The Best Self Tanning Products + Tips.

The Best Self Tanning Products I love a sun-kissed glow in the summer (and everyone is so tan and glowy down here in Charleston!) but I do not love wrinkles and sun damage. And while nothing makes me happier than lounging in the sunshine with a good book, I’m always slathered up in sunscreen.  I use a lot of self-tan products to help give me the glow I am looking for, and today I wanted to round those up (and also share some tips and tricks for achieving that perfect tan-but-not-orange look). All of these products work really well for all skin types and will (I PROMISE) give you a natural golden glow.. no orange “fake tan” look, yuck! And none of them smell bad either – that’s important, too!!!!

There has been a lot of trial and error here. I am not great at self tanning so tend to prefer gradual glow products,. I’ve tried a lot of products that are streaky or gave me an orange cast. Not the case with any of these!!!! These are my tried and true favorites for a really beautiful, natural looking glow (with as little fuss as possible!).

Self Tanning Product Reviews
my favorite self tanning product combo for body!

The Best Self Tanning Products

For a gradual glow

Like I mentioned above, I tend to prefer gradual tanners over a more traditional self-tanning product as they’re just so easy to apply with way less potential to mess up. You’ll start with just a subtle glow but with continued use will build up to a really gorgeous natural bronze.

M-61 Power Glow Peel Pads and Hydraboost Body Butter Gradual Tan

I popped into Bluemercury a month or two ago JUST to buy this combination of products (I can’t remember who but someone I was following was gushing about the two products together) and in my opinion it’s the best everyday, easy tan ritual for body. I will do the peel pads once or twice a week and use the body butter every other day. This combo gives GREAT glow and the products are also really nice (the peel pads leave skin silky + smooth and the body butter firms + is really nourishing and not drying at all). I like that the tanning lotion has a slightly shimmery finish.. it makes your arms and legs look really good and helps to even out the skin tone.

Also with regard to this line, I am currently testing the M-61 Hydraboost Gradual Tan Serum for face and am only medium on it. I don’t  think it’s bad (it’s a little bit drying despite the name) but I prefer the Isle of Paradise drops.

Isle of Paradise Drops in medium

Isle of Paradise Drops in medium

I use these tanning drops every other night in between actives (so on non-retinol or acid nights). I typically mix one to two drops in with my moisturizer and apply the combination all the way down to the decolletage. The next day you wake up with the most perfect golden glow. I have been using these for years and can’t recommend them enough. I know some people also mix them in with their body lotion and I’m sure you can do that, but I use these exclusively on my face.

San Tropez Bronzing Water Mist

I love this tanning mist. This is great for touch ups/to maintain a tan. One application will give you a subtle glow but with time you’ll build up to a  I keep it on my vanity and tend to spritz myself at least once a day. I like that you can apply over/under makeup and it just helps to keep the glow going. This doesn’t have any weird self-tanner scent either. I wrote a longer review of this product if you want to read it!

St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse

For an instant glow that lasts.

St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse

There’s nothing better than St. Tropez’s tanning mousse. It’s my holy grail and truly the best self-tanning product on the market but I have a love hate with this product (but mostly just love it). It’s so messy that I don’t always want to bother it… it just feels daunting? But nothing compares – it gives you the BEST bronzed glow. You will be really tan but it’s a natural looking tan, like you were on the beach for a week. It’s a little bit more work but so is getting a spray tan. Using this is less work than going in for a professional spray tan?

If I have a big event or a vacation I will do this the day before, with results lasting about a week. The formula is tinted which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing as it gives you a really pretty instant bronze and you can very easily tell if you’ve properly rubbed it in. It’s lightweight and easy to apply and tailors to your individual skin tone. It’s  curse because it’s messy. Using the mit really helps! I usually use this one but am currently using the one above and really like it (as an added bonus, it does come with a mit!). I wouldn’t say there are any major differences between the two products.The Ashley Graham one has a whipped, more creamy texture but in terms of application, mess factor, and results, they’re exactly the same.

My Best Self Tanning Tips

these are my best tips but would love for you to share yours in the comments… the more you know, right?

Before Self Tanning


Everyone knows this but it is SO important to properly exfoliate before you self-tan. The tanning product will hang on to dead skin cells and rough patches, and those patches will be darker than the rest of your skin, giving you

Apply extra moisturizer to dry spots

I actually like to use a lightweight body lotion all over before the bronzing mousse but at the very minimum I will apply body lotion to dry spots (my hands and feet, elbows, knees, etc) as dry spots will soak up the product and get darker than the rest of your skin.

During Self Tanning

I can’t recommend using a tanning mit enough. It makes a big difference… keeps your hands clean and ensures a really even application. I apply the self tanner in sections, starting with my legs and working my way up.

After Self Tanning

Wash your hands really, really well.

Make sure you get the webbing between your fingers too! I take a wash cloth and really rub between my fingers and toes.

Wait as long as you can before putting clothes on.

I try to stay naked until my skin is completely dry. And afterward, I’ll lounge in a loose, lightweight robe. This is good to do in the morning if you work from home!

Don’t exercise, shower or use any oils for 24 hours

I know it’s a pain (and your skin will feel dry!) but this really helps your tan to last longer!

PS – Spray tan tricks right this way!

photography by Clay Austin.

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  1. I love the new Ashley Graham tanner, it is amazing!

    Danielle |

    8.20.21 Reply
  2. ashley:

    something I always wonder about with self-tanning products is white sheets! do you have white sheets? do they get stained?!

    8.21.21 Reply
    • Hi! Not really… the bronzing mousse does rub off a little (it has actual bronzer in it!) but nothing terrible. And it never stains, once I throw them in the wash they’re good as new!

      8.21.21 Reply
  3. Lisa Autumn:

    This was so helpful! Thank you so much!

    Lisa |

    8.22.21 Reply