8 Fabulous Self-Tanners (& How to Use Them!)

Adriana Velez | Jul 25, 2014 Beauty & Style

self tannerWe like to mock self-tanners that make people look like an Oompa Loompa, but after the laughter dies down, there's that uncomfortable truth: Lying out to get a suntan is playing with fire. Not only do you risk skin cancer, you also risk getting burned. And if you do it for years, you get lizard skin. Wouldn't you like your skin to look smooth and fresh well into your 50s? That's why self-tanners are no joke. They're getting better, we swear.

That said, the products that give you the best results coincidentally happen to be the most expensive. But all hope for a deeper summer glow is not lost. Here are 8 self-tanners for $25 and under that actually work.

self tanner

Images © iStock/PeopleImages, ©iStock.com/PLAINVIEW

  • Fake Bake Flawless


    Review website SelfTanning.com listed this on their best self-tanners list this year. They caution that it's messy to apply, so be sure to use that mitt. Gotta love the brutally honest name.

    $25, Ulta, 6 oz.

  • Clinique Self Sun Body Tinted Lotion


    This product is also on SelfTanning.com's top tanners list. It's not going to give you the darkest tan, but it gets high marks otherwise.

    $23, Clinique

  • Tarte Brazilliance Skin Rejuvenating Marucuja Self-Tanning Face Towelettes


    Using towelettes makes application super easy. Tarte's face towelettes contain Maracuja oil, which is an antioxidant.

    $21, Ulta, 10 towelettes

  • Lorac TANtalizer Body Bronzing Spray


    Okay, at $15 for this 1.3-ounce travel size is not exactly a bargain. But if you want a little touch of luxury, it could be fun to try. It's an instant bronzer so you can see where you've already sprayed.

    $15, Lorac, 1.3 oz.

  • Sephora Collection Gradual Self-Tanning Face Water


    This self-tanner is for the face. You apply it daily with a cotton ball or wipe just like you'd apply toner.

    $16, Sephora, 4.22 oz.

  • Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer


    This lotion has been getting rave reviews for looking natural but it doesn't quite work exactly like a traditional self-tanner. You will need to use it regularly to gradually build up a moderate tan. This is not for dramatic effects.

    $13.99, Drugstore.com, 10 oz.

  • L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Pro Perfect Salon Airbrush Medium Natural Tan


    This is the best self-tanner according to Consumer Reports. In their review, they say, "This spray gave our volunteers the most natural-looking tan. It's the only product that didn't look orange or green to any of them. The results intensified after reapplication, and the tan lasted several days. Bonus: It wasn't too smelly."

    $9.29, Drugstore.com, 4.6 oz.

  • Equate (Walmart) Beauty Self Tan Bronzing Spray


    The least-expensive option is also one of Consumer Report's runner-up for best self-tanner.

    $7.98, Walmart, 6.7 oz.

  • St. Tropez One Night Only Instant Glow Body Lotion


    Okay, technically these aren't self-tanners. Instead, these lotions will give you a tan only as long as they're on your skin -- and then you wash them off. If you like a tan as an accessory, say when you wear that whites summer dress, or that neon pink skirt that makes your legs look pasty, this is a fun alternative.

    Body Lotion: $18, Violet Grey, 6.7 oz.

    Face Lotion: $15, Violet Grey, 1.69 oz.

  • Tips for Using Self-Tanners


    And now, some tips for applying self-tanner we gleaned from beauty blog and shop Violet Grey.

    1. Exfoliate your skin for a more even and long-lasting tan.

    2. Moisturize your driest body parts (elbows, knees, heels, ankles) so they don't absorb extra self-tanner.

    3. Pull your hair back, out of the way.

    4. Stand on a towel in front of a full-length mirror while you apply.

    5. Wear application mitts or gloves to avoid staining the palms of your hands.

    6. Apply from the feet up, using long, even strokes.

    7. After you've gotten that tan, avoid exfoliating it off by pat drying, not rubbing, yourself dry with a towel after you shower. Keep moisturizing.