8 Editor-Approved Self-Tanners to Transform Your Pale Winter Skin

From “transparent” tanning to formulas that mimic high-quality skin care products, these are the newest self-tanner formulas that will take your skin from dry and pale to hydrated and sun-kissed in next to no time.

You May Also Like: 10 Self-Tanning Tips You've Never Heard Before


1/8

Water

Product: Tan-Luxe The Water ($47)

What it smells like: Fresh

How long it takes to see results: Two to four hours

How long the results last for: About a week

Application tip: The mist is transparent, so make sure you know where you’ve applied it to make sure all areas of covered. Then rub it in with a mitt the same way you would a cream-based formula.

What the expert says: “The water formula is very on-trend because it absorbs instantly and there’s no drying time,” says celebrity makeup artist and tanning expert Meredith Baraf.

What the editor says: “Skin soaks it up instantly—it feels like you’re rubbing water on your skin—but, it’s probably better-suited for more experienced self-tanners because the formula is clear and it can be tough to see where you’ve applied it.”

2/8

Sheet Mask

Product: St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Face Sheet Mask ($9)

What it smells like: Odorless

How long it takes to see results: Eight hours

How long the results last for: Three days

Application tip: You have the ability to customize how dark you want to go based on how long you leave it on (between five and 15 minutes).

What the expert says: "This formula is also very of-the-moment, with K-beauty and sheet masks being huge right now," says Baraf. "However, you need to be careful about how long you leave the mask on so you don’t overdo it on color, and make sure to read the directions.”

What the editor says: “I expected the mask itself to be tan or dark, but it was clear and had no odor at all, which is surprising for a self-tanner. It felt similar to other sheet masks I’ve used and it left my skin moisturized without any sticky or tacky residue.”

3/8

Dry Oil

Product: COOLA Organic Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist ($46)

What it smells like: Tropical

How long it takes to see results: Two to four hours

How long the results last for: Three days

Application tip: If you’re looking for a deeper tan, you can apply a second round of product after the first one dries.

What the expert says: “Dry body oils are gorgeous moisturizing formulations on their own, so when you add in self-tanner, it’s a bonus,” says Baraf. “But, in my experience, the tan you get from these products doesn’t last as long as with other options.”

What the editor says: “The dry oil has a slight tint to it that absorbs as soon as it’s rubbed in with a mitt. Skin feels hydrated and smells like you just applied body lotion—it feels more like a high-quality dry body oil than a self-tanner.”

4/8

Mousse

Product: Xen-Tan Fresh Tanning Mousse ($48)

What it smells like: Fresh, somewhat sweet and citrusy

How long it takes to see results: Three to four hours

How long the results last for: Four to five days

Application tip: Because the foam is white and therefore doesn’t provide a real “guide” for where you’ve applied it, be sure to rub it in evenly using a mitt so you aren’t left with patchy areas.

What the expert says: “Mousse is light and fluffy, so it’s super easy to apply and blend with a mitt,” Baraf says. “It’s good for all skin types, especially dry skin because it typically contains moisturizing ingredients.”

What the editor says: “The scent was a pleasant surprise, as was how quickly the mousse dried—I was able to get dressed minutes after I applied it. The next morning (I slept with it on), I woke up to perfectly golden, hydrated skin.”

5/8

Towelette

Product: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad Gradual Glow Self-Tanner for Face ($35 for 20 towelettes)

What it smells like: Fresh, somewhat sweet and citrusy

How long it takes to see results: Three to four hours

How long the results last for: Four to five days

Application tip: Because the foam is white and therefore doesn’t provide a real “guide” for where you’ve applied it, be sure to rub it in evenly using a mitt so you aren’t left with patchy areas.

What the editor says: “The scent was a pleasant surprise, as was how quickly the mousse dried—I was able to get dressed minutes after I applied it. The next morning (I slept with it on), I woke up to perfectly golden, hydrated skin.”

6/8

Jelly

Product: Dior Bronze Self-Tanning Jelly Gradual Sublime Glow for Face ($38)

What it smells like: Perfumey, yet subtle

How long it takes to see results: Three to four hours

How long the results last for: Use it two to three times a week to maintain your tan.

Application tip: For even coverage, try using a makeup sponge instead of your fingers. And for a darker tan, apply it again after three hours.

What the editor says: “The translucent yet  slightly pearlescent jelly immediately sinks into skin and has a refreshing, cooling effect. It feels like you’re applying gel moisturizer, but you also get tanning benefits, so it’s a win-win.”


7/8

BB Cream

Product: TanTowel BB Body Glow ($24)

What it smells like: Vanilla pudding

How long it takes to see results: Four to six hours

How long the results last for: Use it every other day to maintain your tan.

Application tip: The results are gradual, so it’s a great product for self-tanner newbies because you can work your way up to the level of darkness you’re looking for.

What the editor says: “It goes on like a thick, hydrating body cream—it takes about 10 minutes to absorb—but it isn’t greasy at all. It also gives skin realistic, sun-kissed color.”


8/8

Balm

Product: James Read Coconut Melting Tanning Balm ($35)

What it smells like: Coconut

How long it takes to see results: Six to eight hours

How long the results last for: Five days

Application tip: Make sure to apply it with a mitt in order to avoid an oily mess on your hands when you’re done applying.

What the expert says: "Self-tanning balms are one of my new favorite formulations. They melt into your skin with ease and help it maintain moisture, which is good for both the health of your skin and the length of your tan,” Baraf says.

What the editor says: “It makes your skin look and feel a bit greasy for about an hour after you apply it because of its balm-to-oil formula, but once it absorbs, it gives you a gorgeous glow and super hydrated skin.”

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