Sep 11, 2023
25 Best Drugstore Self
The perfect golden tan is rarely achieved on the beach in Hawaii, Cabo, or another sunny location. In fact, most of the beautifully bronzed skin we see models, actors, and celebrities bearing is the
The perfect golden tan is rarely achieved on the beach in Hawaii, Cabo, or another sunny location. In fact, most of the beautifully bronzed skin we see models, actors, and celebrities bearing is the work of spray tanning or self-tanning. Tanning in the sun or on a tanning bed is not sustainable. Harmful UV rays penetrate the skin and accelerate aging while putting you at risk for skin cancer. Self-tanning on the other hand is convenient, accessible, fast, and, when you know where to look, affordable. With the right steps and technique, your skin will look amazingly healthy with a tan glow.
Despite what some naysayers think, it is completely possible to get a natural-looking tan in less than a few hours in your own home. As told by the American Academy of Dermatology Association, it takes a few super simple steps to achieve an even and long-lasting tan with self-tanner. When following these steps, such as exfoliating, blending, and diluting where needed, even a budget self-tan can look great. In this collection, we've compiled 25 self-tanners for a variety of skin tones, skin types, application preferences, and lifestyles. As you read, consider each of these factors to make sure you find the best fit for you.
Below we cover all of the most popular product categories that people are searching for today for self-tanning. This includes self-tanning mousses, foams, mists, and even specific products for the face, body, and certain skin types. In all of the categories we chose, we found products at a variety of price points while still making sure that you could find each self-tanner at your local Walgreens, Rite Aid, Target, and other common chains. From ultra-cheap to more expensive options, there is a golden faux tan out there for every budget. Our goal is to help you find your holy grail in the first go. You might even find two!
We picked the 25 best drugstore self-tanners by searching through the endless sea of buyer reviews, expert opinions, and brand statements, so you don't have to. We also scoured TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram to see many of these products in action. With any luck, you'll be sporting the beachiest and most beautiful glowing tan after one quick stop at your favorite drugstore.
The best self-tanner on the market has to be by b.tan. The brand's Love At First Tan Self Tan Mousse has stellar reviews. One reviewer on Amazon said, "I have tried drugstore tanners to Sephora tanners to high-end tanners like Loving Tan. This stuff is gold!" The difference between this tanner and others mostly lies in its violet base, which banishes orange tones. It also allows for buildable color which creates a natural-looking tan.
Get b.tan Love At First Tan Self Tan Mousse at Rite Aid for $11.49.
Who better to take tanning advice from than the always-golden Kim K.? According to Insider, Kim Kardashian is a huge fan of spray tans. Unlike the sun, they allow her to keep her skin safe from damage while also covering discoloration and creating the perfect color. For those of us who don't have the time or money to spray tan as frequently as she does, the icon offers up her favorite self-tanner: the St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse.
Purchase the St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse for $44 at Target.
The Jergens Natural Glow Firming Daily Moisturizer is frequently recommended for gradually tanning your natural skin while also reducing cellulite appearance and hydrating dry skin. Infused with collagen, elastin, antioxidants, and coconut water, it helps us achieve healthier-looking skin. One Walmart reviewer shared "This is my go-to ... It looks very natural and applies evenly ... Also, I've used it on my face and it looks great, no breakout issues for me!"
Purchase Jergens Natural Glow Firming Daily Moisturizer at Walmart for $18.14.
The Self Tanning Water Mousse by L'Oréal Paris checks many of the boxes we are looking for here. It is affordable, buildable, hydrating, streak-free, clean, and well-rated. This overnight tanning product allows you to control the intensity of your tan, and you can add more layers for a darker tone. Even better, this Jergens product is 91% top allergen free, as found by Skin Safe. It contains no lanolin, paraben, topical antibiotics, or soy, and it is teen safe.
The L'Oréal Paris Self Tanning Water Mousse is available at Target for $14.99.
Unfortunately, the self-tanner that you use on your body might not be a good fit for your face. Body tanners can cause irritation, breakouts, or an uneven tone. The L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Self Tanning Facial Drops are made for your face without harmful dyes and fragrances. Even better, they are a cleaner dupe for the ultra-popular Isle of Paradise self-tanning Drops, according to user @makeupsessions on TikTok.
The L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Self Tanning Facial Drops are available at Rite Aid for $17.99.
Those who were afraid to begin sunless tanning, or still haven't, normally shun these products because of their reputation for turning skin orange. This is not an irrational fear. Those of us with olive skin are frequently turned orange by self-tanner. The Tan AF Self Tanner by b.tan fixes this issue. A Walmart customer describes the application process saying, "This applies gray, not orange or brown like most self-tanners and when it develops, it looks SO pretty and natural."
Find b.tan's Tan AF Self Tanner for $12.99 at Walmart.
People with lighter skin tones are often the target market for self-tanning companies, yet they still have trouble finding tanners that give them a natural-looking tint. Many complain about certain products being too orange, streaky, or fake-looking. Nu Skin Sunright Insta Glow is among the self-tanners that people love, like this reviewer who said, "Love this product!! No streaks or turning the skin orange. Looks natural. Better than any product that I have bought in the past."
Get the Nu Skin Sunright Insta Glow from Walmart for $23.
The Vita Liberata Fabulous Self Tanning Gradual Lotion is recommended for medium skin tones because it is free of DHA which can cause an orange and brassy tone after developing. An Amazon review raves about this self-tanner, saying, "After working at a tanning salon and trying many self-tanners, this is by far my favorite gradual self-tanner. It doesn't look orange, and I don't mind the smell. Better than any other popular brands I've tried."
Purchase Vita Liberata Fabulous Self Tanning Gradual Lotion at Walmart for $40.23.
Over the summer, this tanning mousse skyrocketed in popularity because of the TikTok creator @myeshiamayo who showed her followers her glowing skin after using Jergens Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse. In her caption, she writes, "I love that I grew out of the thought that getting darker was negative. The darker I get, the prettier it looks to me." Since the TikTok video gained traction, many other Black creators have tested the self-tanning product and shown beautiful results.
The Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Body Mousse is at Target for $15.99.
In a viral TikTok video, influencer Jenna Palek tries out b.tan's Glow Your Own Way Tanning Gel. This self-tanner, which she says smells like coconut, can be applied with a mitt like most tanning products. However, because it doesn't have a color guide, it can be difficult to see where you've already tanned. So, it likely isn't great for beginners. Those who have had experience with self-tanners though will enjoy its easy-to-blend nature and no-rinse formula.
Get b.tan Glow Your Own Way Tan Gel at Ulta Beauty for $12.99.
In general, tanning mousses are more beginner-friendly than any other application type. The texture allows you to blend the formula into your skin with a mitt without the product running or streaking. The Professional Instant Self Tanning Mousse from St. Moriz also uses a color guide so you know exactly which areas you've already gone over to reduce patchiness. This guide washes off in the shower and you are left with a beautiful tan that develops to become darker over the next few hours.
Purchase St. Moriz Professional Instant Self Tanning Mousse from Target for $8.39.
Though the price is steeper than some other options, SOL's Deeper by the Drop Self Tanning Drops are a great tanning solution for the face and body. Known to be easy to apply, they dry quickly which reduces patchiness. In a review on YouTube, Milana Bajic says "I'm pleasantly surprised with this self-tanner ... everything just looks so smooth and even and nice." Her face is clearly glowing with an even finish that we normally see with high-quality tanning products.
Get SOL by Jergens Deeper by the Drop Self-Tanning Drops at Target for $25.49.
A self-tanner in a spray bottle just makes sense. You can achieve an even glow on your entire body with very little effort and time. The best we've found is the St.Tropez's Self Tan Classic Mist. According to St. Tropez, the intensity of your tan can be controlled by how long you let it sit on your skin before showering. Four hours creates a sunkissed glow, six hours make for a natural-looking tan, and eight hours will give you a deep bronze color.
Get the St.Tropez Self Tan Classic Mist on Amazon for $35.
Self-tanner in single-use towelettes is not a new invention. Many brands have used this design selling the wipes as a solution to a quick tan. Still, the original product by Tan Towel is most loved by reviewers. Their Self Tan Towelette Classic is a cult favorite that many found years ago and still use to this day. One customer of Tan Towel said, "I have been using Tan Towel for several years. They give a natural color with no streaking."
Purchase the Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette Classic at Walmart for $19.98.
The longest-lasting self-tanner you can find at the drugstore is the Forever + Ever Self Tanning Mousse by b.tan. The product is sold as an ultra-long-lasting temporary self-tanner that can last up to 11 days. One b.tan reviewer said about the product: "The tan lasts a long time. Fades gradually with shower drowning on when you exfoliate. It may not look so visible when first applied but give it an hour or more and it will show."
Get b.tan Forever + Ever Self Tanning Mousse at Walgreens for $11.49.
Even with the best self-tanner, dark spots and scars can still show through. You don't need to cover these up, but if it's your preference, the St. Moriz Advanced Color Correcting Mousse could help. As told by an Ulta Beauty reviewer, "I'm always on the hunt for something that'll match the undertone and depth of my darkest parts. I already have a warm undertone so I chose dark ... It's perfect. Perfect depth, perfect undertone, I finally match my arms."
Purchase the St. Moriz Advanced Color Correcting Mousse at Ulta Beauty for $18.99.
People looking for clean products typically stay away from self-tanners (especially those for the face) with dyes, fragrances, and harmful chemicals in their formulas. The Bondi Sands Pure Gradual Tanning Lotion has none of this. It hydrates and brightens the skin with hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. Keep in mind, however, reviews of the tanning lotion at Target suggest that this product only works on fair and light skin, despite being marketed for all skin tones.
Bondi Sands Pure Gradual Tanning Lotion is available at Target for $22.49.
The Alba Botanica Sunless Tanner Lotion is similar to Bondi Sands Pure as it is free of many ingredients that cause irritation and is also cruelty-free. One of the main differences, though, is that it provides a glow to the skin that other products try hard to achieve. A reviewer shared, "It makes my skin very smooth. It dried pretty fast, didn't stain my hands, and the color was very pretty... It didn't spot when I started to fade."
Alba Botanica Sunless Tanner Lotion is available at Target for $7.39.
Tanologist has become a well-trusted brand over the last couple of years, and their self-tanner drops are a staple for many, especially when traveling. Simply add two to 12 drops to your favorite moisturizer, apply it, and watch it develop in the next few hours. Milan Bajic on YouTube reviews the drops, saying, "This gave me some really good color. I feel like I don't even need to darken this up at all ... the color that it gave me is perfect."
Buy Tanologist Self Tanner Drops at Walgreens for $19.99.
If you find that applying self-tanner is too tedious or time-consuming, you might enjoy in-shower self-tanner such as Jergens Natural Glow In-Shower Self Tanning Lotion. This lotion for wet skin brings forth a natural glow to your complexion and a gradual tan. As Jergens boasts on their website, this formula also fixes two of the most common complaints about self-tanning: it leaves no self-tanner odor and no color transfer onto your towels or clothes.
Purchase Jergens Natural Glow In-Shower Self Tanning Lotion for $10.49 at Target.
Most self-tanners, even the good ones, do just one job. They make you tanner. However, with some persistent searching, you can find incredible tanning products that keep your skin perfectly sun-kissed while also, for example, brightening your face with vitamin C and acting as a primer base for makeup application. If you are looking for a multi-purpose product like this, check out Ole Henriksen's Banana Bright Face Primer.
Get Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Face Primer at Amazon for $24.44.
Formulated with caffeine, guarana, and hyaluronic acid, b.tan's Plump Up the Bronze Tanning Lotion is a highly moisturizing body lotion and a great gradual self-tanner all wrapped up into one affordable product. As told by the Cleveland Clinic, caffeine can be a beneficial ingredient in your skincare and self-tanning routine as it combats fine lines, wrinkles, and inflammation while temporarily correcting cellulite and stretch marks.
Get the b.tan Plump Up the Bronze Gradual Tan Lotion at Walmart for $9.97.
When we get into the summer months after the long winter season, many of us have completely lost our tan from the summer before. If you don't want to wait for that summer glow, you can try the Australian Gold Sunscreen with Instant Bronzer. This spray-on sunscreen that you can find at your local drugstore allows you to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays while also making your skin look perfectly golden.
Get Australian Gold Continuous Spray Sunscreen with Instant Bronzer at Walmart for $9.99.
If you like the Drunk Elephant Bronzing Drops but you don't like the price, the Nanobronze Bronzing Drops from Indeed Labs is essentially the same product, but it costs about $10 less. This product is known for the bronzy glow it adds to your face or body, and it can be used under makeup or without it. TikTok creator Gabie Scaman recommends these drops by telling viewers that they can be mixed into your favorite moisturizer for a glowy no-makeup makeup look.
Find Indeed Labs Nanobronze Bronzing Drops at Ulta Beauty for $24.99.
In photos, some self-tanner looks off or doesn't show up at all. If you are looking to glow at the beach, at work, or while running your errands, almost any tanner in this collection would do the job. However, if you are tanning for pictures or an event, the Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Illuminator could be a better option. A bronzing and illuminating body makeup, this product brings forth a healthy glow to your exposed skin for a golden highlighted look.
Purchase Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Illuminator Leg Makeup on Amazon for $6.45.