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The Best At-Home Self Tanners

June 26, 2024


Claire Cramer

Claire here, Content Creator [and self-proclaimed spray tan expert] here at Living In Yellow! You’ll likely find me sporting a faux glow year round. There’s just something about being bronzed that makes a girl feel like a million bucks! With so many different DIY tanning products on the shelves, picking the right one can be an overwhelming task. So in typical LIY fashion, we took it upon ourselves to find the BEST sunless tanners on the market!

The last few weeks, I took matters into my own mitt and put a few new-to-me tanners + my tried and true faves to the test. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it! 😉 In today’s post you’ll see the eight different brands I used and my results! Whether you have a special event on the calendar, vacation on the horizon, or – like me – you’re simply a happier person with a tan, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best at-home self tanners for a perfect DIY glow!

Tips & Tricks

Before we begin, let’s go over the basics when it comes to sunless tanners. I think the most important part of at-home tanning [regardless of the brand!] is the preparation, application and the maintenance of it. Here are a few tips/tricks I’ve learned along the way for your ultimate sunless tanner experience:

  • Always exfoliate and shave 24 hours in advance to applying your sunless tanner. I used this one all over my body to exfoliate the night before applying. This helps smooth rough areas [especially elbows and knees] and allows the tanner to go on more evenly. While it is advised to exfoliate 24 hours in advance, there were a couple of times that I ended up exfoliating the same day of application and it worked just as well.
  • I use a sunless tanner application mitt to apply and I would absolutely recommend always using one with whatever sunless tanner you are using – with the exception of oil drops that go directly into your normal body lotion, just be sure to wash your hands afterwards. I used the same mitt for each of the sunless tanners I tried [so yes, you can reuse the same mitt!] Start with the mitt on one hand and do the majority of your body that you can and then move the mitt to the other hand to finish [I would allow the hand that you applied sunless tanner to dry before moving the mitt]. Spray a few pumps of product directly onto the mitt and then apply to each area of your body in a circular motion with the mitt. This allows for the sunless tanner to be applied evenly without streaks!
  • If you have really dry areas [knees, elbows, ankles, etc] apply a little bit of lotion to those areas before applying your sunless tanner. Otherwise, you should be moisturizer-free at the time of application!
  • I usually apply my tan in the evening before bed [it’s amazing how quick most of these dry – within 60 seconds!] and then simply rinsed off in the shower the following morning. I have been advised not to use Dove Soap after tanning applications so I typically just used a gentle body wash and then patted dry with my towel.
  • Start with your face! You’ll want to wash the palms of your hands really well after touching the face tanning drops or lotion, so I recommend starting with your face – otherwise it’s a vicious hand washing/touch up cycle!
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! It is highly recommended to use a body lotion 1-2x per day to extend the longevity of your sunless tanner and to avoid it fading in a streaky manner. This brand is spray tan safe, lasts forever, and comes in so many yummy scents! Remember to drink lots of water to stay hydrated from the inside out.

Alright, let’s dive into this fun and glow-filled experiment! Happy tanning, friends! ☀️

Brands Tested

The Results

Favorite Overall

Coco & Eve

Coco & Eve Bronzing Foam + Coco & Eve Face Tanning Micromist

Bronzing Foam: I’ve been using Coco & Eve for years and after trying several different brands, it’s still one of my personal favorites! It dries fast, doesn’t feel sticky, and develops nicely! Beware: it does have greenish-olive undertones when applied, but trust the process. I like that you can personalize your tan and leave it on for 2-8 hours depending on how dark you want to be. I will say it’s not the longest lasting, but works great for about a weekend/special occasion! Face Tanning Micromist: This is probably my favorite facial mist I’ve ever used! The applicator is powerful and it goes on pretty evenly. I did use more than 3 sprays [which is the recommended amount], but didn’t feel too dark at all. It is a bit stinky, so I would suggest applying in the evening before bedtime!

Favorite for Face

 Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops

 Isle of Paradise Self Tanning DropsIsle of Paradise Self Tanning Water

Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops: While I wasn’t impressed with this brand’s body mist, the face drops were a WIN! A little bit goes a long way! They are a little smelly [as expected], but I mixed with my moisturizer before bedtime and rinsed in the morning without any complaints! Self Tanning Water: This color is just SO good! Unfortunately, it was my least favorite application process. I used a TON of product; like literally 20 sprays per leg and went through almost an entire bottle in one use! I did see a viral tiktok that suggested purchasing a continuous spray bottle to put the product in [genius!], but c’mon Isle of Paradise… we love your product, but the spray bottle is NOT efficient. Ain’t nobody got time for that! If you have the patience for this one, the color is beautiful!

Fastest Develop Time

Loving Tan Express Self Tanning Mousse

Loving Tan Express Self Tanning Mousse + Loving Tan Deluxe Face Tan

Loving Tan Express Self Tanning Mousse: If you’re in a time crunch, this is my favorite fast-developing product! It only takes two hours to develop – something to consider if you prefer an overnight self-tanner. It didn’t clog my pores, making it a good option for sensitive skin. Loving Tan Deluxe Face Tan: While I love the Express Mousse for my body, I didn’t love this face cream. It applies like a moisturizer and is slightly tinted. After rinsing I didn’t notice much of a difference in color. I would personally leave it on longer next time for a deeper tan, but for the sake of this review, I only did the suggested two hours.

Most Customizable

Tan-Luxe Drops

Tan-Luxe The Face Self-Tan Drops + Tan-Luxe The Body Self-Tan Drops

Tan-Luxe The Body: Add a few drops to your usual body lotion and voila! It’s super easy to use and completely customizable to your preference. That said, it does take a bit of a trial and error to find your sweet spot – use about 6-8 drops on each section of my body! It doesn’t feel sticky at all and soaks right in with your lotion! Tan-Luxe The Face: Again, I love that this product can create a custom glow. It’s buildable, meaning you can create your perfect shade after a few tries! Start with a few drops and add more nightly as needed! As someone with sensitive skin, I loved that this one did not clog my pores. Note: It’s expensive and I liked these drugstore drops just as much!

Best for Beginners

St. Tropez Purity

St. Tropez Purity Water MousseSt. Tropez Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist

St. Tropez Purity Water Mousse: If you’re new to self tanning, this brand is safe for beginners! I didn’t get super dark, but if you’re looking for a subtle glow that’s not too dramatic, this is worth a try! Note: it goes on clear, so it’s a little tricky to see if you’ve missed a spot! Make sure to rub it in thoroughly! Face Mist: The St. Tropez Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist is loved by the LIY Team and Community and has been a favorite for years! If you don’t notice much change overnight, try using it a few days in a row!

Best Drugstore Brand

L’Oreal Sublime Bronze

L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Water Mousse + L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Facial Drops

L’Oreal Water Mousse: If you’re tanning on a budget, this classic is a great option! It goes on evenly and doesn’t have the spray tan stink. It actually smells more like coconuts than the traditional spray tan scent. It dries quickly and develops in just four hours! Facial Drops: If you prefer self tanning drops for your face instead of a mist, I was so impressed with these! They’re not stinky at all and a little goes a long way. They do take the full 8 hours to develop, so I would suggest using before bedtime to get the most bang for your buck! If you’re looking for a very subtle glow on a budget, give it a try! Note: I have sensitive skin and did notice a few clogged pores.

Not Worth the Hype

Tanologist Express Self Tan

Tanologist Express Self Tan Mousse + Tanologist Self Tan Drops

Tanologist Express Self Tan Mousse: Two words: SO. STINKY. I’m talking worse than the usual “spray tan” scent. I wanted to shower it off immediately, but I powered through for the sake of testing… You’re welcome. 😉 It’s a clear mousse which makes it tricky to apply evenly (you can’t see where it went on or if you missed a spot!) If the smell isn’t enough to scare you away, it’s also sticky and didn’t give me much color after 4 hours. Take my word for it and steer clear, friends! Tanologist Self Tan Drops: A little goes a long way! I only used about 3-4 drops and felt too dark and a little orange. My least favorite of the lineup, folks!

SOL by Jergens

SOL by Jergens Deeper by the Drop Serum  + SOL by Jergens Water Mousse

SOL by Jergens Water Mousse: I’ve used this product when I’m in a pinch before, but after trying several other brands, it’s not my fav. It’s pretty stinky, felt sticky for awhile after applying, and took the full 8 hours to develop. If you can stomach the smell, I would highly suggest applying this one before bed to get the full effect! SOL by Jergens Deeper by the Drop Serum: As far as the face drops go, the product itself was unappealing. It’s kind of a murky yellowish color and certainly did not make me excited to apply to my face…. Maybe I got a bad batch?! After using about 15 (yes, 1-5!!!) drops I finally started to see some color. I would spend a little more $$$ and get a quality product. Sorry Jergens!

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