Although we’d love to get tanned on the beach or by the pool, there are other ways to get bronzed.
No, not in the tanning salon, but in the comfort of your home.
All you need is the best self tanner for fair skin. By tomorrow, that pale body will have a sun-kissed glow.
It will cost you only pennies and a little bit of effort.
Which is the best sunless tanning product for fair skin?
Should you use a mousse, oil, spray, lotion, or wipes? All of these sunless tanning products have pros and cons.
But first, to get the best fake tan for pale skin, you need to think about color. Modern self tanners are formulated to avoid turning skin orange, so you don’t have to worry much about that. Instead, it’s a question of how dark you want to go.
Products labeled for fair skin generally provide a golden tan, perhaps two shades darker. It will look natural, like you spent some time in the sun.
However, some self tanners will deepen the color further. These generally have a high concentration of the magic ingredient: DHA (1). Dihydroxyacetone was discovered by accident a few decades ago. Since then, it’s been approved by the FDA as safe for skin application.
DHA interacts with skin cells to darken their color and fake a tan. Just like a real tan, the color fades after a few days. Happily, your skin won’t peel, and you won’t be adding wrinkles from UV exposure.
It’s also crucial to know that a simulated bronze won’t protect you from the sun. You’ll still need sunscreen.
How to choose the best self tanner
Once you’ve decided how tan you’d like to be, it’s time to choose the application method.
Gradual tanning lotion is applied like a moisturizer. It progressively deepens the skin’s color over a few days. Typically, it has the lowest amount of DHA. If you’re worried about how sunless tanning will turn out, this is the least risky option.
For fast results, try a mousse or a spray. Some of these products provide a fake tan in one hour. While a mousse has to be rubbed in with your hands or an applicator mitt, a spray may be easier for reaching awkward places. You can protect the bathroom floor with an old beach towel while spraying.
Also, wipes are handy for touching up a tan while traveling. This low-mess technique can be used in the place of a mousse, spray, oil, or lotion.
Now, once you’ve chosen the technique, let’s discuss the fine points that differentiate the best self tanners on the market.
You need to know that most (but not all) of these sunless tanners have an odor. Worse, they will make your skin smell different. Personally, I kind of like it, as it makes me think of summertime. But if you think it might bother you, look for products that promise low odor.
Next, it’s all well and good to tan your body, but what about your face? To avoid acne and other undesirable consequences, use a face-specific self-tanning product.
Keep your new bronze for longer by moisturizing each day.
Lastly, if you choose a method that requires you to manually spread the product with your hands, get an applicator mitt. Trust me, it’s worth it to get even coverage and not have to worry about washing your hands afterward.
Pro tips for perfect results with a self tanner
Just like tanning outdoors or in a salon, your skin will tan more evenly if you exfoliate before.
Pay extra attention to areas like elbows, knees, and ankles. These tend to absorb excess product and darken more than the rest of the surrounding skin. Avoid problems by applying a little moisturizer on those spots before using a sunless tanner.
Don’t shave right before you tan because the product will sink into the pores.
Wait until your skin is fully dry before you get dressed. Then, do your best to avoid sweating or getting wet for the next few hours while the DHA works on your skin. Unless, of course, you’re using the first product below.
Best Self Tanner for Fair Skin in 2023
St. Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse
What is the best self tanner on the market? The numbers show that St. Tropez is always at the top.
One of their top sellers is a rapid tanning mousse. Rub in the velvety foam, wait an hour, and take a shower. You’ll have a golden tan after only one hour.
If you wait two hours, you’ll be medium-dark. After three hours, you’ll look like you spent a month on the beach.
It won’t streak, and it won’t turn you orange.
Although it claims to have no self tan smell because of the built-in fragrance, you’ll probably still notice something. But since you’ll be showering soon enough, it’s no big deal.
What’s more, St. Tropez does not include parabens or phthalates in their formulas. They also use naturally derived DHA.
St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Body Lotion
Here’s the best self-tanner for beginners. It’s a 48-hour moisturizer that will fool people into thinking you’ve gone tanning on the sly. Yes, it will take a couple of uses to make you noticeably darker. But that delay is exactly why it looks natural.
Also, it contains an instant bronzer to help you see where you’ve applied it and give you a little color right away.
It has a pleasant fragrance and doesn’t smell too strongly of sunless tanner.
St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist
The best self-tanner for a face with fair skin should offer certain benefits. For example, this one is a clear mousse that dries quickly and won’t clog pores. It also doesn’t discolor your clothes or the sheets.
What’s also remarkable is that it doesn’t reek of chemicals. It’s vegan and free of harmful chemicals like parabens, sulfates, and pathologies. Feel free to wear it underneath makeup.
Jergens Natural Glow FIRMING In-Shower Self Tanner
Jergens makes two versions of the in-shower tanning lotion. Either one is the best drugstore self tanner for pale skin. It just so happens that the firming version has appealing extras.
For one, it makes cellulite less noticeable within a week if you use it every day. It’s infused with coconut water, elastin, and collagen that plump the skin and leave it smoother.
Second, it’s packed with vitamin E and antioxidants to slow premature aging and promote healing.
And third, it has a fresh fragrance that neutralizes the self-tanning odor.
But you might be wondering how to use it as it’s not a typical lotion. What they recommend is to smooth it on right after you rinse while you’re still in the shower. Just flick off the excess water first.
A dime-sized amount should cover an arm and a quarter-sized dollop each leg. Take it easy on elbows, knees, ankles, and knuckles, however. It takes about a week to go as dark as it can take you.
What’s interesting is that you can pat dry with your towel (don’t rub), and the color doesn’t transfer.
Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Body Mousse
Meanwhile, the Jergens mousse is meant to be applied on dry skin. It’s easier if you use a mitt instead of your hands.
It takes about 1 minute to dry before you can dress. If you put it on before bed, you’ll wake up bronzed.
It has a fruity aroma that disguises the fake bake odor.
Pay attention when you shop for it because there are two versions: Light Bronze and Deep Bronze.
Jergens Natural Glow Face Moisturizer with SPF 20
Continuing with the drugstore products, this face tanner features broad-spectrum sunscreen. It makes it an excellent value as it’s three products in one. It bronzes, moisturizes, and protects.
You might even decide to quit wearing makeup after a week of using it!
Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tanning Liquid
Let’s say you wake up and have a reason to look tanned by nightfall. Then, this is the solution you need. It promises to deepen your color in six hours or less. It also dries rapidly as it’s a liquid, not a lotion.
Although it has instant bronzer, this isn’t to fool you into thinking that it’s working faster than it is. It serves as a marker so that you know where you’ve applied it already. It prevents streaking.
Moreover, this product comes with a professional applicator mitt for flawless results.
Fans of Fake Bake find that it’s rapid and effective, plus the tan lasts longer. The secret is a blend of DHA, erythrulose, and DMI. The last two ingredients work a little more slowly but extend the bronze for a week or longer.
Beauty by Earth Sunless Tanning Lotion and Buildable Bronzer
Go all-natural with this organic self tanner. It’s packed with delicious nutrients like Japanese green tea, cranberry, pomegranate, and vanilla fruit. The rich mix of vitamins and plant protein supports healthy, supple skin.
Users say that it’s creamy and white so that it doesn’t stain clothing. It has a subtle coconut and vanilla scent that helps mask the self-tanning smell.
You can’t go wrong as it comes with a satisfaction guarantee.
Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam
If you want the same kind of performance out of a home-use product that you’d get at a salon, try this one. It’s a lightweight foam that will give your skin a healthy glow within one hour. After that, you can wash, or let it work for up to six hours for a deep tan.
The nourishing formula is fortified with aloe and coconut.
Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk
Use this lotion to extend your tan, or build one slowly. It’s mild enough to use every day.
It leaves the skin silky smooth and scented like cocoa butter.
Just a reminder, wash your hands after applying it to avoid darkening your palms.
VITA LIBERATA Advanced Organics Fabulous Self-Tanning Gradual Lotion
If you’ve been researching sunless tanning products for a while, you’ve probably heard of this brand. When they say it’s odor-free, they are serious. It features Odour Remove technology to neutralize the self tanning smell.
Furthermore, this is an excellent moisturizer with shea butter and aloe. It can replace your regular body lotion even if you have sensitive, dry skin.
The sun-kissed glow it imparts will fade after four days to a week if you don’t reapply it.
Skinerals Californium – Self Tanner Mousse
Check the label to make sure you get the Light Caramel Tan version of this self-tanning mousse. It’s perfect for fair skin.
Don’t be alarmed if it’s green when it comes out of the bottle. That’s on purpose as it eliminates the orange fake tan look.
The quick-drying, lightweight mousse has a fresh fragrance. It’s loaded with antioxidants to keep the skin young.
What’s more, it’s made in America from vegan ingredients, and it’s paraben-free.
Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops Light – Sun Kissed Glow
I hear you – you don’t want to give up your regular body moisturizer in favor of a gradual tanning lotion. Here’s the solution – add these drops to it.
They have organic tanning ingredients plus the Oxy Glow Complex. They color-correct and brighten skin tone while they deepen your color. Therefore, they turn your lotion into a sunless tanner.
Banana Boat Self Tanning Lotion
Everyone knows about Banana Boat’s sunscreen, but did you know they make self tanner? It’s cheap, and it works surprisingly well. Just be sure to get the Light/Medium kind for fair skin.
Reviewers are pleased with how it doesn’t streak or feel oily. If you want something that’s even lighter, get the mist instead. Spritz it on at any angle, rub it in, and it dries within moments.
Neutrogena Micromist Airbrush Sunless Tanning Spray
You don’t need to rub in this spray for it to work. Moreover, you can spray it at any angle on your back or other hard-to-reach places.
It takes five minutes to dry, but the color is buildable with repeated applications. It’s not oily, and it won’t cause acne.
The results are two shades darker than your natural skin tone.
Get the bronze you’ve always wanted. Self tanner for fair skin takes you straight to the finish line in as little as an hour. You’ll never have to deal with sunburn or worry about wrinkles from too much UV exposure.
It’s safe and easy to do sunless tanning. You can use lotion mousse, serum, spray, or wipes to achieve a gorgeous golden tan with minimal effort and cost.
1 https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sunless-tanning/art-20046803 by Mayo Clinic Staff, accessed November 30, 2020