As a California girl who moved to New York City in the middle of January, I couldn’t believe how quickly my sun-kissed skin turned a ghostly pale. So I embarked on a journey to find the best fake tan, which involved testing pretty much every type of self tanner on the market: creams, mousses, waters, lotions, sprays and more. Let’s just say there were a lot of tragic orange incidents and bizarre streaks along the way. But there were some successes as well.
Whether you want to extend your summer glow as the season comes to an end, or simply want a tan without the harmful UV rays, here are five of the best fake tanning products I found.
Best for those who: Want a gradual tan
Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer ($9.43, originally $13.99; amazon.com): This daily tanning moisturizer is a drug store favorite, and for good reason! It’s made to replace your daily body lotion while enhancing your natural skin tone. The tan develops slowly, over several days, so it’s not ideal if you are looking for a quick change in color. But if you are just looking to ease into a subtle glow with a product that’s easy to apply, this is perfect for you.
Best for those who: Are new to self tanning
Beauty by Earth Self Tanner ($28.49, originally $29.99; amazon.com): This is a good choice for anyone new to self tanning who wants a bit more color than what you’ll get with a gradual moisturizer. I’m not the only one who loves it. Beauty By Earth Self Tanner has 4.3 stars on Amazon with over 4,300 reviews. What makes it great is that it’s buildable, meaning you can keep reapplying until you meet your ideal shade.
Best for those who: Are in a rush
Fake Bake Flawless Self Tan Liquid ($20, originally $27.26; amazon.com): This self tanning liquid dries quickly, so you don’t have to wait to get dressed, and unlike some fast-drying products, it leaves you with a streak-free color. An applicator mitt is included with purchase, making it easy to achieve a head-to-toe tan. Every time I use Fake Bake, I get tons of compliments. I’ve even turned some friends (and a few strangers) on to it. No wonder it has 4.3 stars with over 6,600 reviews on Amazon.
Best for those who: Have dry skin
Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops ($29; sephora.com): Don’t let the little bottle fool you — these tanning drops pack a punch. Even better, unlike fake tan products that dry out the skin, these drops are formulated to be added to your favorite moisturizer, which helps keep your skin soft and makes for easy application. And you have total control. Use a few drops for a subtle glow or add more for a dark bronze. Plus, this product is cruelty free, vegan, organic and hypoallergenic.
Best for those who: Want a long lasting tan
St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse (starting at $32; sephora.com): I found this fake tan to be the hardest to apply, but boy, is the color worth it. Oh, and the smell? Absolutely divine. This vegan-friendly, lightweight mousse is best applied with an applicator mitt ($6.50; sephora.com). The best part, however, is that your tan will last up to 10 days.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.