Top Ten

We Tried Our Top Self-Tanners, Here’s What Actually Worked

Whether it’s for baring a bit more shoulder during the sunny season or adding that extra “oomph” before winter wonderment, self-tanners are a year-round staple—especially for the fairer of them all. But we have to admit, summer is undoubtedly the time when we keep our tan-tastic formulas within reach.

With the knowledge we have now about the ravaging, damaging effects of UV rays, self-tanners provide a safe and reliable alternative to fake a sun-kissed glow. And, if done right, no one will be the wiser.

With new-and-improved formulas and application techniques—some even boast deliciously tropical scents to boot—today’s range of self-tanners are better than ever. But even the best ones out there aren’t exactly foolproof. That’s why we gathered a group of self-tanner loyalists to try the best and brightest—or should we say bronziest—from Dermstore. See what they had to say, below.

  1. 1. Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse
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    1. Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse

    Reviewed by: Andie T., Buyer
    Experience level with self-tanners: I’m not an avid user, but I’ve tried a range of all different types (i.e. mist, mousse, lotion), from drugstore to luxury. I’m looking for a product that provides a streak-free finish, natural color, no splotchy color when fading and, of course, long-lasting wear.
    Application process: The application process for this self-tanner was easy and quick! Just make sure you’re in good lighting so you don’t miss a spot and blend it well. Directions say to apply three times over 12 to 24 hours and I definitely did not. Therefore, my tan only lasted a couple days (it was supposed to last two weeks).
    The verdict: The product gave me a noticeable, healthy-looking glow. It lasted a couple of days and it was easy to remove. There was a little transfer onto my sheets, but never on my clothes. That being said, I would use this one again!

    Buy now with free delivery
  2. 2. COOLA Organic Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist
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    2. COOLA Organic Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist

    Reviewed by: Ashley M., Email Marketing Coordinator
    Experience level with self-tanners: I’ve always been a user of self-tanners. In the past few years, I nailed down my whole application routine, so I’m a pro at achieving an even application.
    Application process: It was hard to tell where the mist was landing since the formula is transparent. The brand suggested that you use your hands to apply the self-tanner, but I ended up using a mitt on my legs and arms since those are the areas where I tend to have the most issues.
    The verdict: I like the color (it’s very bronzy) but I was a little put off by the unevenness of the application. On the plus side, I haven’t seen any transfer and it’s still going strong three days later!

    Buy now with free delivery
  3. 3. St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse
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    3. St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse

    Reviewed by: Lilly S., Marketing Coordinator
    Experience level with self-tanners: My experience with self-tanners is not very extensive. I’ve only tried the drugstore-brand self-tanners that wash off right away. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of how sticky these products felt and how it would leave marks and streaks on my clothes.
    Application process: When I first pumped the product, a foamy liquid with a green tint came out of the bottle. When I started rubbing it all over my leg, the color shifted to a nice glowy tint. The product spread very easily and evenly on my skin, which was a plus!
    The verdict: I started to notice a difference as soon as I applied the product to my skin. It lasted the whole day and was easily removed as soon as I showered. I liked that I didn’t have to rub my skin vigorously to get the color off.

    Buy now with free delivery
  4. 4. South Seas Skincare Tahitian Tan Mist
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    4. South Seas Skincare Tahitian Tan Mist

    Reviewed by: Kaitlin W., Content & SEO Analyst
    Experience level with self-tanners: I’ve tried a handful or two of different self-tanners in the past. My least-favorite products are the drugstore lotions that are designed to give you a healthy glow with daily use (after day two, I couldn’t get past the terrible smell).
    Application process: Applying this was just like applying sunscreen since I prefer the spray formulas over lotions. But just like with sunscreen, I didn’t trust myself to spray my back without ending up with splotchy results. Luckily, my roommate was able to assist with that part.
    The verdict: I noticed a subtle glow immediately after, but nothing that anyone who didn’t know I had just used a self-tanner would notice. I went to bed after applying it and I did see a more prominent bronzing by morning. Color me impressed!

    Buy now with free delivery


Beauty Reporter

Joann Row

Born and raised in sunny Southern California, Joann Row developed her professional writing chops in the world of local news, but soon the fashion and beauty industry came calling. She was a longtime content contributor to several Forever 21 campaigns, including the Denim relaunch. Understanding that beauty is skin deep, Joann is now a copywriter at DermStore. When she’s not writing about beauty products or freelancing for fashion publications, Joann enjoys a nice glass of pinot noir (never grigio) while hanging out with her mom and three dogs. If she can give you just one beauty tip: Dry shampoo is your best friend.