You want to look into the mirror and see a golden glow as if you just spent a week at the beach.
But what if you tend to break out easily? Which is the best face self tanner for acne-prone skin?
We understand what it’s like to fret over our complexions. That’s why we did the research to help you find a non-comedogenic sunless tanner.
Here’s a brief explanation of how to pick facial self-tanning products that won’t make you break out.
Can I put self tanner on my face if I have acne?
The good news is that the active ingredients in self tanner aren’t proven to cause acne (1). Neither DHA nor erythrulose is linked to breakouts.
However, other components like artificial fragrances and oil may cause pimples.
When you shop for self-tanner, check to see if it’s advertised as “non-comedogenic.” This means it shouldn’t clog pores.
Also, check the label for harsh ingredients that could irritate sensitive skin—more on that in a moment.
What ingredients in sunless tanner might cause acne?
Skip artificial fragrances. These are listed as “fragrance” or “perfume.” Natural scents that come from botanical ingredients aren’t necessarily a problem.
Many self tanners have a fragrance to hide the odor of the tanning ingredients.
Also, try to avoid drying alcohol. Any sunless tanning product that claims to dry quickly (like wipes) may have alcohol that will dehydrate your skin and cause irritation.
Finally, steer clear of grease and oil. Some plant oils (like jojoba) aren’t comedogenic, but others like coconut oil or cocoa butter may cause trouble. Worse yet is mineral oil and petrolatum (2).
How to use self-tanner safely on acne-prone skin
Prepare your skin by washing it with a mild cleanser. Use one that maintains the proper pH balance to avoid an unfortunate orange tint (3).
Next, once you apply the tanning solution, don’t wash again for at least a couple of hours. It takes time for the active ingredients to bronze the skin. Many who use sunless tanning products apply them at night for maximum effect.
Some facial tanners work gradually, and you have to apply them daily. For others, one application per week is enough to keep you sun-kissed and glowing.
If you’re in the middle of a breakout, skip the sunless tanner until your face heals.
Is sunless tanning safe?
The FDA has approved self-tanning products with DHA for use on the skin. It’s a type of sugar that reacts with amino acids in the skin.
It makes the top layer of skin tan, similar to how bacon browns when it cooks or apples go brown when cut and exposed to the air. The effects last for a few days then gradually fade.
A small number of people may have an allergic reaction to DHA. Furthermore, DHA may raise levels of free radicals in the skin and slow down vitamin D production, but these effects are minimal (1).
What can you use instead of self tanner?
If sunless tanning products seem to aggravate acne, you could try cosmetic bronzers since they don’t interact with the skin. They are just makeup that washes off.
In fact, many self tanners contain bronzer. It serves as a guideline so that you know where you’ve applied the product. It also instantly makes it look tan.
Best Face Self Tanner for Acne-Prone Skin in 2023
St.Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist
St. Tropez is one of the top sunless tanning brands. They offer a variety of self tanners for the body and face, including lotions and mousse.
Their face mist is popular as it’s straightforward to apply and can be worn underneath makeup.
Literally, all you have to do is spritz it on the face, and you’re done. It’s lightweight and refreshing and doesn’t have a strong odor.
Reviewers were thrilled that it doesn’t streak or go orange. Instead, it builds to a golden tan that lasts up to a week.
Users that said they have sensitive, acne-prone skin were pleased that it didn’t clog pores or cause irritation.
The formula is vegan and free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates. It’s enriched with natural ingredients like mandarin orange and hibiscus extract. Plus, it has hyaluronic acid for a lightweight dose of moisture that won’t clog pores.
However, it also has benzyl alcohol and an artificial fragrance, which might be problematic for some people.
St.Tropez Self Tan Purity Vitamins Face Serum
What’s the difference between the serum and the mist?
The serum is more versatile. It can be applied directly to the skin or mixed with your moisturizer or sunscreen. That’s excellent as you still need to wear sunscreen while sunless tanning.
Within 4 to 6 hours, your face will develop a golden tan.
And yes, you can wear the serum underneath makeup.
(But you should know that the tan you get from products like these doesn’t provide protection against UV rays. Oddly, DHA can make the skin more sensitive to sunburn, too).
What’s more, the serum is an outstanding moisturizer on its own. It re-hydrates the skin for up to seventy-two hours after application. It contains delicious natural extracts like peach, avocado, and mandarin to provide plenty of antioxidants and vitamins.
Users say the serum feels very lightweight and has almost no scent. It softens the skin and doesn’t streak or blotch.
St. Tropez Everyday Gradual Tan for Face
Build your bronze gradually as if you were spending a little time in the sun each day. This lightweight lotion is based on aloe juice and water. It absorbs quickly and has a pleasant fragrance.
Skin-soothing ingredients like vitamin E and hyaluronic acid hydrate without clogging pores.
Once you massage it into the skin, wait at least three hours before showering or swimming.
Vita Liberata Advanced Organics invisi Foaming Tan Water
This self tanner should be applied after you moisturize. Use a sponge or brush to blend it across the face and neck.
In the bottle, it looks like a liquid. But when you press the dispenser, it comes out as an odorless foam.
The formula features botanical extracts like grapeseed, melon, pomegranate, and raspberry to nourish the skin. There’s also silk and licorice to calm any irritation.
Approximately four hours after you apply it, you should notice the tan developing.
Choose between light or medium/dark versions.
Fake Bake Flawless Coconut Tanning Serum For Face
Fake Bake’s popular sunless tanning products include this anti-aging serum with coconut oil. Yes, we know that that’s on the potential no-no list for acne-prone skin. Happily, not everyone breaks out because of it.
Many reviewers were pleased with the tan they achieved using the serum. It has a mild scent and does not require a mitt for application. Just be sure to wash your hands immediately afterward.
The serum combines the power of DHA, erythrulose, and DMI, a patented blend of self-tanning powerhouses. It ensures that your skin will not turn orange.
On the downside, the instant bronzer that serves as a color guide may rub off on bedding.
Norvell Sunless Self-Tanning Mist for Face
Norvell is a professional sunless tanning brand that supplies salons. Fortunately, it’s possible to purchase many of their products for home use.
This mist is sold to tanning clients as a way to maintain their tan for longer between appointments. But it’s also useful as a facial tanner even if you don’t go to a salon. It offers an instant bronzer as well as plenty of DHA for gradual tanning.
Norvell has perfected the art of eliminating the DHA odor, which is fantastic for a facial product. Also, the spray moisturizes and provides healing ingredients to repair damaged skin. It contains tomato, aloe, and vitamin E.
Skinerals Californium – USA Made Self Tanner Mousse
This mousse is available for light and medium to dark skin tones. The directions say to apply it at night for best results.
A single application builds a golden bronze that lasts up to a week. Keep in mind that your skin will also look immediately more tan since it contains instant bronzer as a color guide.
What’s nice is that the mousse can be worn underneath makeup. It’s not greasy and won’t clog pores. It has a soft scent, and it dries rapidly.
The formula is free of sulfates and parabens.
Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water
It feels like you’ve just misted your skin with scented water when you use this self tanner. It’s lightweight and soothing, leaving no residue behind.
Put it on at bedtime and wake up bronzed in the morning. Choose from light, medium, or dark versions depending on your skin tone and the results you want. Each contains color-correcting ingredients that prevent orange tones and streaking.
The formula also has natural additives like eucalyptus, chia, and avocado to promote smoother, healthier skin.
Users say they noticed a faint sunless tanning odor hours later, but it washes off easily.
+ Lux Unfiltered No 12 Bronzing Face Drops
We love these bronzing drops as you can customize the color of your skin with them. The fewer the drops, the lighter the bronze. Just add them to your favorite moisturizer and apply it.
They have no artificial fragrance, animal ingredients, parabens, phthalates, silicone, or gluten. Instead, they are fortified with hyaluronic acid, passion fruit, and pomegranate.
Reviewers who identify with acne-prone skin praised the product. One was pleased that she no longer has to wear foundation as her skin has a lovely bronze.
Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel
Clarins offers more than one self-tanning product. This non-greasy gel melts into the skin within moments. Hours later, your complexion will be sun-kissed.
Apply it frequently to deepen the color, or less often to maintain a subtle glow.
It contains both DHA and erythrulose to create a long-lasting tan. The instant bronzing effect comes from cocoa, caramel, and micro-pearls.
There are no parabens, sulfates, or phthalates, but there is an artificial fragrance.
GOLDEN STAR BEAUTY Facial Sunless Tanning Serum
It was a hard choice, but we think this is the best facial tanner for mature skin. It improves elasticity to smooth fine lines and diminish wrinkles. Moreover, it won’t trigger breakouts because it won’t clog pores.
It has a pleasant scent from natural ingredients like evening primrose oil and chamomile. Many of the components are USDA-certified organic.
Users are delighted that the serum absorbs quickly and it doesn’t create fake tan lines at the hairline. What’s more, it comes with a satisfaction guarantee.
Neutrogena Micromist Airbrush Sunless Tanning Spray
If you go to a salon for self-tanning, they use an airbrush system that mists the solution across your skin. So, what’s the stop you from enjoying the same benefits at home? You don’t need to buy an expensive setup – just try this can of magic spray.
Neutrogena’s hit it out of the park with this one. It delivers an ultrafine mist of tanning solution that doesn’t need to be rubbed in. It’s ideal for acne-prone skin as it’s alcohol-free and extra gentle. After all, it’s made by a company that specializes in catering to sensitive skin.
Wear it underneath makeup, or put it on at night to wake up glowing with health in the morning.
L’Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Self Tan Drops
Which is the best drugstore self-tanner for the face? We agree that L’Oreal’s Sublime Bronze drops are at the top of the list, especially for acne-prone skin.
They are oil-free with no artificial fragrance. Mix them with your favorite serum or moisturizer, then apply it as usual. (They aren’t compatible with alpha hydroxy acid or retinol serums, though).
The drops won’t just give you a tan. They also enhance your moisturizer with hyaluronic acid for extra refreshment.
One application leads to a subtle glow. Repeat the next day again to darken your tan.
COOLA Organic Sunless Tanning Serum
If you prefer natural products, this one is certified 71% organic and 99% natural by Ecocert Cosmos. COOLA also leaves out gluten and parabens.
The serum builds a tan gradually with repeated applications over subsequent days. Interestingly, it also fights signs of aging with plant stem cells, Centella asiatica, and argan oil.
We checked the list of ingredients and found that it has an artificial fragrance and denatured alcohol. Still, they were far down the label and not likely to be of concern.
Beauty by Earth Self Tanner for Face
Would you like to know why this self tanner smells so good? It has vanilla fruit extract in it. There’s no artificial fragrance, alcohol, or scary preservatives.
Instead, it protects sensitive skin with organic goodies like aloe, green tea, pomegranate, and witch hazel.
If you’re on the fence, just know that it’s backed by a satisfaction guarantee.
Don’t let pimples stop you from reaching your goals. If you want a tanned complexion, it’s within your reach.
Check the reviews above for several self tanners for acne-prone skin that won’t trigger breakouts. The hardest part is deciding between mists, serums, and moisturizers.
If you found your new favorite sunless tanning product here today, please come back and tell us about your experience with it.
1. https://www.acne.org/are-self-tanners-safe-for-acne-prone-skin.html by Dan Kern, updated December 24, 2020, accessed January 26, 2021
2. https://www.popsugar.com/beauty/Pore-Clogging-Ingredients-Avoid-You-Have-Acne-43181943 by Liz Thompson, published March 19, 2017, accessed January 26, 2021
3. https://stylecaster.com/beauty/get-a-glow/ by Natasha Burton, published February 27, 2014, accessed January 26, 2021