3000 BC Spa is reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Best Self-Tanner: Dermatologist Recommended Picks

Written by Lexi Carlson
Medically Reviewed by Denise Christine Bries, MD
Best Self-Tanner_ Dermatologist- Recommended Picks

If you’ve got sensitive skin, you’ve probably given up on ever getting a tan. You’re more likely to burn than pick up a beautiful bronze glow.

Don’t despair yet! You don’t have to sit under the sun to pick up a nice deep tan; You can use a self-tanner instead!

Self-tanning products are safer than sitting outside; they can be adjusted to suit your skin’s natural color better. Check out this list to find the best self-tanner for you!


L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Water Mousse


Tanceuticals CC Self-Tanning Body Mousse – Ultra Dark


St. Tropez Self Tanning Dark Bronzing Mousse

Top 10 Dermatologist-Recommended Self Tanners

Get ready to sport a natural tan with the best self-tanners!

1.) Best Overall: Tanceuticals CC Self-Tanning Body Mousse – Ultra Dark

Tanceuticals CC Self-Tanning Body Mousse - Ultra Dark-

Our top pick for self-tanners is the Tanceuticals CC Body Mousse! This gorgeous little bottle is great for giving skin a beautiful, natural-looking tan.

You won’t have to worry about smelling funky the next day because Tanceuticals hides their products’ DHA smell with a pleasant coconut scent reminiscent of a tropical paradise.

Tanceuticals have made a tanner that both looks presentable and gives real results, unlike other self-tanners, which focus on style over color. No orange patches here!

This body mousse will do everything you need: Get you tanned, smell pleasant, and last long. However, it can still leave streaks if you rush your application.

Take time to apply this mousse, and you’ll look like a bronze statue within a few days!


  • Cruelty-free and doesn’t contain harmful ingredients
  • Features a 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Ideal for folks with oily or dry skin


  • Mousse may be too thick to spread easily
  • Dries slowly compared to other mousses
  • Lacks shea butter

2.) Best Value: St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse

This incredible tanning mousse from St. Tropez comes next because of its versatility. While it will give you a nice, natural-looking color, it’s also designed for people with deeper skin tones!

Usually, self-tanners are marketed towards fairer-skinned tanners since they have greater difficulties getting tanned. This bronzing mousse is formulated for folks with naturally darker complexions.

Don’t worry about overdoing it because this mousse has a clear guide color when applied to your body, so you won’t have trouble seeing the tan color and your normal complexion.

We suggest trying a patch test for this mousse first because the smell it leaves may turn you off. It’s pleasant, but it’ll make your body smell like fresh laundry.

Whether you’re naturally swarthy, brown-skinned, or black, you can expect to pick up a gorgeous glow with this mousse!


  • A single application will last longer than a week
  • It feels smooth and doesn’t require too much blending
  • Works with all skin types


  • It takes a while to dry
  • May stain your clothes if not fully dried
  • The fragrance is a bit unusual

3.) Best Budget: L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Water Mousse

This coconut-scented mousse is perfect if you need a lightweight self-tanner. It punches above its weight class by offering great value for money and extra vitamin E.

With vitamin E and DHA as all-star ingredients, this self-tanner will do wonders for your complexion and color!

L’Oreal has outdone themselves by creating this fast-absorbing and long-lasting mousse that will bring out your natural glow.

Our tester was delighted with this L’Oreal water mousse because it faded evenly and quickly when applied.

However, note that this mousse may not work for everyone. Some users report that it takes hours to dry and tends to rub off your clothes.


  • Lightweight when applied and lightweight on your wallet!
  • Won’t leave an unpleasant scent on your body
  • Easy to use and leaves your skin smooth


  • It only comes in one shade
  • May not apply evenly
  • May rub off on clothing if dried incorrectly

4.) HauteBronze Tan in a Mitt

One of the worst things about using self-tanners is their tendency to leave streaks on your hands. But what if you could apply a tanner and protect your hands at the same time?

Enter the HauteBronze tanning mitt! This novel self-tanner will make the application and clean-up easier since you can’t stain your clothes when the tanning lotion comes on a mitten!

You don’t need to rub this mitt hard when applying; Simply glide it along your body and check for the water-based marks.

The only point against this self-tanner is its high price coupled with the small amount of lotion each mitt contains. We suggest not using this to develop a tan from scratch.

Use this to touch up your tan instead!


  • Very easy to apply; no tanning mitt required!
  • Won’t stain your hands or clothes
  • Self-tanner is clear


  • One mitt doesn’t contain enough self-tanner for your whole body
  • Each mitt is single-use only
  • Fairly expensive per application

5.) Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops

These tanning drops are great for touching up a tan that’s beginning to fade. Blend a few drops of this oil with a traditional lotion, and you’ll have a moisturizer and self-tanner combo!

You can customize your look with these drops, too. Adding 3-6 drops will get you tanned, but adding more will give you a bronzed glow!

Another positive thing about this self-tanner is its lack of scent. You won’t smell like DHA after using this, plus it won’t stain your clothes and body.

Unlike other self-tanners, you can use these drops all over. There’s no need to mix and match your face and body!

The only downside here is the small bottles. Don’t expect one bottle to get you too far!


  • It provides a very long-lasting tan
  • Tans and moisturizes
  • Usable for both face and body


  • An extremely small amount of tanning drops in each bottle
  • Subpar value-for-money
  • A strong smell may turn off some tanners

6.) JERGENS Natural Glow Wet Skin Moisturizer

This 2-in-1 self-tanner and moisturizer combo are perfect if you can’t fit tanning into your beauty regimen. Plus, do you hate how moisturizers tend to stain clothes and hands?

Jergens Moisturizer eliminates this fear by moving the application to the shower! After a warm bath, apply this sunless tanning lotion and dry yourself off.

Expect a glowing look after roughly a week of consistent use. With this tanning moisturizer at 7.5 fl. oz, you’re getting your money’s worth!

There’s no need to spend for the best, as Jergens proves.


  • No need to wait after applying tanner and dressing
  • Good value for money
  • It doesn’t feel greasy or heavy


  • It may not play well with darker complexions
  • Ingredients are fairly standard
  • Not a gradual tanner

7.) NARS Monoi Body Glow I

If you want to skip “getting tanned” and go straight to “bronze,” this self-tanner is for you! With a coconut oil base and vanilla scents, you’ll smell (and look) heavenly!

Though we call it a “Self-tanner,” this little bottle is more like makeup that’ll emphasize your complexion. If you want a subtle glow, this is perfect for you.

Ensure you’re not wearing anything white when using this body glow. Otherwise, your perfect look will show up on your clothes!

Don’t be alarmed by the consistency of this product if it’s a little sandy, but you can fix that by leaving it under some sunlight.


  • It provides you with a luxurious floral smell
  • Easy to apply
  • Stores well


  • The scent may turn off some users
  • Difficult to source
  • Will stain clothes

8.) Supergoop! Healthy Glow Sunless Tan

This sunless tanner is a slight oddball in the mix. While most of these self-tanners are designed for indoor tanning, Supergoop’s decided to make a sunscreen and self-tanner combo.

With aloe vera and an SPF of 40, you can rest easy under the sun, knowing that your tanner’s protecting you and helping you glow.

However, just like regular sunscreen, there are issues too. While very convenient, the spray bottle tends to clog or break easily.


  • It offers both protection and beauty
  • The spray bottle makes application a breeze
  • Water-resistant


  • The bottle dispenser clogs easily
  • The formula is too thin
  • May cause streaks

9.) SOLEIL TOUJOURS Organic Daily Sunless Tanning Serum

Often, self-tanners are designed for just your body. But what if you need a self-tanner for face AND body?

Well, Soleil Toujours has the answer: This skincare serum! Mix a bit of this into your favorite moisturizer for a quick and easy sun-kissed glow.

As if DHA wasn’t enough, Soleil Toujours has also infused their tanning serum with citric acid and other pleasant extracts like aloe vera and basil. Expect to smell heavenly!

This serum can also be used solo. However, note that you may turn a little…orange if you use this pure.


  • Absorbs and dries quickly
  • Cruelty-free product
  • Works quickly


  • Difficult to source outside of the official website
  • Pricier than its competitors
  • Seeps into elbows and knees

10.) Elaluz Overnight Facial Glow

As the name implies, this bronzing formula from Elaluz is meant for overnight application, so make it the last part of your skincare routine.

You won’t have to worry about this lightweight cream causing a reaction because this is designed for all skin types!

We suggest using a slightly thicker layer of this cream for quicker results.


  • Easy to use and won’t stain your clothes
  • See results within a few nights
  • Hydrates and seals in moisture


  • Not enough body lotion in each bottle
  • Difficult to find outside of the official website
  • Tan won’t last too long

What to Look For in Self-Tanners

Not all self-tanners pack the same ingredients, so you’ve got to tick a few boxes before settling on the best self-tanner.

Check the ingredients and whether they’re dermatologists recommended, and remember that there’s a variety of self-tanners for tanners of varying experience levels.

You should also note that you may need 2 or more products. Body self-tanners won’t always match your face’s skin tone, so you might need a separate self-tanner for face and body.

Safe and Skin-Friendly Ingredients

Protect your body’s outer layer by looking closely at your self-tanner’s ingredients label. You should look for all-stars like argan oil, hyaluronic acid, and shea butter.

Argan oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties, which means it will soothe your skin and help make you look younger. Shea butter’s also vegan and has many similar benefits.

Remember to keep your skin in mind, and don’t pick up anything that may irritate your body. If you’re unsure how your dermis will react, do a small patch test first and wait for the results.

Expert Approval

Ensure that you choose self-tanners that dermatologists have vetted. Some of our advice comes straight from Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, a board-certified dermatologist based in Connecticut.

If you can’t find a dermatologist-recommended self-tanner, you can consult your local dermatologist and get their opinion instead. They can also tell you how your skin will react.

You can also refer to the ingredients listed above and check the Fitzpatrick scale below to find the best self-tanner for your skin tone.

Different Types

A sunless tan may be the goal, but you won’t get there without a bit of experimentation first. You can pick up gradual tanners, towelettes, self-tanning mousse, or tanning sprays.

If you’re a beginner, you should try a gradual tanner before anything else because their slow-acting formulas can let you stop before you turn a few shades darker than your desired color.

Towelettes are ideal for recently self-tanned folks since they can help you maintain your bronzed glow.

Experienced tanners and naturally bronze folks can move on to mousses and tanning sprays. These tanners work quickly and will typically dye you a deeper color than towelettes.

The Best Way to Apply Self Tanner

Now that you’ve picked a self-tanner, it’s time to apply it to your body. Before you apply or blend anything, you’ll need clean skin, which means it’s time to exfoliate.

Getting rid of dead skin cells on your body will ensure that your tan is more even and will last longer. Prioritize areas where your epidermis is thickest, like your elbows and knees.

Dry yourself before applying to ensure a nice, even tan. Pick a well-ventilated room for your self-tanning for good airflow, and ensure that you don’t breathe in your spray tan formula.

Once you’re dry enough, layer your self-tanner on with circular motions, and start from the bottom to the top. Layering the tanner this way will give your body a streak-free color.

Dab a damp towel on your joints like your elbows because these areas will tend to absorb more self-tanner than other spots. This will dilute your tanner and even out your sunless tan.

Self-tanning has come a fair way since the early days of orange-tinged skin. Don’t worry if you end up with unusual streaks on your face and body.

If you make a mistake while self-tanning, you can simply erase it by dabbing on some baby oil and exfoliating the streaked sections. Wash your skin with warm water, then try again!

What About Skin Type?

Skin tones aside, the best self-tanner for you will mostly depend on your skin type. Similar to matching makeup to your skin tone, self-tanners must be matched properly.

There are various skin types, but to know what you’ll look like after a full day in the sun, you’ll need to consult the Fitzpatrick scale.

This scale was developed in 1975 to classify people according to how their skin responds when exposed to UV light. You may not fit exactly into a single group but find the closest one instead.

Very fair skin before sun exposure
Will always develop freckles in sunlight
Skin will always burn or peel in the sun instead of tanning
Fair skin tone before sun exposure
Will tend to develop freckles
Will often burn or peel in the sun, may tan
Honey or olive-colored skin before sun exposure
May burn when exposed to sunlight
Will tan evenly
Light brown skin before sun exposure
Will rarely develop freckles
Unlikely to burn, will often develop an even tan
Dark skin before sun exposure
Very rarely burns in sunlight
Always develops a tan
Very dark skin before sun exposure
Will never burn or develop freckles
Will develop a dark tan

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about the best self-tanners here!

What Do Dermatologists Recommend for Tanning?

Let’s get this straight: Dermatologists recommend not getting a tan. This is the safest way to protect your skin from aging and reduce your risk of cancer.

However, there are 2 ways to tan safely. The first method involves applying SPF 30 sunscreen while basking in the sun to get a safe and subtle tan

Re-apply your sunscreen every 2 hours if you’ll be spending a whole day under the sun, and more often if you’re at the beach. The second method is by using sunless tanning products.

Whether you apply self-tanner or get an airbrush tan, you’ll get a nice and even skin tone without risking your health. Being protected from the sun doesn’t mean you can’t tan!

Does Self-Tanner Age Your Skin?

We all know that developing a sun-kissed glow comes at the cost of dry skin and the risk of skin cancer. However, you may be worried about it causing premature aging.

Fortunately, a self-tanner won’t add a couple of decades to your skin. That’s thanks to its active ingredient: Dihydroxyacetone or DHA.

Most sunless tanners will feature this star ingredient or its close relative, Erythrulose. DHA is FDA-approved and meant for use in cosmetics, so you’re in the clear.

However, aging skin isn’t the only possible issue that a sunless tanner can give. There are also wrinkles and skin irritants in your sunless tanner to consider.

Will Self-Tanners Harm Your Skin?

We mentioned wrinkling and skin irritation as potential self-tanning issues earlier, but this may not affect everyone. That’s because there are different skin types to consider.

Your skin will react to DHA and the other ingredients in self-tanners, triggering a reaction that has a distinct smell. Most self-tanners will hide this scent with a more pleasant fragrance.

The issue lies in these fragrances: Their composition may contain potential skin irritants, which will cause itchiness and rashes.

Conduct a patch test before choosing a self-tanner to identify any skin irritants before they ruin your sunless tan!

How Often Should You Use Self-Tanner?

Maintaining your beautiful golden tan will take consistent self-tanning because self-tanning will only sustain a glow for around 7 to 10 days. Your skin’s outer layer sheds skin cells quickly.

Re-apply your favorite self-tanner once a week to maintain a sun-kissed glow, and increase this frequency if you notice your self-tan fading faster.

Note that people with naturally darker skin tones may find their self-tan lasts longer. This isn’t an issue because it’s completely natural.

You can moisturize your skin and drink plenty of water to help your self-tan last longer. Being hydrated both within and without will keep your skin healthy and glowing!

Can Self-Tanner Be Used as a Substitute for Sunscreen?

Some folks assume that a self-tanner can sub in for sunscreen since they’re already tanned anyway. This is a one-way ticket to melanoma, so please don’t try this.

Despite looking great, a self-tan won’t protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays. They don’t contain an SPF high enough to give any worthwhile protection.

The best self-tanners can be paired with sunscreen to offer you both protection and a safe, natural-looking tan. However, remember that sunscreens work best when they’re undiluted.

At the same time, folks who want to stay safe in the sun and get a healthy self-tan should remember to use sunscreen with an SPF level of 50 and wear a large sun hat and sunglasses.

Winner Picks

We’ve discussed the rest, but here are the best self-tanners for a healthy and natural glow!

Best Budget: L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Hydrating Water Mousse

This water mousse from L’Oreal is perfect because it dries and absorbs quickly, but keep in mind that it may not work for all skin types!

Best Value: St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse

St. Tropez has created a great alternative for tanners with naturally darker complexions. This mousse is long-lasting and smells great!

Best Overall: Tanceuticals CC Body Mousse

The best self-tanner is Tanceuticals Self Tanning Body Mousse. It’s a bit thick and dries slowly, but it’ll stay in your skin longer than other self-tanners!


We recommend Tanceuticals Self-Tanning Body Mousse, but the best self-tanner for you may differ. Don’t forget to do a patch test to check if your self-tanner irritates your skin.

Look for self-tanners with mainstay ingredients that will actually work for your body and face. Check for allstars like hyaluronic acid and shea butter!