Get a sun-kissed glow — without going outside.

By Erin Lukas
Updated Jun 17, 2020 @ 11:00 am
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Forget everything you think you know about self-tanner, including the streaks, Cheeto-colored skin, and stained white sheets.

Sunless tanners have evolved, and now come in multiple forms — from traditional tanning lotions to gradual tan serums — and they're easier than ever to use. Some even offer bonus skincare benefits like extra hydration and gentle exfoliation.

While today's self-tanners are fairly easy to use, there's still room for error. The key for an even tan is prepping skin with a gentle exfoliator — especially on areas like the knees, elbows, neck, ankles, and feet. This step will remove dead skin build up from these spots, which can cause uneven application. 

It's also important to be strategic about your shaving schedule. Shave your armpits and legs one day before using self-tanner. The lotion can get trapped in freshly-shaved hair follicles and cause a patchy finish. The same goes for shaving after you apply self-tanner because you might take off some of your faux glow with the hairs.

Whatever self-tanner you choose, you'll end up getting a healthy sun-kissed glow without exposing your skin to damaging UVA/UVB rays.

Since finding the right self-tanner can take a ton of trial and error, we've gone ahead and done the work for you. Here, the 10 best self-tanners to use on your face and body for a faux tan that looks unbelievably real.

Jergens Natural Glow Firming Daily Moisturizer

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The Jergens Natural Glow Firming Daily Moisturizer is known for delivering the most natural glow at a drugstore price point. On top of a realistic fake tan, this scent-free lotion simultaneously hydrates and firms skin.

To buy: $8; walgreens.com.

L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Hydrating Self-Tanning Water Mousse

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If lotions aren't your thing, try a mousse. L'Oréal Paris' self-tanner melts into skin for a streak-free finish and smells like a tropical vacation. Just remember to wait four hours post-application before showering so the color fully develops.

To buy: $12; target.com.

M-61 PowerGlow Peel Gradual Tan

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Run one of these pads over your face for a bronze glow, plus a bit of light chemical exfoliation. On top of a realistic tan, glycolic and salicylic acids reduce pore size and improve skin texture and tone.

To buy: $68/30; bluemercury.com.

Coola Organic Sunless Tan Anti-Aging Face Serum

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It checks all the boxes off as a good self-tanner (a natural, streak-free glow), but it also offers the same skincare benefits as your favorite anti-aging serum. Plant cells and hyaluronic acid included in the formula keep skin soft, smooth, and firm.

To buy: $54; ulta.com.

Bondi Sands Liquid Gold Self Tanning Foam

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This lightweight foam dries down in seconds, which is great if you want to look instantly bronze. What makes it even better is that you won't mess it up since it's so easy to apply.

To buy: $26; walgreens.com.

Bali Body Ultra Dark Self Tanning Mousse

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Seasoned self-tanners will appreciate this ultra-dark tanning mousse. It's formulated with a color guide to ensure you get even coverage.

To buy: $31; ulta.com.

Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops

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Don't want to give up your favorite moisturizer? Just add in a few drops of this product for a subtle glow. What makes these drops unique is their color-correcting actives that balance our your skin tone. Use the peach to brighten, green to reduce redness, and violet to minimize sallowness.

To buy: $29; sephora.com.

St.Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist

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Further dispelling the argument that face mists are pointless is this self-tanning version from St. Tropez. It's infused with natural tanning agents and refreshing botanical extracts. An added bonus: It has a tropical scent instead of that unpleasant, tell-tale self-tanner smell.

To buy: $30; sephora.com.

Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster

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Mix this self-tanning booster to your day or nighttime moisturizer to develop a soft, natural glow. Just don't use this product solo — it's meant to be used with a cream, people!

To buy: $32; sephora.com.

Tan-Luxe The Water Hydrating Self-Tan Water

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This color-free tanner looks like a tall glass of water, but it also contains organic tanning actives: vitamins B, C, and E, raspberry seed oil, and aloe vera. It will leave skin unbelievably realistic tan and supremely hydrated.

To buy: $47; sephora.com.

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