The 7 Best Self


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Jun 14, 2024

The 7 Best Self

Even if you have delicate skin, you can get a faux glow, too. If you have sensitive skin, you need to be a bit more choosy about the type of self-tanner you use. Namely, the best self-tanners for

Even if you have delicate skin, you can get a faux glow, too.

If you have sensitive skin, you need to be a bit more choosy about the type of self-tanner you use. Namely, the best self-tanners for sensitive skin are balanced out by moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, and glycerin, and don’t contain potential irritants like synthetic dyes, mineral oil, hydroquinone, or formaldehyde (which, yes, is apparently found in some self tanners because of its oxidizing effects). To find out more, Elite Daily interviewed two top doctors — see what they had to say, below.

Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., F.A.A.D., is an associate professor and the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. A board-certified dermatologist, he is also the medical advisor of the acne-focused skin care brand, JORI.

Dr. Jaimie DeRosa, M.D., F.A.C.S., is a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder of DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Boston and Palm Beach, where she’s the lead plastic surgeon. Dr. DeRosa specializes in surgical and nonsurgical procedures and skin care treatments, including rhinoplasty, laser hair removal, mini facelifts, IPL, and microneedling. Along with her work at the Med Spa and surgery center, she is also an assistant professor at both Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine.

Dr. Zeichner tells Elite Daily that “Generally speaking, DHA [dihydroxyacetone, the main tanning agent found in most tanning products] is well tolerated and non-irritating.” Still, Dr. DeRosa points out that there is an ingredient called natural DHA, which is a self-tanning agent derived from plants. If you have sensitive skin, you can opt for either DHA type, depending on your preferences — what’s more important is that you choose a formula that’s balanced out by soothing and moisturizing ingredients, and that you steer clear of any of your known allergens (e.g. synthetic fragrance).

“Many of the latest generations of self-tanning creams designed for sensitive skin contain hydrating and soothing ingredients like those found in traditional moisturizers. For example, many contain emollient ingredients like coconut oil or shea butter,” says Dr. Zeichner. Self-tanners in the form of a mousse or lotion are best for your body, whereas self-tanning drops — which typically get mixed in with your moisturizer — are the best option for your face.

As for which ingredients to avoid, Dr. Derosa points to the following: mineral oil, which “clogs pores and may result in acne breakouts, irritation, skin rashes, and itchiness”; formaldehyde, which is “added to some self-tanners to darken the skin due to its oxidizing properties but it’s also a known [carcinogen] and [can cause] skin irritation, nausea, and headache”; synthetic dyes and pigments, which “may be derived from petrochemical compounds that cause irritation in the form of redness, itchiness, and swelling; and hydroquinone, which “is at times found in self-tanners to prevent orange discoloration of the skin, but is linked to allergic reactions such as swelling around the eyes and mouth, irritation, and redness as well as eye and liver problems.” And if you have a known allergy to synthetic fragrance (aka parfum), you’ll want to avoid synthetically scented self tanners.

In a hurry? These are the best self-tanners for sensitive skin:

Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Tanning Lotion comes backed by over 13,000 five-star Amazon ratings and Dr. DeRosa’s approval. “[It] comes as a non-greasy lotion formula that spreads quickly and gets evenly absorbed,” says Dr. Derosa. “It’s vegan and contains natural ingredients like shea butter and coconut oil,” which will moisturize your skin’s surface as the tan develops. Being a lotion in nature, this is a great option for people with extra-dry skin that could benefit from a hydrating and skin-softening formula.

For sensitive skin, Kora Organics Gradual Self Tanning Lotion is another favorite of Dr. DeRosa’s. She explains, “[It] works gradually and builds over time. The trick with this product is that its DHA is sugar-derived, so it ferments and turns brown over time, organically darkening the skin.” This formula also contains noni fruit extract to provide antioxidant protection, as well as nutrient-rich sunflower seed oil and coconut oil for their moisturizing benefits.

Tanning waters are great for adding both hydration and a subtle glow to your skin, which is why Dr. Derosa recommends the St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist (which is a favorite of mine, too). She says, “[This] is an excellent choice if you are looking for something specifically for the face. Its lightweight composition infused with hibiscus extract is really nice and unlikely to cause irritation.” Made with natural DHA, the formula also contains moisturizing castor oil and hydrating hyaluronic acid. In addition, this is great for when you don’t have time for showering off a faux tan — all you need to do is spray this no-rinse formula onto your skin and watch the tan gradually develop.

“When Sivan Ayla founded LUX UNFILTERED, her goal was to create a line of luxurious, natural-looking self-tanners made with high-quality, skin-loving ingredients. Since I discovered the brand about a year ago, they’re the only self-tanning products I’ll use on my fair, sensitive skin,” says Adeline Duff, a beauty editor at Elite Daily. All LUX UNFILTERED products are vegan and cruelty-free, and made without common irritants like parabens, paraffins, phthalates, and silicones. Instead, the brand formulates their products with good-for-skin ingredients derived from natural sources — in the case of the lotion, those include nourishing shea and cocoa butters, and almond, avocado, and passion fruit oils. “I love this lotion because it leaves my skin feeling super soft and has the most heavenly santal scent, whereas so many other tanning lotions smell artificially of a sweet tropical cocktail,” adds Duff.

“LUX UNFILTERED’s tanning drops have quickly become a holy-grail product for me” says Duff. “I mix anywhere from four to eight drops in with my morning moisturizer, depending on my tanning goals that week, and I’m left with a gorgeous natural glow every time. Plus, even if you wash your face at night, you’ll still wake up with a (dare I say, even better-looking) glow the next morning.”

These drops are also great for sensitive skin because they’re fragrance free — which is almost unheard of for a tanning product — and contain plenty of lightweight hydrating ingredients like coconut water, passion fruit oil, and pomegranate extract.

If you’re after a self-tanner that can do it all without leaving any sticky or streaky residue behind, consider the Isle of Paradise Glow Clear Self Tanning Mousse. This is a water-to-mousse formula with a lightweight feel that blends into skin seamlessly (especially if you use a mitt). This self-tanner is free of sensitizing components, and is balanced out by plenty of moisturizing ingredients like castor oil, coconut oil, and glycerin to lock in hydration. Plus, it contains aloe extract, and ingredient that can potentially help relieve redness. According to Isle of Paradise’s website, since this formula glides on clear and develops over time, it won’t transfer to your clothes or pillowcase.

Most self-tanners take time to develop, but the Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam develops in just two hours. The formula contains 100% natural DHA to minimize the risk of irritation, as well as soothing ingredients like raw virgin coconuts and amino acids to amp up your skin’s moisture content. If you want a subtle, all-over glow in a flash, shower approximately two hours after applying this mousse. If, however, you want a deeper tan, you can wash the mousse off after letting it soak into your skin overnight.


Joshua Zeichner, M.D., F.A.A.D., a board certified dermatologist.

Jaimie DeRosa, M.D., F.A.C.S., is a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon.

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