Scouted selects products independently. If you purchase something from our posts, we may earn a small commission.
Aside from the obvious fact that using a self-tanning product is a great way to avoid the sun’s aging and cancer-causing UV damage, if you’ve ever gotten a spray tan or successfully used a DIY self-tanner, you know that it also offers a slew of off-label benefits besides just adding color to the skin. From concealing bruises and scars to blurring the look of cellulite—and even creating a subtle contour (beginners proceed with caution!), there are plenty of perks to sunless tanning.
Unfortunately, salon and professional spray tans are pricey—take it from me—I used to get one every weekend before admitting I had a full-blown addiction. Plus, even when done at the tanning alone, they’re not always foolproof. Of course, at-home, DIY self-tanners pose even more risks... even for those who consider themselves to be experts. Many formulas can come out streaky, orange, and they can leave behind a nasty odor that I couldn't even begin to describe... though boiled hot dogs mixed with expired sunscreen seem like a fair description. Yuck!
If you haven’t tried an at-home sunless tanner in a while, rest assured that many of these new and improved formulas have come a long way in recent years. Sure, there are still sketchy products that I’d avoid at all costs, but if you’re looking for a healthy sunkissed look without the risk of looking like a botched science experiment, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gone ahead and lined up the best natural-looking self-tanner formulas to help you fake a post-vacation glow—even if you’re new to DIY bronzing. In fact, self-tanning offers a slew of other cosmetic benefits aside from adding some color, including covering up scars, bruises, and even cellulite.
From self-tanner drops formulated specifically for the face and neck to transfer-proof foams that won't stain your clothes and bedsheets, scroll through below to check out the best foolproof self-tanning products to test out this summer.
Tanning Club Royal Tanning Balm
This innovative balm self-tanner is unlike any other sunless formula I’ve ever seen—and I’ve seen a lot. Aside from the chic tube packaging (and the luxe leather carrying case that it comes with) the buildable balm deposits even, customizable color while also leaving a subtle sheen to the skin.
Tan-Luxe Super Glow Self-Tanning Drops SPF 30
While their original self-tanning drops will always be my ride-or-die facial self-tanner, their new hyaluronic acid, and SPF-infused self-tanning serum is a close second. Unlike their original tanning drops that get added into your favorite serum or moisturizer before bed, the Super Glow serum gets applied directly to the skin (it doubles as a great primer). Within a few hours, you’ll start to see a natural-looking tan peeking through.
Vita Liberata Self-Tanning Anti-Aging Serum
I love a multi-purpose skincare product, and this self-tanning meets anti-aging serum is one of my favorite formulas. It’s chock full of skin-loving and line-smoothing ingredients like aloe and hyaluronic acid, this cucumber-scented elixir is great for a subtle, sunkissed look.
Glow Recipe x Isle of Paradise Kit
This ultimate summer two-pack kit contains both Glow Recipe’s best-selling Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer and Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops. Each kit is available in three different shade ranges and is designed to keep your skin plump and nourished while also extending the life of your faux tan (dry skin can accelerate fading!).
VersaSpa MONTEREY Bronzing Mist Sunless Self Tanner
As one of the top in-salon spray tans, Versa is known for its neutral tone, which utilizes caramel and brown pigments (as opposed to Mystic tan which yeilds a slightly warmer finish.) Now, you can take the salon-level spray tan home with this fast-drying spray-on mist. The design and spray nozzle makes it ultra-easy to get an even and streak-free tan and doesn’t transfer once it has dried down.
Luna Bronze Total Eclipse Express Self Tanning Mousse
Most self-tanners require at least four hours to develop—and it’s usually best to limit activity and wearing tight clothing while you’re waiting—but Luna Bronze’s Express Mousse formula works its magic in just one hour. It’s the perfect quick fix for when you just don’t have the time. The orange-free and lightweight finish applies evenly to avoid streaks and contains hydrating oils to help extend the life of your tan and keep your skin moisturized. This product will yield a darker-hued tan, so it’s not recommended for fair skin tones.
Australian Glow’s Self-Tanning Mousse Ultra-Dark
For darker skin tones looking for a sunkissed glow, look no further than Australian Glow’s shade-inclusive and extra lightweight tanning mousses. The easy-to-apply mousse is enriched with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and Kakadu Plum, which helps the formula apply evenly for a streak-free finish.
Bondi Sands PURE Self-Tanning Water
This odor-free, color-free, and transfer-proof self-tanning water foams up to a nice lather, which allows for an even application—even in harder-to-reach areas like the back and back of your legs. It also contains vitamin C and E to keep the skin hydrated and refined.
The Fox Tan Gradual Tanning Lotion
For a subtle, buildable, and bespoke tan, look no further than The Fox Tan’s sunless tanning lotion. The nourishing formula is infused with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and hemp seed oil, which not only help keep your skin moisturized but also help extend the life of the faux tanner as well.
Pixi Beauty One-the-Glow Bronze Stick
While not technically a self-tanner, if you’re looking for a buildable glow that will wash offer after the day, you’ll love Pixi’s new On-the-Glow Bronze Sticks. To fake a post-beach-day glow, Pixi’s Amanda Bell has got you covered with the perfect application technique. “The backward-3 technique when using the On-The-Glow Bronze is so easy, it adds warmth and a naturally sun-kissed effect, but sculpts and defines the bone structure effortlessly too.” This dewy (but not greasy) formula blends like a dream and even when it begins to fade, it still looks amazing.