10 Best Self Tanners | March 2017

Get a jump start on summer or top up your existing tan with a little something from our selection of the best self tanners available. If you are worried about the possible harmful effects of too much sun exposure but enjoy sporting a healthy glow, one of these will be perfect for you. We've included natural and organic products in the mix so you can avoid chemical exposure, too. Skip to the best self tanner on Amazon.
10 Best Self Tanners | March 2017

Overall Rank: 5
Best Mid-Range
Overall Rank: 1
Best High-End
Overall Rank: 10
Best Inexpensive
Achieve a deep, ultra-dark tan on both your face and body with the Sun Laboratories SL20024 Instant tanning lotion. It is designed as a highly moisturizing formula with a natural sugar derivative that works deep within your skin to intensify its color within 3 hours.
The Beauty by Earth Sunless self tanner has been developed with only the most organic ingredients possible, including coconut, argan, jojoba oils, aloe vera, green tea, and witch hazel, all working in tandem with DHA to deliver a natural-looking tan.
Unlike some other self tanners that contain ingredients with high pH levels, Famous Dave's Self Tanner lotion is loaded with natural lubricants and moisturizers, which makes it easy to rub this product on your skin smoothly and evenly after getting out of the shower.
The Vita Liberata is an un-tinted tanning lotion that will give your skin a streak-free glow. The lotion applies clear and develops your tan within 4-8 hours. Its innovative moisture-lock system will also keep your skin smooth and hydrated throughout the process.
  • made with natural organic extracts
  • tan lasts a long time
  • instructions aren't very helpful
Brand Vita Liberata
Model pending
Weight 0.3 ounces
The Tarte Brazilliance self tanner will provide your body with an impressive, streak-free tan that makes your skin appear naturally-treated by the sun without looking fake or orange. Its included application mitt also makes your tanning job virtually mess and stress free.
  • doesn't contain any sulfates
  • uses maracuja oil to treat skin
  • requires frequent application
Brand Tarte
Model NA
Weight 8.8 ounces
In addition to its bronze tinting capabilities, the Christian Dior Capture Totale doubles as a creamy-textured, anti-aging solution that can help to rejuvenate your skin to its natural radiance and sparkle without clogging your pores or causing breakouts.
  • spf 20 sun protection
  • enriched with aminolumine
  • expensive for less than 2 ounces
Brand Christian Dior
Model 94804
Weight 3.2 ounces
Crafted to give your skin a natural bronze/golden color, the Grace & Stella Bronze Doll provides fast, non-toxic, and dye-free tanning results to almost any skin type. See results in as little as 4-6 hours and enjoy your tan for up to 7 days.
  • dries in about 3 minutes
  • product is made in italy
  • the included tanning mitt is flimsy
Brand Grace & Stella Co.
Model pending
Weight pending
The St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse combines the latest high-end botanical extracts and advanced, cosmeceutical-grade ingredients to instantly hydrate and correct skin imperfections, while building rich colors and improving the appearance of your skin. It doesn't smell either.
  • deepens existing tans well
  • dries in 60 seconds
  • exfoliate skin prior for best result
Brand Sunless Pro Versa Spa
Model pending
Weight 14.6 ounces
Designed for delivering easy and goof-proof results, the Fake Bake Tanning Lotion has a built-in color guide, which goes on your skin as a dark, temporary color. This allows you to see exactly where the lotion is being applied to your skin in order to ensure a perfect tan.
  • moisture-rich formula softens skin
  • 32-ounce pump makes application easy
  • no harmful effects from sun exposure
Brand self tanners
Model pending
Weight 2.3 pounds
Bring the innovation of a professional tanning salon with you wherever you go using the Pink Fascination FX Spray Tanning kit. Its spray gun has an adjustable fan and flow control dial that allows for easy switching between vertical and horizontal applications.
  • ergonomically-designed handle
  • lightweight and quiet operation
  • easy to remove and clean filter
Brand Fascination
Model pending
Weight 22 pounds

What Self Tanner Does

Your skin is made up of two main layers; the epidermis, which is the outermost layer, and the dermis, which sits beneath the epidermis. Both real sun and "fake" sun (self-tanners) work on the epidermis. The way that real sun and self-tanning differentiate is by how they work on the epidermis. The epidermis itself has two layers. The outermost one is called the stratum corneum and the inner one is called the stratum basale. Sun penetrates the inner layer; that's part of why a real sun tan lasts longer than a fake one, but it's also how the sun causes sunburns. Self-tanner only darkens the outer layer, so it typically only lasts between three and seven days.

The ingredient in most self tanners that actually darkens your skin is called dihydroxyacetone (DHA). DHA is approved by the food and drug administration for topical use in sunless tanners; it's a simple 3-carbon sugar that, when applied to the skin, creates a chemical reaction with surface skin cells which darkens them. Since it only colors surface cells, these soon fall off, which is why self tanners work for a limited time. The percentage of DHA in your sunless tanner will affect how dark of a color it produces. Percentages typically range from 2.5 to ten, with 3.5 being the most common one.

Ultimately, the final aesthetic result will depend on the user's complexion, the technique used to apply it, and the formula used. It's always a good idea to use an exfoliator before applying self tanner to remove any dead skin cells, allowing the product to go a bit deeper into the skin. One should also avoid going in water or shaving for at least an hour after applying self tanner to make sure it stays on.

What To Look For In A Self Tanner

If you have particularly dry skin, look for a self tanner with moisturizing properties. The more hydrated your skin is, the better it will absorb the product. Self tanners that have moisturizer inside of them are also much easier to rub on your skin evenly, so you get a streak-free tan.

If you are worried about applying it correctly, try a self tanner that lets you see the color immediately, rather than one that only yields color after it dries. This will help tremendously with an accurate application, especially for those using a self tanner for the first time. Some self tanners come with a spray gun, so you can apply the product just like a spa professional would.

If you have a busy social life and are regularly invited to events last minute, consider a self tanner that is fast acting; some can darken your skin in as little as three hours. For those who try to put only natural and organic ingredients on their skin, there are several self tanners that meet those specifications. Organic ones typically have ingredients that offer several benefits to your skin, too, like bacteria-killing witch hazel, healing aloe vera, and antioxidant green tea.

If you plan on wearing your self tanner outdoors, get one that has sunscreen in the mixture. Make sure you're informed on how the sun protection factor (SPF) works in your sunscreen, and exactly how much you need, based on your lifestyle and skin. For those who don't like overstocking their beauty cabinet, but are also fighting various skin conditions, some self tanners contain anti-aging and dark-spot correcting solutions, so one can consolidate two products into one.

The History Of Fake Tanning

Today, people associate tan skin with prosperity; either celebrities get tans on their expensive tropical vacations, or the elite purchase them in high-end tanning salons. But before the 1900s, tan skin was actually associated with poverty. A darker complexion was usually only found on people who had to work outdoors to make a living, like farmers and field hands, and the wealthy stayed inside, maintaining a pale complexion. Some people say the designer Coco Chanel popularized the tan among high society when she returned from a yachting trip dawning a bronze complexion.

Tanning beds had, however, existed before Coco Chanel popularized tanning. After public health officials discovered the dangers of UV exposure in the early 1900s, people turned to tanning beds for their color. Eventually, health officials found out that tanning beds were just as harmful as actual sunlight, so people would try DIY home remedies to stain their skin, like leaving brown tea bags on their faces until their skin took in some color.

The person who discovered DHA, the active ingredient found in most self tanners today, was not in the beauty industry at all but rather the medical one. In the 1950s, a researcher named Eva Wittgenstein was treating children with a metabolic disorder, when she realized that the medicine she gave them would stain their skin. She soon realized that the staining ingredient was DHA. By 1973, the FDA approved of the ingredient for self tanning products. The first self tanning product to use DHA was called Man Tan and it came out a little after World War II.

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Last updated: 03/28/2017 | Authorship Information