20 Self Tanners Dermatologists Swear By

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20 Self Tanners Dermatologists Swear By featured image

We all want the gorgeous, bronze, sunkissed glow that you get after being at the beach all day. However, by now, we all know that laying out in the sun without SPF is dangerous, and even the best tan isn’t worth the risk. Luckily, there’s a little something called self tanner that can help deliver the glow you seek.

Using the wrong self tanner can lead to all kinds of trouble, from orange-hued skin to spending a ton of money on a product that doesn’t work. Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD, says what’s great about good self tanner products is that they allow you “to get that bronze glow without having to use darker shades of makeup, and of course, stay out of the sun.” Pro tip: Houston dermatologist Jennifer Segal, MD, tells her patients “to use self tanner liberally on the legs, and to apply it lighter on up towards the head, ending at the shoulders.” She explains that self tanners can emphasize dark spots and sun damage on the face.” We’ve rounded up some dermatologist-approved self tanners that won’t steer you wrong.

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Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pad for Body – Intense Glow ($45)

Using an exfoliator and self tanner in one helps ensure the best bronzing results. “This multitasking self-tanning pad contains AHAs to exfoliate rough, bumpy skin and naturally-derived BHAs to help clear pores and prevent body acne,” says ​​Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. “This exfoliation helps to ensure a smooth, even tan application.”

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Isle of Paradise Self-Tan Drops ($32)

Davie, FL dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD says she loves this self tanner “because it’s customizable to different shades of skin types, you can build the tan up as needed.” She says it’s also user-friendly—all you have to do is add the drops to your favorite moisturizer. As a bonus, she adds that it also smells fantastic.

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COOLA Organic Gradual Sunless Tan Firming Lotion ($46)

This COOLA self tanner, with a pina colada scent, is a fan favorite of Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley Loss, MD. Not only does it ease your skin into a natural-looking golden glow, but it also uses shea butter and caffeine to help smooth and firm skin.

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Natura Bisse C+C Vitamin Self-Tan Drops ($65)

While bronzing skin, these self-tan drops will also offer protection against free radical damage with stabilized ascorbic acid and vitamin E, notes Dr. Schlessinger. It’s a great choice for straightforward skin-care lovers since it’s 95 percent of its ingredients have natural origins and adapt to all skin tones, he adds.

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Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster for Body ($48)

New York dermatologist Orit Markowitz, MD suggests this Clarins self tanner. “It can be mixed with your favorite moisturizer and gives a nice, even, subtle tan,” she says.

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Z Glow & Go Sunless Tanner ($36)

When you’re a well-renowned dermatologist, you have the benefit of developing your own products. Baton Rouge, LA dermatologist Ann Zedlitz, MD’s favorite self tanner is her own Z Glow & Go Sunless Tanner because “it’s lightweight and absorbs into the skin quickly.” It’s also super easy to apply and doesn’t have a strong self tanner scent—as many others do.

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St. Tropez Tan Tonic Glow Drops ($42)

Bloomfield Hills, MI dermatologist Linda C. Honet, MD says these drops are “the perfect customizable and elegant self-tanner.” They can be added to any body moisturizer. For a deeper tan, add more drops.

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PSD Safe Tanning Facial Towelettes (available in-office)

New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD loves self-tanners “because they can give you nice color and a glow without exposing you to UV rays.” She carries self-tanning facial towelettes, available at her practice, around with her. They’re pre-moistened and infused with antioxidants and hydrating ingredients to promote a natural-looking streak-free tint.

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Hampton Sun Sunless Tanning Mist ($38)

Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Janet Allenby, MD says she’s a “huge fan of self tanners since we work so hard in trying to reverse the effects of sun damage.” Her favorite is this Sunless Tanning Mist. It “develops to a great color, more on the reddish side, along with being really easy to use at home, it sprays upside down, doesn’t streak, and doesn’t have that awful smell.” A pro tip from Dr. Allenby: use a hairdryer after spraying it to help it dry and set faster.

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Tan-Luxe The Face Self-Tan Drops ($50) 

These drops are formulated to be added to your favorite skin care to give you the perfect sun-kissed glow, explains Dr. Honet. “Not only can you adjust the amount of glow, but it is also compatible with all skin types and is non-comedogenic. This one is especially ideal for those susceptible to breakouts,” she adds.

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Coco and Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam ($35)

New York dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD, says this Bronzing Foam is easy to apply and it provides a great color that’s not too orange. This self tanner does it all. It’s anti-cellulite and anti-aging and also helps hydrate and firm the skin.

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TanTowel Face Tan Towelettes ($32)

In addition to giving you a great tan, this pick from Dr. Papantoniou is packed with ingredients that are great for your skin. “The Towelettes have aloe vera, anti-aging properties, and they boost hydration of the skin (due to the humectant, vitamin B5),” says Dr. Papantoniou.

Dr. Honet also recommends these towelettes, noting that they’ve been around a long time and are especially great for self tanning on the go. “These towelettes are drenched with self-tanner that’s easy to apply for even application and great for travel.”

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St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse ($44)

Monroe, LA dermatologist Janine Hopkins, MD, suggests St. Tropez brand products. She says they’re always “a great option for a golden, bronzed appearance.”

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Avène Self-Tanning Moisturizer ($12)

Louisville, KY, dermatologist Tami Buss Cassis, MD, loves Avène Self-Tanning Moisturizer. However, she notes that the product has a bit of a learning curve. She mixes it with her daily moisturizer to “slowly build a tan as the weather gets warmer.”

This is also a favorite of Dr. Segal, although she notes it’s been discontinued in the states, so it can be challenging to get your hands on. She loves this product “not only because it gave a lovely bronze glow but especially because it was not irritating and perfect for sensitive skin.”

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Bali Body Face Tan Water ($30)

“Bali Body Face Water is great,” says Dr. Peredo. “It doesn’t smell at all like self tanner. You apply it to your face using a pad or blend in with moisturizer for an even, gradual tan.”

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Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Mousse ($12)

This double-duty product gives instant color, which makes it ideal for day-of self tanning, but it also deepens the skin overnight, says Dr. Honet. She warns that it’s quick-drying, so you should apply with a mitt to promote a more even application.

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L’Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Facial Drops ($18)

Dr. Papantoniou suggests choosing a product that has additional benefits like anti-aging or moisturizing. This product has “the added benefits of not only being able to be mixed in with a serum or moisturizer to boost the hydration, but it also has hyaluronic acid and is fragrance-free,” says Dr. Papantoniou.

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FakeBake Airbrush Instant Self-Tan ($20)

“FakeBake is always a popular choice by my patients who want to look like they just returned from the Bahamas or other tropical locations,” says Dr. Hopkins. The brand has plenty of formulas to choose from, including spray, mousse and lotion.

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Jergens Natural Glow Wet Skin Moisturizer Medium/Tan ($10)

As the name implies, apply this product right after the shower on wet skin. “It moisturizes the skin, doesn’t stain clothes, and spreads on evenly since your skin is wet,” says Dr. Peredo.

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Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs ($12)

Dr. Honet calls this one a “cult classic to give instant color for winter-blah skin and washes off in the shower. Think of it as makeup for the legs.” It comes in a spray and lotion version with a variety of color depths.

Dr. Honet notes that there is also a glow version called Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Illuminator ($9), “which adds the effect of a light-reflecting highlighter for the legs and other parts of the body.” Dr. Segal also loves the tried and true Sally Hansen products. They’re “reasonably priced, readily available, and effective,” says Dr. Segal.

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