The best self-tanners for a no-fuss faux glow in 2024

By Vogue Scandinavia's Beauty Team
Beauty and the Beach II

Photo: Hasse Nielsen

Whether it’s the height of summer or the dead of winter, a natural-looking tan no longer requires the sun. Shaking off its streaky reputation, self-tan has come a long way, and we’ve curated a list of the best options on the market right now

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After decades of research, we should all be well aware of the dangers involved with pursuing a golden glow through tanning beds or excessive sun exposure. That said, attaining a tan needn’t come at the expense of our health. The solution is simple: self-tan.

If you’ve had a bad buff with self-tans previously, fear not. What once upon a time used to result in streaky, fake-looking orange undertones, today gives way to more refined formulas with subtle results. One reason why modern formulations work so well is the addition of tiny amounts of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). These gently remove dead skin cells, which is prime real estate for self-tan to grab on to, steering clear of patchy or muddy results. Additionally, with less DHA (dihydroxyacetone, the active ingredient in self-tan) and more hydrating components, self-tans produced today help provide more natural results.

For people pursuing an at-home tan, sorting through the hundreds of self-tans on the market can make for an overwhelming shopping experience. That’s why we’ve scoured the internet to find the best, editor-tested self-tanners available to shop now.

How should I apply my self-tan?

Different types of self-tan may require different application methods, and you should always read the label to see product-specific instructions. The best general policy to adhere to when self-tanning, however, is to apply incrementally, and buff product into the skin with measured, sweeping strokes. That said, to ensure an even tone a mitt is usually your best bet.

For the best results, always exfoliate your skin and shower before you use self-tan to help with even distribution. When applying your self-tan, it is wise to be especially aware of your elbows, knees, hands, and feet as these areas tend to tan darker. A quick fix is to use a small amount of lotion on these areas prior to the self-tanner. Finally, make sure to wash your hands post application, to remove any excess self-tan after application, especially if you have handled the product with bare hands.

Can I use self-tan on my face?

In short, yes! Faces tend to tan darker than the body due to a higher pH, but that’s easily remedied. There are particular self-tans specifically formulated for the face (see our top pick at number four below), but you don’t need to buy a special product to achieve an all-over glow. If you do decide to use a self-tan made for the body on your face, be sure to use it sparingly and blend it with your favourite face cream before application. This process will dilute the self-tan, making it gentler on the skin and ensuring that your face doesn’t tan darker than the rest of your body.

What are the different kinds of self-tan?

Lotions, sprays, oils, drops, foams, butters… the list of available self-tan options is vast. Each formula will provide something different, so choose wisely. Sprays, while tricky for beginners, are the easiest to apply, as all they require is a quick spritz to settle into the skin. Drops, on the other hand, are a little more labour-intensive. While they allow more control regarding results, they must be mixed into other products before application. Oils are highly hydrating but can be messy, while foams tend to dry quickly. Lotions are a firm favourite, as they’re easily applied by hand, and when it comes to rich self-tan butters, these products tend to make it easy to track where the product has been thoroughly applied. Each category ensures a different experience, but all of our selections - no matter their type - offer real results.

How long do self-tans last?

The duration of your tan will vary depending on which product you use, your skincare habits, and your skin type. However, a good self-tan on healthy skin should last up to five days. That being said, not every self-tan is made the same. Some self-tanners provide a more intense result than others, while others tend to be buildable. As such, it may take several applications of your chosen product before you reach your desired results.

If you’re looking to start building up your base for summer, we recommend some of the best gradual tanners here.


The best self-tan for first-timers

James Read

Gradual tan H2O drops

If it’s your first time using a self-tanner, look no further than James Read’s Gradual Tan H2O Drops for a stress-free option. By mixing drops of the solution into your preferred moisturiser before applying, this product provides a range of shade intensities, allowing first-timers to ease their way into self-tanning. One of our editors sang the virtues of the customisable application, telling us, “I’ve had trouble with self-tans in the past because they were either too light or too strong. By controlling the tanner-to-moisturiser ratio myself, I could finally get that Goldilocks glow – a perfect fit, if you will.”

What we like about the product:

  • Customisable application: Easily mixed with lotion to achieve the desired result
  • Gradual colour: A forgiving formula that develops over time
  • Balanced blend: Won’t unevenly stain the skin or clog pores

The best self-tan for dark skin

Bondi Sands

Self tanning foam

Self-tanners today work by reacting to your skin instead of simply placing colour on top of it. As a result, anyone of any complexion can self-tan. Our favourite self-tan for dark skin is Bondi Sands’ Self Tanning Foam in ‘Dark.’ A vegan product enriched with aloe vera, this mousse is feather-light but won’t leave your skin feeling parched. One of our editors noted that the product settled with superb results, saying, “After waiting for the tan to develop, I noticed that my skin tone seemed to be more even and hydrated.”

What we like about the product:

  • Fit for all: Can deepen any complexion
  • Multi-purpose: Evens skin tone while it tans
  • Hydrating: Keeps skin moisturised with aloe vera

The best self-tan for fair skin


Self tan water

Via Sephora

For people with fair skin who want to add a golden hue to their complexion, we recommend The Water by Tan-Luxe. The Water works gradually, avoiding the nuisance of surprisingly deep results. The product is applied as a spray, making self-tanning a quick, easy process. Better yet, the forgiving formula won’t streak or transfer meaning you’ll achieve stress-free results. One of our editors gushed about how easy it was, saying, “ I’ve always been worried about turning orange with my pale skin, but I saw results very quickly, and it still looked natural.”

What we like about the product:

  • Quick and easy: Application time is cut down with the spray formula
  • Natural results: will deepen skin shades gradually, allowing for customised colour
  • All-over glow: Can be used on the body and on the face

The best self-tan for the face

Dior Solar

Self-tanning gel

Via Sephora

The Self-Tanning Gel for Face from Dior’s Solar skincare line is the perfect product for tanning the face. With a gel formula, the product is light, moisturising, and won’t leave skin sticky. Promising even coverage, you can layer applications to increase the depth of your tan. One of our editors said that she applied one layer, but went back for more: “The second layer went on as smoothly as the first, and gave my tan that little extra glow I was looking for.”

What we like about the product:

  • Buildable: Layer to achieve the desired look
  • Streak-free: Ensures a balanced skin tone
  • Revitalising: Gives the skin an energising boost

The best self-tan for sensitive skin

Estelle & Thild

Self-tan bronzing mousse

For would-be self-tanners concerned about aggravating sensitive skin, Estelle & Thild’s Self-Tan Bronzing Mousse is the way to go. The mousse is organic, vegan, and fragrance-free, meaning that you won’t find many common irritants in the formula. Our editors loved this self-tan, with one sharing, “I have sensitive skin that tends to flare up and get irritated when I try new products, but my skin has miraculously stayed clear – and bronzed.”

What we like about the product:

  • Gentle: Easy on sensitive skin
  • Fragrance-free: Non-irritating application for those sensitive to scents
  • Conscious formulation: Made with organic, vegan ingredients

The best self-tan for dry skin

Isle of Paradise

Self-tanning butter

While many self-tanning products take hydration into account, the Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Butter goes above and beyond. This body butter’s whipped consistency contains a blend of natural oils like coconut, eucalyptus, and peppermint, and has colour-correcting properties to help achieve an even, realistic tan. One editor was especially taken with this option: "It left my skin feeling smooth and silky, and the gradual tanning meant that I could use it as a moisturiser throughout the week without overdoing it.”

What we like about the product:

  • Luxurious feel: Rich and smooth, the formula quenches thirsty skin
  • Colour-correcting: Balances your skin tone while you tan
  • Soothing: Natural oils calm the skin as they hydrate

The best self-tan for oily skin


Self tanning instant gel

If you find yourself searching fruitlessly for a self-tanner that will work with oily skin, you’re in luck. Clarins’ Self Tanning Face & Body Tinted Gel is your best bet, as it quickly dries down without stripping or dehydrating yours. This self-tan is also buildable, helping to even texture as it provides a rich colour to your face and body. One editor was initially wary of using a self-tanner on her combination skin but was pleasantly surprised by this product, saying, “The gel formula meant that the texture was never greasy, and the colour has stayed consistent with continued application.”

What we like about the product:

  • Quick drying: Eliminates greasy texture and makes for speedy application
  • Stain-free: You can sleep soundly knowing the gel won’t transfer onto sheets
  • Even application: Goes on smoothly and glides over the skin

The best all-natural self-tan


Deluxe self tanning cream

If you thought self-tans were all chemical-laden, we promise this product will change your mind. The Tromborg Deluxe Self-Tanning Cream is made with organic and natural ingredients only; Danish organic sugar beets create a just-back-from-the-beach bronze, while caprifolium flowers make the formula gentle on the skin. This was several of our editors' favourite option, with one stating that – compared to the standard chemical scent of many self-tanners – Tromborg’s cream “left a light, warm scent that I couldn’t get enough of.”

What we like about the product:

  • All natural: One of the only self-tanners on the market without any chemicals
  • Sweet-smelling: A subtle, summery scent enhances the cream
  • Glowy to the max: A warm hue that’s right for your skin

The best budget self-tan


Hydrating bronzing mist

Self-tanning without breaking the bank is possible, and Bronza’s Hydrating Bronzing Mist is our pick to prove it. The mist is enriched with coconut water and antioxidants, hydrating your skin thoroughly while your colour settles. With a gradual formula, you can spritz to your heart’s content depending on your desired depth of tan. Our editors appreciated the ease of application and agreed that the stain-free properties were helpful with the quickly settled mist.

What we like about the product:

  • Soft spray: Effective but gentle application
  • Rich in nutrients: Antioxidants foster healthy skin
  • Smudge resistant: Will not stain textiles

The best splurge self-tan


Spray tan kit pro

If you’ve been saving up for a sunny - rather than rainy - day, opt for the Tanrevel® Pro. This best-selling device allows you to spray tan from the comfort of your own home. The Tanrevel® Pro is filled with drops of custom formula, which are then broken down into micro-particles. When sprayed, the device sends these particles out to the skin, allowing quick application as the self-tan goes on in sweeping sprays. Our editors loved the ease of this product and also appreciated not having to use a mitt or their hands to help it sink in evenly. One editor was especially impressed, saying, “I’ve never had a self-tan process go so smoothly or so quickly - and the results lasted a full five days!”

What we like about the product:

  • High-tech: Employs the trademarked Tanrevel® Pro device for even application
  • Puts skin first: Vitamins A, C, and E work to care for the skin
  • Universal: Works on the whole body and for all skin types and tones

What is Tried & Tested?

Each month Vogue Scandinavia's in-house team of beauty testers try a new product category, putting old favourites and new formulas to the test. Each product is tested by at least three Vogue Scandinavia employees, helping us form unbiased and informed opinions on each participant with the goal to find the best of the bunch in each category.

Using a standardised testing template designed to focus on what our readers really want to know, our panel helps deliver valuable insights you can't find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands or PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are always our own.

In short, these are product recommendations you can trust.