What Products Work Best
As Summer Vacay commences, I’m on my typical yearly mission to get hair, tan and nails done all in a couple of days. Yes, I’m a horrible procrastinator when it comes to taking care of things like that. Between my family, my work and my LIFE, it’s just hard to fit them in. As I was making my journey through the body over-haul section, I decided to do a little test. A Self-Tanner test! But, first, let’s see what products are already out there and gleaming with gold stars.
According to the Beauty Lab at Good Housekeeping, these are the best in their categories…so I decided to try a few of them out for myself.
BEST OVERALL SELF-TANNER
The Gradual Illuminating Tan Lotion
GH Beauty Lab testers loved the Tan-Luxe lotion’s scent during application and development, and that their tan looked natural and not blotchy. “I liked the even tone of the color and the way my skin felt,” one said. “I noticed no blotchiness.” For best results, apply it with a tanning mitt since some people said its thin consistency made application more difficult.
BEST VALUE SELF-TANNER
Express Tan Tinted Mousse
Bronze beautifully without breaking the bank using this tinted Ulta Beauty airy mousse formula, which scored top at achieving a “tan” that looked uniform and faded evenly. Testers also rated it highest for easy application, with 90% saying they would continue to use it. It earned the best score for its mousse application method and high marks for not leaving streaks or blotches on skin.
BEST DRUGSTORE SELF-TANNER
Natural Glow Instant Sun Mousse
When the GH Beauty Lab tested the hydrating foam version of the Jergens cult classic gradual tanning moisturizer, it received high scores for going on quickly and giving skin a subtle warmth. “I’ve tried many, and this is my favorite,” one tester said. “I’d pay any price for results like these.”
- Subtle, gradual results
- Improved cult-favorite formula
MOST POPULAR SELF-TANNER ON AMAZON
BEAUTY BY EARTH
BEAUTY BY EARTHamazon.com
While we haven’t tested this pick in the Lab, the lotion-based tanner is a best-seller on Amazon for a reason: Reviewers say they liked that they could control how deep their color got by applying the product over the course of 4-7 days — and the fact that they could actually pronounce the ingredients.
BEST NATURAL GLOW SELF-TANNER
Brazilliance 2HR Express Deep Foaming Self-Tanner
For the most true-to-life (or true-to-beach!) faux glow, look no further than Tarte’s fast-acting, long-lasting foam, which scored high at being absorbed quickly and giving skin an even tone testers liked. The tint helps cover all areas and avoid missed spots, the Beauty Lab says, and an impressive 100% of testers reported that the color produced was natural-looking — the top score of all products. This pick also rated well at soaking in fast and giving an even-toned effect without splotches, and had the longest-lasting results.
BEST SELF-TANNER FOR FACE + BODY
Self Tanning Milky-Lotion
This lightweight Clarins lotion with softening glycerin can be used on both face and body to give skin a flattering warmth testers loved. Evaluations found that it glided on effortlessly with no mess or drying time and GH Beauty Lab testers liked this Clarins gel’s natural-looking and streak-free color. It tied for first at simple and mess-free application, not staining hands, quick absorption and delivering a desired look. One caveat: The results were a tradeoff with the formula’s unpleasant smell during application. A few testers also said the gel left skin feeling tacky and sticky.
BEST SCENTED SELF-TANNER
Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Water Mousse
In an almost unheard-of feat for a self-tanner, this watery L’Oréal Paris mousse infused with coconut juice and castor oil collected perfect points for its “pleasant” tropical scent. Plus, it came out on top for being easy to use and tied for cleanest application, being easiest to spread, and getting absorbed fastest. It left skin “buttery soft” after application, one tester marveled.
- Top scores for scent in Lab evaluations
- Simple to use; no-mess, fast-drying formula
- Watery, clear formula can be challenging for beginners
BEST SELF-TANNER FOR FACE
Alpha Beta Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face
- DENNIS GROSS
- DENNIS GROSS SKINCAREdermstore.com
A best-seller, these Dr. Dennis Gross self-tanner pads for face are a two-in-one self-tanner and skin perfector. Swipe one on to up your glow while also exfoliating, tightening pores, and helping to reduce sun spots, thanks to added alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids. “These allow me to use less face makeup because they even out my skin tone,” a Dermstore reviewer said.
BEST SELF-TANNER FOR BEGINNERS
Self-Tan Express Bronzing Mist
Grab St. Tropez’s self-tanning mist (and mitt) for a natural-looking tan that’s pretty much foolproof. The mist applicator and blending mitt ensures even coverage, and GH Beauty Lab testers loved that they got their perfect level of color in one application. “I got a beautiful golden tan with just one use,” a fan said. “I’ve kept the tan for four days and it’s still going.” Since it’s an aerosol mist, apply in a well-ventilated area that you don’t mind getting messy.
- Easy-to-use aerosol mist and mitt for even coverage and no streaking
- Deepens skin tone in one use
- Mist can be messy; apply in shower or outdoors
BEST MESS-FREE SELF-TANNER
ISLE OF PARADISE
“Clear” self-tanners are all the rage right now because they claim not to ruin your sheets and towels while developing a natural glow. While we haven’t formally tested this formula in the Lab, this formula from Isle of Paradise is a reviewer favorite that looks and feels just like water, and comes in three options for fair, medium, and deep skin tones and results.
BEST STREAK-FREE SELF-TANNER
Argan Liquid Gold Self-Tanning Oil
Available in three scents, including mango and apricot vanilla, GH Beauty Lab testers liked scent and the natural color, though some wished it was deeper. The formula was also quick-drying and non-greasy. “It did not streak, spot, or have any orange tan hue to it,” one user reported.
Self-Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse
This easy-to-apply formula is the mousse version of one of our Beauty Lab’s top-tested picks. With hundreds of positive reviews, it’s a best-seller at Amazon, Sephora and Ulta. Spread it and leave it on for one to three hours before rinsing to get your perfect bronze. “I’m not the best at applying fake tanners, yet no matter how badly I apply it, it looks great and not patchy,” one Sephora reviewer said.
BEST SELF-TANNING DROPS
Dark Self Tanning Drops
ISLE OF PARADISE
Self-tanning drops allow you to turn your favorite standby moisturizer into a fast-acting, mess-free self-tanner. You can add anywhere from three to 12 drops to your skincare for a totally customizable color on face and body. While we haven’t tested this formulation in the Lab, reviewers swear that “a couple of drops into my daily lotion [gives] an amazing glow,” and “haven’t had any problems with streaky-ness or blotchiness.”
BEST TINTED SELF-TANNER
Gradual Tan Everyday Tinted Body Lotion
GH Beauty Lab testers thought this tinted gradual-tanning body lotion worked quickly to deliver their perfect color. “The slight tint immediately gave a healthy look to my legs and aided in the application to ensure even coverage,” one user reported. “My skin is quite light and it was extremely realistic, just as a sun-developed tan would occur.” To avoid staining your clothes, make sure skin is completely dry before getting dressed — some users said the rich texture took longer to absorb.
BEST SELF-TANNER FOR FAIR SKIN
Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist
While GH Beauty Lab testers loved that this pick absorbed quickly and left skin feeling great, many thought the mist was harder to control than lotion and left some streaking. Several fans noted, though, that it produced a “natural-looking” tan that “does not look orange or fake.” Pro tip: Keep bathroom floors clean by standing on an old towel or newspaper while applying.
- Natural-looking color for lighter skin tones
- Mist formula makes for fast (but tricky!) application
- Some testers found the tan streaky
BEST SELF-TANNER FOR OLIVE SKIN
Sunless Mousse with Instant Color
COSMOSUN BY COSMOPOLITANamazon.com
For both instant bronzing effects and a deep tan that develops over time, look no further than this CosmoSun by Cosmopolitan mousse with a deep color payoff that’s perfect for olive skin tones or darker. The light foam formula will soak into skin quickly, and the tint helps you apply it evenly for no missed spots, streaks, or blotchiness.
BEST SELF-TANNER OIL
Quick Tan Self-Tan Dry Oil
Self-tanners infamously don’t smell the best, but GH Beauty Lab testers praised the almost undetectable scent of Body Drench’s tinted dry oil with a hint of shimmer. “I liked that this product had a pleasant fragrance throughout the process, with no detectable or underlying ‘chemical’ smell that many others have” one user noted. It gave skin a “nice deep glow,” another said. Shake the bottle before use since it separates over time and put down a towel — some thought the oil’s thin consistency made it messy and hard to apply.
BEST NATURAL SELF-TANNER
Ten Minute Tan for Face & Body
Made with organic botanicals like rose and orange blossom, GH Beauty Lab testers liked that this Vita Liberata formula for both face and body had a pleasant scent during application. Many noted that they liked the fact that it had virtually “no smell.” The tanning results were subtle, though: Some testers felt it didn’t produce their desired depth of color following the directions provided and that the color achieved faded quickly.
BEST SELF-TANNER KIT
Ultimate Glow Kit
This collab from self-tanner cult favorite St. Tropez comes with an easy-to-apply, rich-textured mousse and a mitt for easy, streak-free application. Reviewers say the “whipped texture is super smooth to apply, glides really nicely — easy to make sure you don’t miss a spot,” and they love that the formula is low-maintenance and looks natural: “I love that you can leave this product on all day and the bronzer looks so nice right away and doesn’t look over the top once the tan develops.”
My TOP Picks
I started with the St. Tropez #19
It’s an instant all over color that goes on a little green at first, but you won’t look like the wicked witch of the west for long. Your skin begins to glow right away with a skin kissed look. My only draw back was the workout afterwards. Sweat streaks running down my shins weren’t a pretty site, but that’s more of a user issue.
Note, put it on after your shower at night and don’t sweat for at least 8 hours.
Jergens Glow Foam #2
This is a great way to introduce yourself and your body to the world of self-tanning. It has a very light bronze tint to it that never gets very dark. So, if you’re an old pro and like your skin to look like you’ve just spent a week in the Bahamas, this one isn’t for you.
Body Drench #17
WHOA! Talk about tan! I looked like an islander and was given several compliments on my tan. This is definitely not for beginners. The tan glow is gorgeous, but could be shocking to fair skinned maidens. I also exfoliated really well before using this one. That makes a huge difference with any self-tanner.
Loreal Sublime Bronze #7 FOR THE WIN
I just love this stuff. It’s easy to apply, won’t streak, smells great and looks perfect. No mitt needed as it washes easily off of your hands. The color is spot on and leaves my face needing little to no makeup. It also dries really fast. LOVE IT!
Tip of the Day
If you want to avoid all of the above, Elite offers Melanotan. This friendly little dose of skin enhancing jewels will give you a glow without the woe. Interested? Visit out shop today! Cheers to SUN KISSED!!!