Here are 4 of the BEST Self Tanners to Buy (+ How to Get the Perfect Glow)

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woman holding white bottle of self tanner and hot pink mitt

Step aside, Mister Sun. ☀️

Social distancing and tons of closures have sure put a damper on vacations and getting the golden tan we all crave come summertime. That said, you don’t need to go to a tropical destination or bake in a tanning bed because these amazing self-tanners are safer and just what you need to get your perfect summer glow in minutes. 😍


Here are some tips to get the best self-tan possible:

hand holding a bright pink loofa with lotions and bright colored towel in background

  • Exfoliate – Before applying any self-tanner, it’s best to exfoliate your skin using a loofa, gentle body brush, and/or exfoliating scrub. This will create a smooth surface for applying your self-tanning product.
  • Apply lotion – Pay extra close attention to areas that become drier than others and have more creases such as elbows, knuckles, knees, feet, etc. The lotion will create an extra barrier and limit the amount of color that will settle in those areas.
  • Use proper tanning tools – You want the best, streak-free tan, but you also don’t want orange palms while trying to give the rest of your body an amazing glow so consider investing in a tanning kit – complete with a hand mitt for beautiful application and a wand which will help reach your back and other hard to reach places. You can also consider this applicator band for your back, although I’ve never tried this approach.

Here are our team’s favorite self-tanning products:

1. Irene’s favorite self-tanner

bottle of jergens self tanner and sunglasses laying on green beach towel

Buy it at Target | Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun

If you don’t want the hassle of rubbing in a lotion, a mousse is your next best bet! This favorite self-tanner of Irene’s is not only easy to use, but it’s the most affordable on our team’s favorites list! It’s also aluminum-free which is a huge bonus and great for a range of skin types from normal, dry, or a combination of both. 🙌

womans legs one tan one pale wearing black flip flops

Here’s what Irene said about her favorite self-tanner:

“My daughters and I have tried several different brands of sunless tanners. We find Jergen’s to be our favorite due to its quick drying time, even application, low price, and natural look. This product seems to always be available online at Target. This sunless approach is a fantastic way to acquire a tanned look without the harmful rays of the sun – and it’s fast!”


2. Sara’s favorite self-tanner

hand holding a bottle of bali body self tanner with colorful towel in background

Buy it at Ulta | Bali Body Self Tanning Mousse

I originally bought this self-tanner direct from the Bali Body company, however, lucky enough for you, it’s now available online at ULTA! It’s also streak-free, 100% vegan, free from sulfates and parabens and it doesn’t have a weird I-just-put-fake-tanner-on smell. 🙌

This product is also buildable so if you wait 30 minutes, you can apply another coat and keep going until you get the deep tan you’re looking for. And if you buy direct from them, I highly recommend trying out their face tan water, which is perfect for applying to your neck and face and will give you a flawless glow!

before and after of pale vs tan legs

I’m the woman who never feels tan enough in the summer, so I love that I can easily enhance my glow just after one coat. I followed them for a long time on Instagram and was amazing at how awesome all the tans were. Since I’ve previously had so many bad experiences with self-tanners and streaking, it took me a while to come around, however, I’m so glad I tried out this brand because it’s amazing and gives you such a deep, dark tan – every time I use it someone asks if I’ve been out in the sun lately.

They also have other products to enhance your tan all summer…

woman wearing sunglasses and bathing suit top with white luggage outside

If you want to keep your great tan going, I also highly recommend the Bali Body tanning oil. I love the watermelon oil which smells heavenly. It also got me the darkest I’ve ever been in one summer! 😍

Just keep in mind that if you take extra precautions when being out in the sun, the SPF is only 6 so I wouldn’t recommend it to protect your skin.

Hip Tip: Speaking of ULTA, here are a bunch of ways you can save when you shop there.


Speaking of enhancing your tan…

3. This is Lina’s favorite tan accelerant to use when she’s outside at her pool.

woman wearing sunglasses holding a bottle of self tanner outside

Buy it at Walmart | Maui Babe Browning Lotion

This browning lotion is just what you want to be and it’s made of good quality, Hawaiian ingredients like Kukui nut oil, light mineral oil, antioxidant vitamins C, A, and E, and Kona coffee plant extract. It even contains aloe which acts as a natural and effective barrier on your skin while also providing essential moisturization.

The company claims it’s the best suntan lotion on the entire planet. 😏

before and after with arm and self tanner

Here’s what Lina had to say about her favorite browning lotion:

“I love that this product is affordable and you can even get immediate results. My before and after pics are with one application right after I used it and was outside at my pool. It gives you a nice deep tan look and is not streaky. I’d say the only downfall is the typical tanner smell.”


4. Taylor’s favorite self-tanner

white bottle of self tanner next to hot pink mitt on wood table

Buy it on Amazon | Skinerals Onyx Extra Dark Bronzer

Sick of that orangey glow? This self-tanner that Taylor recently fell in love with has a green-base so it’s perfect for counteracting that Oompa Loompa orange color that all of us are looking to stay away from. 🙌

Additionally, this self-tanner is made in the USA and also cruelty-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, aerosol-free, and vegan! Even better, it contains lavender oil, orange peel oil, vanilla bean extract, and shea butter so you can assure it’ll be moisturizing and smell amazing. Just look at Taylor’s gorgeous glow after just one application! 😍

woman smiling wearing hat and holding up bottle

Here’s what Taylor had to say about her favorite browning lotion:

“I’ve been trying different self-tanners for years in search of one that doesn’t make me orange AND that lasts more than a couple days. Skinerals Onyx Extra Dark sunless tanner gave me a neutral tan that was more olive than orange which I love! It also lasts longer than other brands I’ve tried and it smells like cocoa butter!”– Taylor


Here are some other popular tanners our readers recommended:

“I like that you are applying a light foam and get great color enhancement and you get no-streaking.” – Cate

“I was tired of paying a pretty penny for salon spray tans. I researched self-tanners and had many recommendations for Fake Bake. I bought it at Ulta and have used it for a couple of years now – I absolutely love it!” – Amy 

“If you really want an amazing tanner then buy the Isle of Paradise! They are tanning drops you add to your moisturizer so you can add as little or as much as you want to get a light tan or a darker tan. I’ve tried so many self-tanners and this is the one!” – Tamara 


Your tan will look better after getting rid of those undereye bags – here’s how.

Join The Discussion

Comments 58

  1. Brittany

    My favorite tanner is Fake Bake! You can purchase it on Amazon. They even have a lighter version for those who are naturally pale. It’s easy to apply and comes with its own gloves and mitt! You spray it on at night and shower in the morning. The excess will come off and leave you with a natural tan! I have used this for years, in the winter especially, when I’m not outside as much! Hope this review helps!

    • Sara

      That sounds like such a great product, thanks for sharing with us, Brittany!

    • frugal-fit-sexy

      Just ordered based on your review, and at a great price. So excited to try it out, I was just telling hubby how pale I felt.

    • Amy

      Fake bake is AWESOME! I love that stuff!!

    • Malinda

      I see spray and lotion on Amazon. Which one do you think is better? (Pale, late 40s skin) Thanks!

  2. CateM

    St Tropez is my go to self tanner. It’s the only one that doesn’t make me look like a cheeto 😀
    The Bali one looks really nice. I might give it a try.

    • Sara

      If you give it a try, let me know how you like it, Cate!

    • Nldaadmin

      I like the St. Tropez as well. I like that you are applying a light foam, and you get no-streak color enhancemeny

  3. Stormy

    Def been doing some quaran-tanning over here! I’m a Nu Skin addict, so I use their sun glow. I apply one coat, then a second thirty minutes later. I love how it looks the next day!

    • JoJo

      I just ordered Nu Skin last night!

    • Sara

      Why didn’t I think of that pun Stormy! HAHA! Thanks for sharing your favorite product with us!

  4. betty

    I second St Tropez, it’s more expensive but you will not get orange looking (tested on my VERY fair skin).

    • Sara

      Thanks for sharing, Betty! I’ll have to try it sometime. 🙂

  5. cregar23

    The L’Oreal Paris Sublime Self Tanning Wipes are awesome as well! I like the ‘wipe’ application as it’s less messy but you can still get good coverage. The price point is great as well! Can’t wait to try all the new suggestions! My pale quarantined skin needs all the help it can get! Lol!

    • Sara

      Never heard of the wipe application before. Thanks for sharing, cregar23!

    • Lisa

      I have to concur, cregar23. I had gotten sample of the L’Oreal Wipes and finally got around to actually using it. I was (very) wary, but have to admit… it was easy to put on, didn’t leave a residual feeling on it, and I loved the even-ness of how my skinned looked. So, I guess what I’m saying… the sample I got worked. I love it. Probably would not have bought it on my own if not for the sample. So easy to carry in a travel kit… I didn’t have that orange look either.

  6. Sesw

    I agree on using a Fake Bake. I was tired of paying a pretty penny for salon spray tans. Researched self tanners and had many recommendations for Fake Bake. Bought it at Ulta and have used it for a couple of years now.

    • Sara

      Sounds like such a great product, thanks for sharing, Sesw!

    • A.Rich

      Which fake bake do you guys use? I tried the spray and was definitely not impressed it was very drying even when mixed with moisturizer. My favorite is the Loreal Sublime Bronze Serum it is great I mix it with lotion and it works so well. I have used many different brands but highly recommend the Sublime Bronze Serum.

  7. Tamara

    If you really want an amazing tanner then buy Isle of Paradise! They are tanning drops you add to your moisturizer so you can add as little or as much as you want to get a light tan or a darker tan. I buy them from QVC and just use the easy pay option. I’ve tried so many self tanners and this is the one!

    • L

      That’s what I use too! I use the light drops for a subtle glow. I even use it with my face lotion- just
      one or two drops. Sephora has the product too and their VIB sale is coming up…

      • Tamara

        I use it in my face lotion too. I love how you can customize it. I use the medium but I also wanted to try the light just to see the difference.

    • Dawn1029

      I saw that on QVC and was wondering how well it worked…thanks for the recommendation 🙂

      • Sara

        You’re so welcome, Dawn! Enjoy!

    • annie

      Hey Tamara, Does this product give you a brown tan or a golden tan? I like a golden tan and tried the fake bake but it made me look like I had a sheer layer of mud (lol) …I tried Clarins and it made me yellow so I am looking for something maybe in between (although with my descriptions here I am sure some people would say ‘Why?’ )

      • Tamara

        This is a hard question because I think it depends on your skin tone. I think it is in between for me but maybe a little more on the brownish side but it’s definitely not too brown where you look funny. It looks completely natural for me and that’s why I like it. This is straight from their FAQ section on their site: “Our formulations react with YOUR skin’s amino acids and natural tone to give a real looking glow suited to YOU and nobody else” ….and the best thing is that it doesn’t have that self tanner smell.

  8. Heather

    The Maui one has been sold out at Target for awhile..

    • L

      I always thought the Maui lotion was a suntan primer (put in on, then go outside in your swimsuit), not a fake tan lotion. I’m so confused! I have even used the Maui product before!

      • Veronica

        I use it as a sun tanning oil too. It does give a faint instant tan (if you leave it over night) but I use it over sunscreen when outside and it works much better.

      • linda

        This specific one in the post is NOT a self tanner!!! It’s for when you are actually tanning in the sun. This lady must walk around a greasy mess all day and it washes right off. This product is NOT a self tanner hip2save! It even says on the back of the bottle ” An amazing tanning accelerant. NOT a stain or self tanner”

        • Sara

          Thank you for bringing that to our attention. We updated this post to ensure all of our readers are getting the correct information. Have a great weekend, Linda!

          • Linda

            Thanks, you too! I just don’t want anyone to be upset thinking this will last! It’s a greasy mess to use but for tanning in the sun, it works very well.

  9. annie

    I was wondering if Irene could let us know if the Jergens has that ‘self tanner smell’ or not. Thanks!

    • Irene (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi Annie! Great question. Yes, this does have a light scent when I apply it. Most self-tanners contain an active ingredient called DHA (Dihydroxyacetone) which reacts with each person’s individual chemistry – some people don’t notice a smell at all. I hardly do. Good luck and happy tanning! It truly feels good to be tan!

      • Jenny

        I just started using Jergens last week, it works well but the smell is so strong. It darkens you up a few shades overnight

  10. Melody

    Bondi Sands is my favorite! They even sell a tan eraser foam that makes your life 100x easier when it comes time to remove/reapply your tan. Their tanners have a green base rather than orange so there’s zero chance you’ll end up looking like a cheeto and the color you get is phenomenal. They have a range from light to ultra dark. And as long as you keep your skin moisturized it lasts a week, sometimes even a bit longer if you’re really good at upkeep.
    I usually will apply my tan at night and sleep in it to wash off in the morning. I’ll wear long sleeve pj’s to bed to keep it off my sheets, but even the tan that gets on my pj’s comes off very easily in the wash. I can’t say enough good things about it.

    • babymair

      Melody ,or anyone who uses tanners .I have a quick question .When you sleep in the tanners over night ,what if you sweat, do you get mark’s ? TIA

      • Alli8

        I would think as long as you let it dry and dont sweat super heavily it would be okay. Bondi sands gives you some color even after just an hour, so it seems like it would be less likely to run if you were sweaty.

    • Alli8

      I was coming here to say this! It’s awesome! The only one thats never streaked for me and looked natural.

    • Anne

      I agree. Bondi sands is easy to use, natural looking and smells good.

  11. acgold

    I use Isle of Paradise as well. I am very fair and use the dark. I also use the Equate/ Walmart version of the Jergen’s natural glow. Comes in a tube for about $5.99. Great for this time of year for your legs, if you don’t want a full blown dark tan yet.

  12. Lacey

    I use Bali Body. Love it! Their face water is my faaaave! I always get a ton of compliments.

  13. Angela Baker

    Any suggestions for those who are allergic to self tanning lotions?
    I have tried most of them and always end up with a painful, itchy rash that takes weeks to go away.

    • Ginger Burke

      Do you know what ingredients in them you are allergic to?
      Perfectly Posh has a nice one and the products are naturally based. I really like it. Nonasty chemical smell either.

  14. Lily

    Thanks for the post! I’ve been interested in using self-tanner but not sure how to get started. Do you apply as a part of a nightly ritual or only before special events? Is it very noticeable when the tan is flaking off with skin turnover? I’ve heard it only lasts 2-3 days so I’m curious about what the upkeep is like

    Hope someone can share tips for a newbie!

  15. Jen

    I have a spray tan machine and love norvell venetian solution, it has a violet tone to cancel out the orange. If i want a quick touch up you can add it to a foaming dispenser bottle and put on with a mitt.

  16. Heather K

    I love Perfectly Posh’s fake it til you make it sunless tanner.
    Doesn’t stink, streak or leave you orange. Buildable. Plus it’s natural & made in the USA.

    • Heather K

      Under $20 as well!

  17. Justine

    When I go to buy from the Bali site, it doesn’t say that I’ll get the face mist as a bonus ☹️

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi Justine! That product is sold separately and unfortunately it’s not available at ULTA. You can find it on Bali Body’s website, through the link above. Hope this helps!

  18. Joni

    Can you go in a pool with a self tanner? I have a fear of getting out and being blotchy.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Great question, Joni! Be sure to check the instructions and tips on the bottle of the tanner you choose, as there will likely be guidelines for that, which can vary by product. Just make sure to “blot” your skin rather than rub the towel on your skin when you dry off. I think that’s the key!

      Also, a team member of ours has used the Jergens Self Tanner. Here is Hip Sidekick Cassadra’s experience with it when swimming. – “I used the Jergens Instant Sun tanner when I went on vacation last month and we were in the pool every day. It did fade slightly by the time we headed home 4 days later but that’s to be expected when you’re in chlorine or sweating in 90 degree heat at Disney all day. I put it on the night before we left to be sure it was set.”

  19. kmckaughan

    I LOVE Fake Bake-I’ve used it for years now! I use the Fake Bake Flawless spray most of the year, and I sometimes switch to the Flawless Deeper spray in the summer, for an even deeper tan. I just spray it on the mitt that comes with the product (from amazon), rub it on face, neck and body evenly. I apply at night before bed. In the am, it will look pretty dark because of the “color guide”. Just step into the shower for a minute to rinse off, and the results are a perfectly natural looking tan. I get lots of people asking me where I went on vacation to get such a great tan! The Fake Bake bronzing powder is a favorite too.

  20. lins

    I use the Jergens Instant Sun and loved it! I just wish it lasted a little longer, but that may be normal with all self tanners. I haven’t used any others before. Thanks for the post

  21. mamamanahan

    I have been using the Jergens mousse for a couple of years now. I love it! I apply it about every 3-4 days and it fades very evenly. In fact, it’s probably the only tanner I’ve used that fades so great on me. I’m fair skinned with freckles and just like to have a little color. When I do my feet, I put a layer of regular lotion on first and let it soak in while I apply to the rest of my body. Then, I use a kabuki brush (a makeup brush) and apply the mousse to my feet. I think I got that tip on YouTube a few years back. After I apply, I take a towel and buff the knuckles of my feet, ankles and the top where the foot attaches to the leg. My hands I use Malibu Hemp which is a gradual tanner. I used to use it exclusively before I started using the mousse. Hope this helps someone:)

  22. mrswagley

    Aren’t we humans funny creatures? People with naturally darker skin want light tones and use things like skin brighteners and people with naturally lighter skin want to darken it with sun and fake tan. Lol. Not judging at all just pointing out how funny we are.

  23. lisa

    I love Tantowels. They come in convenient individual wipe packets and give a subtle natural looking tan. They are awesome!

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