The 11 Best Self Tanners For a Natural-Looking Glow

Use these lotions, mousses, and towelettes to get a streak-free tan at home.

By Taylor Stephan, Carolin Lehmann, Marenah Dobin Jun 16, 2021 6:16 PMTags
E-Comm: Shop Girl Summer Self TannerE! Illustration

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When the weather surpasses 80 degrees, we're suddenly all too aware of our pasty winter thighs. Hear us out: There's absolutely nothing wrong with showing off your beautiful porcelain skin, but everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to baring their midriffs, shoulders and legs come spring. If you're into being tan, don't suffer the damage of the sun—or worse yet, tanning beds—and look into self tanners instead.

We get it: You don't want to end up looking orange like an Oompa Loompa by forgoing a professional spray tan. But the good news is we're kind of self-tanning experts around here. It's no secret that lots of products on the market aren't great, but we do know of some standouts. The top performers approved by us are listed below just in time for Shop Girl Summer.

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St. Tropez Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion Golden Glow

Turn the shower off, but don't towel off yet. Instead, apply St. Tropez Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion Golden Glow to your wet skin. All you need is 3 minutes before you rinse off the product. If you want a deeper glow, leave it on a bit longer.  If you're into multi-tasking, use this time to deeply condition your hair as well. Apply conditioner, put your hair up so it's out of the way, put on your self-tanner, and you'll have softer hair and a tanned skin post-shower.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Intense Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face

Exfoliation is a key component of self-tanning preparation because it ensures an even application. But, sometimes, we just don't have time for that. Thankfully, the Glow Pads from Dr. Dennis Gross allow you to exfoliate your face while applying self-tanner. 

Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water

Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water has color-correcting actives specifically formulated for your skin concerns. The peach brightens the skin tone, the green reduces redness and calms the skin, and the violet reduces orange/sallow tones. All of the formulas are hydrating and produce a just-hit-the-beach level tan.

St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse

These days, who's not in a hurry? If you're in a pinch and need a little color ASAP, this will be your new BFF. All you have to do is wait one hour before showering it off. Can we get an amen?

+ Lux Unfiltered No 32 Gradual Self-Tanning Cream

If you want to be tan on a regular basis, a gradual tanning cream is the way to go. This is what you need to extend your spray tan or to just add a gradual glow. The product has a fuss-free, clean scent that won't irritate anyone with sensitivities. You get a natural-looking tan with softer skin. Say goodbye to the issues you've had with other tanning lotions: there's no smell, no streaking, no build-up, and no residue.

TanTowel Full Body Tan Self-Tan Towelettes

We've been using these tan towels for years, and what we love most about 'em is how portable they are. If you're going away on vacay, these are easy to pack and are mess-free. They're also ideal for quick touch-ups here and there.

Kora Organics Gradual Self-Tanning Lotion

We're big fans of Miranda Kerr's all-natural skincare line, so we were beyond excited to try the brand's gradual self-tanning lotion. It's subtle color, but it's also super moisturizing, so a win-win in our book.

Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam in Dark

All the Australian babes we follow on Instagram swear by this brand. We gave it a try and it's everything you've ever wanted in a tanner. All you're missing is a bikini and that Aussie weather!

Vita Liberata Invisi Mousse Foaming Tan Water in Super Dark

This clear formula develops into a nice, deep bronze, and we're here for it. It's crafted with organic botanicals and hyaluronic acid, so it's hydrating and beneficial for your skin at the same time.


James Read Sleep Mask Tan Body

Around here we love any beauty product you can sleep in. This overnight body gel-serum from James Read gradually develops while you snooze. It's subtle, but if you use it one to two times a week, you're golden—literally.

Tan-Luxe The Body Illuminating Self-Tan Drops

If you ask us, these self-tan drops are truly revolutionary. Mix a few drops into your go-to moisturizer or body oil. It doesn't hurt that the formula is packed with nourishing raspberry seed oil and vitamin E either, as well as Tan-Luxe's Cellutone Complex, which firms your skin.


Now that you're bronzed, don't forget to take care of your hair this summer. Check out our must-have products to protect your tresses

—Originally published April 7, 2019 at 3 a.m. PT