Top 5 Self-Tanners for Summer

Updated on November 13, 2019
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Miriam has been a freelance writer since 2013. Born in Whittier, CA, she now lives in Ontario (California) with her husband and family.


Bake in the Sun or Self-Tan?

Summer Is Almost Here

Summer is right around the corner for most of us, but in California, the spring is just as good as the summer! You will want to get your legs tan if they are as white as mine, so your options are to go to the beach, sweat and suffer in your backyard, or go sunless with a good self-tanning product. Each method has its pros and cons, and we will consider that later.

What Should I Expect from a Self Tanner?

You should expect to gain a natural-looking tan that lasts anywhere from one day to three or four days. There are some self-tanning products that provide color instantly and are actually tinted lotions. Or, you can buy a self-tanner that goes on sheer and gradually builds up within a three-day time span. The gradual self-tanners seem to last the longest, while the tinted lotions are good for quick results.

You also want a product that goes on easily and provides great coverage without looking fake or splotchy.

What You Do Not Want in a Self-Tanner

Nobody goes out and buys a self-tanner to turn their skin orange! This is one good reason to find recommended products that others have tried and proven. If you decide to use one of the top five self-tanners mentioned here, you are off to a great start and can expect great results. The videos selected for this article have valuable information regarding best ways to apply the product for best results, and other sunless tanning tips, so please be sure to watch them.

Weighing Out the Benefits

The Pros & Cons of Self-Tanning

Maybe you are not sure if self-tanning is good for your skin or you think the sun provides a better tan. Maybe you need to consider the pros and cons of self-tanning to decide whether you want to try this method of tanning.

Listed below is a list of pros (good reasons to self-tan) and below that is the list of the cons (reasons not to self-tan).

The Pros of Using a Self-tanner:

  • No need to lay in the hot sun
  • No harsh UV rays to damage your skin
  • Will not promote premature aging of the skin (wrinkles and fine lines)
  • Will not cause skin cancer
  • You may tan while you sleep
  • Tan instantly
  • Self-tanners provide a natural-looking tan
  • Tan even with a super busy schedule
  • Some self-tanners contain SPF to protect your skin
  • Provides a more even tan than the sun
  • May be done at home or anywhere, no spa appointment required
  • Keep your tan glowing and healthy year-round

The Cons of Using a Self-tanner:

  • DHA, key ingredient in self-tanners, may cause contact dermatitis
  • Tan only lasts a few days
  • May stain hands and fingernails; use gloves
  • Some self-tanners do not contain SPF
  • Fumes from self-tanners may be bad for you; apply in a ventilated room

The Top 5 Self-Tanners & Their Attributes


#1 Fake Bake Flawless

  • Includes a mitt for easy, streak-free application
  • Includes a pair of gloves to protect your hands
  • Includes a spray applicator to replace original screw-on cap
  • Sprays on, dries fast
  • Instant results
  • Airbrushed appearance
  • Lasts about three days
  • Will not transfer color to clothes or sheets


#2 L'Oréal Sublime Bronze Pro Perfect Salon Airbrush

  • Moderately priced
  • Airbrush applicator provides full coverage
  • Dries fast
  • Golden tan in six hours
  • Streak-free
  • For medium to dark tan


#3 Jergens Natural Glow Firming Daily Moisturizer

  • Available in most drugstores
  • Gradual tan within three days
  • Firms skin within seven days
  • Not spotty or orange appearing
  • Great for fair skin
  • Pleasant scent
  • Nourishes the skin
  • Available in Fair to Medium and Medium to Tan
  • Cult classic


#4 St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse

  • Great for short-term events
  • Pleasant scent
  • Applies easily
  • Dries fast
  • For best results, apply with a mitt
  • Natural-looking tan
  • A self-tanner classic


#5 Dior Bronze Creme

  • Applies easily
  • Dries fast
  • Provides a natural-looking tan
  • Blends well with skin
  • Last about three to four days
  • May be used year-round
  • Great for all skin types

How Self-Tanners Work

The Science of Sunless Tanning

Most self-tanning products use DHA (dihydroxyacetone) as the active ingredient for tanning the skin. When you apply your self-tanner, the DHA chemically reacts to "dye" the dead skin cells on the outermost layer of your skin. This gives you a tanned appearance. After a few days your dead cells are shed, and that is why your tan fades away within a few days.

For best results, always exfoliate before applying a self-tanner.

Featuring Fake Bake's Flawless

Advice from an Esthetician

Avoid the sun, take a vitamin D supplement, and apply your anti-aging sunscreen (SPF) every day!

Featuring L'Oréal Sublime Bronze ProPerfect Salon Airbrush

Self-Tanner Poll

What do you think is the best self-tanner for a beginner?

See results

How the Top 5 List Was Compiled

The top five products (listed above) competed in 12 self-tanner lists found on the Internet.

The first two selections (#1 & #2) appeared in 5 of the 12 lists and were ranked accordingly.

Selections #3 through #5 appeared in 4 of the 12 lists and were also rated according to their placement in these lists.

You can find the referenced lists below.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Miriam Parker

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