Our Ranking And Reviews Of The 10 Best Self Tanners For 2021!
We all know that finding the best self tanners can be a challenge…
There are literally hundreds of self tanning products out there… all claiming to be the best. They come in the form of lotions, gels, creams, mousses, milks, towelettes, and sprays. And you can buy them at drugstores, tanning salons, department stores and online.
So, how do you figure out which one is the best for you?
Well that’s where we come in… our staff of beauty experts do extensive research online, speak with industry professionals, check sales figures, and monitor consumer opinion. Then we buy every product we can get our hands on and ACTUALLY test them using a variety of criteria. Things like color produced, smell, drying time and how long they last.
Once that’s done, we narrow down the list to the 10 best self tanners available today. We’ll just tell you upfront that we saw excellent results with all 10 of these self tanners. And we also want you to know that we don’t offer any of these products for sale on this site (although we’ll provide you with links to reputable websites that do).
Quick Summary: Tanceuticals CC Self Tanning Body Lotion is our favorite self tanner right now and currently sits at #1 in our ranking of the best self tanners. The tan it gave us was truly gorgeous– a smooth and natural, darker shade of bronze. It’s also easy to apply, dries quickly, feels great on the skin and lasts nearly 7 days. Finally, Tanceuticals has a wonderful coconut scent which we absolutely LOVE! So overall, we gave Tanceuticals 5 out of 5 stars and truly think it’s the best self tanner available. Read our full review here… or click here to go buy it!
Quick Summary: Next on our list comes from Skin Drop, a company best known for their facial skincare products. Be that as it may, their new self tanner really is amazing. The color it gave us was smooth, dark and very natural-looking. It was super easy to apply, dries quickly and isn’t sticky. And while those are all things we love, the best part of Skin Drop may be its smell! It’s a sultry, tropical scent that’s very addicting. I really am obsessed with it! This really doesn’t have many downsides, but some of you may not like that it doesn’t have a guide. But that aside, I really think Skin Drop has one of the better self tanners out there. Read our full review here… or click here to go buy it!
Quick Summary: This year a new product, Tan Luxe Hydra Mousse comes in at number three on our list of the best self tanners. This was one of the first “clear” mousses to come out. Which makes it very easy to apply and doesn’t create a mess. We also like the medium-dark shade this gave us. The price is extremely high at $57 a bottle, but that aside, this is a really good self tanner. Read our full review here… or click here to go buy it!
Quick Summary: St. Tropez Luxe Dry Oil is still one of our favorite self tanners! This one’s a bit unique, as it’s actually a dry oil. It blends in really easily, dries quickly, smells pretty good and gives a really nice, medium-dark tan. And, it lasts for about 4-5 days, which isn’t too bad for these types of products. The only real issue we had with this product is the ridiculously high price tag. Read our full review here… or click here to go buy it!
Quick Summary: Fake Bake Flawless is one of our favorite “liquid spray” self tanners that we have reviewed. This self tanner gives good color, smells great and lasts for days. Plus your tan will be pretty dark compared to other products, especially if you use their “Darker” shade. The only thing we didn’t like was the somewhat messy application because it’s a spray (and it’s a little sticky). Read our full review here… or click here to go buy it!
Quick Summary: I’d never heard of the Coco & Eve brand before, but a few of my followers requested I try their self tanner. And I have to say, I’m glad they did! After trying out their Bali Bronzing Foam (shade medium), I really like it so I gave it 4.2 out of 5 stars. It applies pretty easily, smells good and produces a very nice color. Read our full review here… or click here to go buy it!
Quick Summary: This is an “Express” product that’s only meant to be left on a few hours. And then once it’s washed off the color develops over time. Overall, we really liked the color this gave us. It was a medium to dark shade that looked very natural. The only negatives we saw with this product were the stickiness after it dried and the smell, which is isn’t the best. But other than that, this is a great product for those who need a quick, easy tan! Read our full review here… or click here to go buy it!
Quick Summary: Overall, Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam works well and gives you good color. There are some other things I really like about this product. The main one is the smell is to die for! It smells like coconut and reminds me of being on a beach vacation. The only real downside is the tan doesn’t last very long, just 2-3 days. Read our full review here… or click here to go buy it!
Quick Summary: Loving Tan 2 Hour Express really impresses me. The convenience factor is a huge plus in my eyes. This one is great to use last minute before a night out, or if you just need a quick tan! It develops in 2 hours and you’re good to go. As for downsides, we’re not huge fans of the smell. It’s also one of the more expensive self tanners out there at $10.00 an ounce. Read our full review here… or click here to go buy it!
Quick Summary: While we don’t love all of Vita Liberata’s products, this is one we really do like. Honestly, we were surprised how well it works since it has no smell and pumps clear out of the bottle. But it goes on really easy and develops into a really nice shade of bronze. And it lasts for about four to five days which is pretty good. Read our full review here… or click here to go buy it!
So What Exactly Makes A Good Self Tanner?
After personally using over 400 self tanners over the last 8 years or so, I think I have a pretty good idea of what makes a great product, and what doesn’t.
Most of the good self tanning products out there tend to share some of the same characteristics. And I’m going to tell you what those characteristics are and what the best products tend to have in common.
Before I get to all that, there’s one thing I think everyone needs to know before they start using these products.
And that one thing is this, everyone will react differently to using any one particular self tanner.
So while I’ll give you some general observations about what makes these great, keep in mind that your experiences may not be exactly the same as mine, or your neighbors or someone on the other side of the world!
We all have different skin chemistry, skin health, skin age and a million other factors that determine how well a particular self tanner will work for you.
So keep that in mind as you read about what traits the best self tanners have in common.
Which Self Tanners Give You The Best Color?
This is the most important thing that all the best self tanners share.
If whatever product you use doesn’t give you a nice, tan color, then nothing else about that product really matters. Am I right?
The best self tanning products will give you a relatively smooth, even color that looks good on your skin.
Now, to be honest, a lot of this will be impacted by the condition of your skin, and the intensity of the color you select (light, medium, dark, etc).
But the good products tend to accentuate your skin, not point out its flaws.
Even though all sunless tanners work in the exact same way (we’ll get to that in a minute), some just seem to produce better color than others.
Is It Easy To Apply?
This doesn’t seem like it’d be a big deal when it comes to selecting the best self tanners, but I’m telling you it is!
The worst self tanners tend to be messy, don’t absorb well, get all over the floor or wall and just aren’t very fun to work with. Who wants to use a self tanner that’s a nightmare to apply?
On the other hand, the better self tanners out there tend to be the opposite of this.
They’re easy to apply, blend in easily and quickly, and don’t make a mess.
To be fair, a lot of this will be based on which “form” of self tanner you pick.
I prefer self tanning lotions versus mousses, sprays and liquids. I just find thinner lotions much easier to apply, and they don’t make as big a mess.
How Long Does It Take It To Dry?
Going hand-in-hand with ease of application, how long a self tanner takes to dry is an important consideration with me.
In my mind, there’s nothing worse than applying a product, and then having to wait 30 minutes or an hour for it to dry!
Self tanners tend to feel sticky in general, so waiting a long time for it to dry just intensifies this feeling.
In addition, the longer it’s “wet” on your skin, the more chance of something bad happening. Like sticking to your couch or bed, or transferring the color to another part of your body where you didn’t want it.
The better self tanners tend to dry within a few minutes up to 15-20 minutes.
Is It Sticky?
As mentioned above, most sunless tanners tend to feel at least a little bit sticky on your skin.
However, some products are much better than others.
From my observations, mousses and sprays tend to be much stickier than self tanning lotions.
A little stickiness is ok and normal, a lot is really annoying!
The Biggie- How Does It Smell?
In addition to what color self tanners produce, this is probably the second most important characteristic to me and just about everyone else who uses fake tanning products!
If it stinks while you’re applying it, or while it’s initially on your skin, you’re not going to use that self tanner for long.
The best self tanners smell good in the bottle and continue to smell good once you apply them.
With that said, there’s one pet-peeve of mine about this I want to get out of the way…
As a self tanner has been on your skin awhile and is developing, you’re going to start noticing a bit of a bad smell.
What you’re smelling is the byproduct of the chemical reaction between your skin and the active ingredient, DHA, found in ALL self tanners.
Now, in the best self tanners this smell is masked by good ingredients and isn’t super noticeable. In the worst it’s not masked by anything, and stinks to high-heaven.
Regardless of which self tanning brand you’re using, it’s completely normal to smell a little of that “DHA reaction” once your tan has developed!
How Long Do The Best Self Tanners Last?
Again, a lot of how long a particular sunless tanner lasts for you will e determined by your unique skin chemistry, where you live and how you take care of your skin.
You see, all self tanners work by “coloring” the dead skin cells on the outermost layer of your skin.
The faster these dead skin cells “turnover”, the faster your fake tan will disappear.
If you have really dry skin that flakes off, your self tan just isn’t going to last.
Even so, the better self tanners tend to last longer than the worse ones.
How this applies to you will be very unique.
For example, on me a good self tanner lasts about 5-6 days before it starts flaking off in a noticeable way. Bad self tanners will start to flake off in just a day or two.
On you, a good self tan may last 3 days.
It really is that unique to each individual person.
To make sunless tanning products last as long as possible, make sure you keep your skin very moisturized and drink a lot of water.
That’ll go a long way in keeping your fake tan lasting for days!
Ingredients- What’s Actually In A Good Self Tanner?
You can tell a lot about self tanning products by looking at their label.
One thing you’ll notice when you do this, is there is one ingredient that AL self tanners contain…
It’s called dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and it’s the ingredient that makes self tanning possible.
Now, there are a few different forms of this ingredient, but hey are all EXTREMELY similar (regardless of what the manufacturers tell you).
Beyond DHA, you’ll see a wide variety of ingredients in all the different sunless tanning products out there.
Personally, I like the ones that have some “good for your skin” ingredients instead of just chemicals and preservatives.
(By the way, there’s nothing wrong with some chemicals and preservatives. Despite what some brands say, theses tings are essential in most skincare products.)
So what am I talking about when I say “good for your skin” ingredients? I’m talking about plant actives, vitamins and conditioning ingredients like aloe vera, vitamin E, shea butter, seaweed and a million other things like that.
On the other hand, I don’t like seeing things like parabens, mineral oil, harsh chemicals, artificial dyes, etc. You’ll notice a lot of the cheaper “drugstore-like” products ae filled with these!
What’s “Guide Color” And Does It Matter?
A few years ago this was a big deal to people who self tan but really is more of a personal choice nowadays.
Guide color refers to (mostly) artificial colors added to self tanners to help you see where you’re applying it.
As most of you know, I’m not a big fan of products with guide color in them.
First off, sunless tanners with guide color tend to be much messier to apply.
These are the self tanners that end up all over your floor, walls, couch and bedsheets!
Second, guide color often makes me look like I’ve rolled around in mud or black oil once I’m done applying. I’m pretty pale naturally so it’s not a good look on me.
Third, and most importantly, guide color is usually composed of artificial FD&C colorants. I don’t think they’re harmful or anything, but if possible, I like to keep them off my skin. If my self tanner has color, I prefer it to be something natural like caramel.
Now, after saying all that, if you’re a person who likes to rush through the application process, and is never sure if they’ve covered a certain part of their body with self tanner, a product with guide color might be perfect for you!
In the end, it’s really a personal preference.
How Much Should These Cost?
This is a really difficult question to answer as there’s a huge range of prices with sunless tanners.
In general, the best self tanners tend to cost between $20 and $30.
I’m not a big fan of the cheaper self tanners that cost just a few dollars or a bit more than that.
But I also don’t think self tanners get any better once you get to the $30 and higher range.
Of course, a person’s budget will have a big impact on this, but the above is what I’ve found to be true.
What’s The Difference Between A Self Tanner and A Bronzer?
I get a lot of questions about this, so I wanted to sneak in the answer here towards the end.
A self tanner contains DHA and gives you more of a semi-permanent tan that can last from about 3 to 7 days.
Bronzer, on the other hand, works more like makeup and lasts only until you wash it off.
Self tanners generally need time to develop before you get any real color, while color from bronzers shows up right away.
So the real difference is how long they last and how long they take to start showing color on your skin.
The Last Word
Whew, as you can see there’s a lot that goes into self tanning! And even more when trying to choose the best product!
They seem like simple products, and the process of getting a self tan seems straightforward.
But in reality, there’s actually quite a bit that goes into preparing for, applying and keeping a flawless-looking self tan!
And choosing the right self tanner plays a big role in this.
As I mentioned at the beginning, different people will prefer different sunless tanners.
My advice is to try out a few from our list of the top 10 self tanners in order to increase your chances of finding one that works best for you.
I wish you the best of luck and let me know if you have any questions!