($35) is a tried and true favorite, but any mist will do.

    I like bending over and spraying the product into the air and letting it fall onto my back to help get those hard-to-reach areas (but it is best to get a friend to help spray you down)!

    BUY IT: Sephora

  • 5 of 12 Jergens Natural Glow Firming Daily Moisturizer
  • Jergens Natural Glow Firming Daily Moisturizer
  • Best Drugstore Option

    While I do believe you get what you pay for when it comes to a faux tan, I’ve been really impressed with Jergens Natural Glow Firming Daily Moisturizer ($10) which can be found in the drugstore and won’t break the bank.

    The gradual formula is fool-proof to apply and builds a natural-looking color after a few days. Plus, the firming formula gives you extra benefits by helping to tone and firm the skin over time.

    BUY IT: ULTA

  • 6 of 12 St. Tropez Everyday Tinted Body Lotion
  • St. Tropez Everyday Tinted Body Lotion
  • Least Smelly

    This award really goes to St. Tropez as a brand overall thanks to their newly revamped formulas (read about ’em here), but in particular their St. Tropez Everyday Tinted Body Lotion ($30) is by far the least smelly thanks to low levels of DHA combined with their innovative scent-masking technology.

    This everyday lotion has a slight tint to it which gives you instant satisfaction with its hint of bronze and imperfection-blurring effect as well as a natural-looking glow that builds over a few days of use.

    BUY IT: Sephora

  • 7 of 12 Vita Liberata Self Tanning Anti Age Serum
  • Vita Liberata Self Tanning Anti Age Serum
  • Best For Faces

    There are several great formulas for the face, but I have fallen in love with the Vita Liberata Self Tanning Anti Age Serum ($45) since it offers additional anti-aging benefits.

    It’s a very subtle, gradual tan though, so I prefer to mix my body self-tanner with some moisturizer for an initial application, then use this product every night to keep the color going (the face is always the first to fade). You don’t want your face to be just as tanned as your body, trust me! Go lighter on the face and add definition and warmth back with bronzer for the most natural-looking effect.

    BUY IT: Sephora

  • 8 of 12 St. Tropez In-Shower Gradual Tan
  • St. Tropez In-Shower Gradual Tan
  • Quickest Application

    There have been a few in-shower self-tanners to hit the market, but none that worked as well as St. Tropez In-Shower Gradual Tan ($25). The award-winning formula is now available in a Medium shade for those who found the original to be too subtle.

    Simply apply it in the shower and let it sink in for 3-5 minutes. Shower it off and watch your color build throughout the day. It’s important to use it for at least three consecutive days at the beginning to develop the color, then you can use it every couple days after to maintain.

    BUY IT: Sephora

  • 9 of 12 Sephora Self-Tanning Wipes
  • Sephora Self-Tanning Wipes
  • Best For Travel

    If you’re planning a getaway and can’t be without your self-tanner, the Sephora Self-Tanning Wipes ($12) are a great way to pack light and still get your glow on.

    The box contains 8 individually-wrapped towelettes that are quick and easy to use on-the-go and actually deliver a really gorgeous, natural-looking glow.
    BUY IT: Sephora

  • 10 of 12 Vita Liberata Self Tan Dry Oil
  • Vita Liberata Self Tan Dry Oil
  • With SPF

    The Vita Liberata Self Tan Dry Oil SPF 50 is an amazing, multi-tasking product that hydrates with luxurious dry oils, delivers a gradual tan that builds with continued use and offers SPF 50 protection, making it a sure-fire winner for daily use.

    BUY IT: Sephora

  • 11 of 12 St. Tropez Gradual Tan Classic Everyday Body Lotion
  • St. Tropez Gradual Tan Classic Everyday Body Lotion
  • Most Fool-Proof

    If you’re scared of streaks and pale patches, go for an everyday gradual self-tanner. These formulas, like St. Tropez Gradual Tan Classic Everyday Body Lotion ($25), take several applications to build the color so you don’t have to worry about missing a spot or applying too much in certain areas.

    This formula is also proven to hydrate skin just as well as your regular body lotion, so you can swap this one in its place for double duty.

    BUY IT: Sephora

  • 12 of 12 Vita Liberata Tanning Mitt
  • Vita Liberata Tanning Mitt
  • The Best Application Tool

    I’ve tried several application methods—a standard self-tanning mitt, the body.blender and even synthetic kabuki brushes. Truly, nothing compares to a good old mitt like the Vita Liberata Tanning Mitt ($6.50). They are inexpensive, can be re-used and really allow you to rub the product in at various angles without getting your hand saturated in self-tanner.

    St. Tropez and Tarte also have great mitts too!

    BUY IT: Sephora

shop this story
+ Leave a Comment