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.” We’ve rounded up some dermatologist-approved self tanners that won’t steer you wrong.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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. She 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.”
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