Self-tanners have come a long way in the texture department. Thanks to innovations like clear formulas and foolproof applicators, getting natural-looking results is easier than ever. For a flawless faux glow, Geneviève Beaulieu, the co-founder of Montreal-based self-tanning brand Nuda, says it’s about prepping properly as much as it is about formulations. “Choose a shade close to your skin tone for natural results and increase the intensity gradually,” she recommends. It’s also crucial to moisturize the skin. DHA—a.k.a. dihydroxyacetone, the main active ingredient in self-tanners—works by reacting to amino acids in the top layer of skin, which leads dry areas to darken faster. To avoid patchiness, exfoliate and hydrate thoroughly before applying, paying special attention to hands, knees, elbows and feet.
Ready to dive in? Whether you’re looking for a luxe, skincare-like formula or a drugstore steal that gives you a beachy glow for a fraction of the price, we’ve rounded up the best self-tanners for your face and body.
Nuda Hyaluronic Self-Tanning Serum
Packed with hyaluronic acid, antioxidants and vitamin E, this brand new serum by Montreal-based self-tanning brand Nuda gradually tans skin while also hydrating.
St. Tropez Self-Tan Luxe Whipped Crème Mousse
This whipped moussed created in collaboration with model Ashley Graham launched as part of a limited-edition kit last year and was such a hit that it’s now part of St. Tropez’s permanent line-up. The lightweight formula is easy to apply and packed with niacinamide to even out skin tone and vitamin E to soothe.
OleHenriksen Banana Bright Sun-Kissed Self-Tanning Face Primer
Available for a limited time, this makeup primer builds a subtle tan over time to help even out skin tone.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Facial Drops
Simply mix in a few of these fragrance-free drops into your moisturizer to easily boost your glow.
Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops
These innovative drops make tanning on the go a breeze. Leave behind your tanning mousse and mitt and just add anywhere from one to 12 drops of this clear self-tanner to your face cream or body lotion for a bespoke glow.
$42 each, sephora.com
Bondi Sands Aero 1 Hour Express Aerated Self-Tanning Foam
Australian brand Bondi Sands makes foolproof mousses in a range of shades for all skin tones. The formula develops in just an hour, making it perfect for last-minute touch-ups.
Vichy Idéal Soleil Self-Tanner
Whether your skin is dry, oily or sensitive, this moisturizing milk will give you an even glow. Safe for use on the face and body, this tan has staying power and hydrates skin for up to 12 hours.
Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Tanning Mousse
A quick-dry formula and blendable mousse texture make this self-tanner a cinch to apply, while the formula works with your natural skin tone to create the perfect custom glow.
St. Tropez Gradual Tan Watermelon Infusion
This foolproof self-tanner gradually builds a sun-kissed glow and is infused with hyaluronic acid to hydrate your skin for up to 72 hours. Plus, it smells like summer in a bottle thanks to a divine watermelon fragrance.
D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops
These sunshine-in-a-bottle drops give you the best of both worlds—marula and black currant seed oils hydrate and nourish the skin, while bronzing pigments leave you with a healthy, sun-kissed radiance. Add one pump to your fave serum, moisturizer or sunscreen for a hint of tint.
L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Towelettes
Perfect for those looking for a mess-free tan, these quick-drying wipes contain gentle exfoliating ingredients and vitamin E to ensure that the colour goes on streak-free.
Kora Organics Gradual Self-Tanning Lotion
Organic oils like rosehip and sea buckthorn give this gradual self-tanner hydrating properties, and its easy-to-apply formula and natural finish make it a great pick for tanning newbies.
James Read Glow20 Facial Tan Serum
Formulated with hydrating hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and aloe vera, this fragrance-free tanning serum makes it easy to get the right intensity. Leave on between 20 and 90 minutes depending on your desired bronze level.
Sisley-Paris Self-Tanning Hydrating Facial Skin Care
This luxe self-tan immediately imparts a radiant glow and leaves the skin feeling soft and moisturized. It’s formulated with antioxidant-rich alpine rose extract.
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Gradual Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face
Combining skincare with self-tanning properties, these face wipes contain alpha and beta hydroxy acids to exfoliate your skin while leaving you with a natural-looking tan, sans mess.
Coola Sunless Tan Serum
Argan oil, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid are just a few of the key ingredients in this self-tanning face serum. Apply on its own for a deeper glow or mix a few drops into your day cream for a more natural finish.
Avène Moisturizing Self-Tanner
Formulated specifically for sensitive skin types, this easy-to-use lotion has a gel-like texture that goes on easily and absorbs quickly with no sticky residue.