A healthy tan is appealing. But wrinkles and skin cancer are not.
Although weekly trips to the tanning salon might not be possible, you only need a few minutes to get bronzed at home.
The best self tanners for men provide a sun-kissed glow with only a couple minutes of effort. They don’t streak, they don’t turn orange, and they’ll even tan your hairy legs.
The science of self-tanning
Most sunless tanning products use DHA (dihydroxyacetone) to darken the skin’s color. It’s a molecule that interacts with skin cells in a Maillard reaction. In other words, it’s the same process that caramelizes sugar and browns bread. It’s also why self tanning usually makes the skin smell starchy or burned (1).
Just like a regular suntan, the color fades after a few days as the skin exfoliates. Unlike a natural tan, an artificial bronze won’t protect against sunburn. It’s still necessary to wear sunscreen.
In the early days of self tanning, sometimes the skin ended up with an orange cast. That’s because the DHA absorbs less red light than natural skin pigment does. But modern formulas have tackled the problem so that it rarely occurs. (The most risk comes from self tanners with high concentrations of DHA and erythrulose).
How to achieve the ideal bronze with self tanner
To get perfect results from a sunless tanning product, it’s crucial to prepare properly. Shower and exfoliate dry skin. If you shave, wait a while for the pores to close.
To avoid staining knees, ankles, elbows, knuckles, rub a little lotion into those spots and let it absorb first.
Next, gradual tanning lotions are the easiest for beginners to use. They don’t streak, and they are simple to apply.
On the other hand, mousses and sprays allow you to self tan hairy skin and have it turn out natural-looking. Make sure the hair is dry first.
Mousses are straightforward to apply with a mitt applicator that looks like an oven glove. It keeps your hands from getting stained and ensures even coverage.
Mitts are also handy for making the armpits, and the backs of the hands look evenly tanned. After you’ve wiped the product across your arms and legs, use the leftover on the mitt to brush over those areas.
Now that you’ve applied the self tanner, it’s crucial to avoid sweating and getting wet for a few hours while the color develops. If you sweat, you’ll end up with light-colored patches. That’s why it’s recommended to apply the product at night and shower in the morning.
Best Self Tanner for Men in 2023
Clinique for Men Non-Streak Bronzer
This self tanner for men will give your face a healthy, natural-looking glow without triggering acne. It’s a premium product made by one of the big names in skincare.
Just a little bit goes a long way. After you wash, put on moisturizer. Once the lotion absorbs, just a dab of bronzer on your fingertips will cover your entire face and blend onto your neck.
It also happens to be the best self tanner for a bald head. It doesn’t streak, it doesn’t stink, and no one is going to know that you’re using it unless you tell them.
Neutrogena Micromist Airbrush Sunless Tanning Spray
Skip the applicator mitt and don’t bother with the gloves. Neutrogena’s self tanner spray doesn’t need to be rubbed in. The fine mist provides even coverage that dries quickly.
The spray lets you tan hairy legs, arms, and chest without shaving. Just make sure the hair is dry first.
What’s nice is that it also helps you reach awkward places like your back. Plus, you can spray it at any angle – the can doesn’t have to be upright.
The formula is alcohol-free and won’t clog pores. It has a light scent that neutralizes the after tanning odor.
Neutrogena Build-A-Tan Gradual Sunless Tanning Lotion
Neutrogena also makes a lightweight lotion that will progressively darken your tan day by day. On the other hand, you can use it just once in a while to maintain just a little color.
It’s popular with those who have gone suntanning traditionally and want to enjoy their bronze for as long as possible.
The formula features a slight tint as a guide, and it has a fresh fragrance. It absorbs in a couple of minutes. Then, the first hint of color appears in 4 hours or less.
Bondi Sands Men’s Everyday Gradual Tanning Foam
If your skin is naturally pale, it’ll be a dead giveaway if you show up with a deep bronze from one day to the next. Instead, bronze on the sly with a gradual tanning product like this.
Each time you apply it, it deepens your color a little at a time. After three consecutive daily applications, you’ll reach the maximum tan for your skin tone.
The foam is lightweight and quick-drying. It smells like men’s cologne, but the scent fades soon after application. On the plus side, it moisturizes the skin with vitamin E and aloe.
If you use your bare hands to apply it, be sure to wash the palms afterward to avoid staining them.
Dave’s Dark Self Tanner Sunless Tanning Lotion with Bronzer
If you’re craving a deep, rich bronze, you need to try Famous Dave’s dark bronzer. It has a high concentration of DHA to darken the skin as rapidly and deeply as possible. It was developed for professional bodybuilders.
Not only does it develop a darker color over time, it starts out with instant bronzer. The bronzer serves two purposes: it shows where you’ve already applied lotion, and it gives you an instant sun-kissed glow. You could slip on a swimsuit right then and look like you’ve been tanning already.
The creamy lotion doesn’t smell like perfume as some self tanners do. There’s no artificial fragrance, no mineral oil, and no nasty ingredients. But it’s an excellent moisturizer with jojoba, aloe, and sesame oil.
St. Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse
It would be fair to say that St. Tropez is one of the world’s best self-tanning brands. They offer a variety of sunless tanning products including this rapid bronzing mousse. In only an hour, it provides a golden tan.
If you leave it on for up to six hours before washing, it will take you even darker.
Like other products from this brand, it’s free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates. The DHA it contains is 100% derived from natural ingredients.
It’s suggested that you apply it with an applicator mitt for more even coverage (especially over hairy areas), but it’s not necessary. Please do wash your hands afterward to avoid staining them. Also, wait for the foam to dry for a few minutes before dressing.
St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist
It’s annoying to use sunless tanning facial products that stink. This one has a tropical fragrance that fades, yet it neutralizes the self tanning odor.
The formula won’t streak or rub off on clothes. Spritz it on, let it dry, and get on with your day. A single application will create a golden tan that endures for days.
Tan Physics True Color Sunless Tanner Tanning Lotion
This lotion has at least one main advantage over similar products. It has no odor. There’s no floral, powdery scent and no chemical smell.
Moreover, it has a light tint to show you where you’ve applied it. This will wash off, while the color you develop will not.
Reviewers like it because it’s also kind to the skin with plenty of moisturizing ingredients. You can use it daily to maintain a healthy glow.
MINETAN BODY.SKIN Violet Self Tan Foam
If your biggest concern about using sunless tanning products is that you’ll turn orange, have streaks, or look like you’ve fake baked, try this foam. It’s developed by salon tanning professionals to create the perfect Mediterranean tan.
It features brown and violet bronzers to neutralize any yellow or orange undertones. You’ll simply look tanned like you had a fantastic vacation at the beach.
Furthermore, the vegan formula doesn’t contain parabens and uses only natural DHA.
Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel
This gel is pleasant to use because it’s not greasy and has a decent scent that doesn’t linger. It dries rapidly so that you don’t have to walk around buck naked.
The golden tan it develops is hard to distinguish from the real deal. The more you use it, the deeper you go.
COOLA Organic Sunless Tanner Spray
For those who prefer natural products, this one is Eco-CERT Cosmos Organic Certified. That means 70% of the ingredients are organic, while the entire formula is 99% natural.
Moreover, it’s a spray with a dry oil texture that leaves the skin silky. It promises three days of transfer-resistant tan.
The only downside is the piña colada scent, which reminds us of sunscreen.
Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette Classic
Self tanning wipes are the ultimate in convenience. They travel well since they aren’t liquids, plus they are small enough to fit in a pocket. Take note, however, that this particular version is only good for half the body – like both legs. You’ll need two wipes to cover it all.
For best results, use it on dry skin before bed. Apply it with a circular motion, and try not to go over knees, elbows, or ankles when the wipe is sopping wet. Wait until you’ve covered the other parts and it’s almost dry to avoid staining those areas darker.
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad
These premium self tanning wipes provide a truly natural-looking shade of bronze that won’t streak as long as you don’t get sweaty for at least an hour after application.
The color won’t transfer to clothing, and it lasts for 5 days or longer before fading.
Sun Self Tanning Lotion Ultra Dark Instant Tint
Here’s a product that was developed by Laboratories in California. They know exactly what a true tan should look like.
What’s more, this sunless tanner looks good with tattoos. It doesn’t muddy the color as some products do.
Keep in mind this is the Ultra Dark version. If that’s too deep for you, they also have self tanners for fair and medium skinned people.
Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tinted Self Tan Mousse
Here’s one that gets promoted by beauty magazines and Instagram influencers. Choose from fair, medium, or dark results depending on how you apply it.
In any case, you can enjoy your tan for two weeks – much longer than the typical sunless tanner can provide.
The formula is free of parabens, perfumes, alcohol, and petrochemicals.
Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tanning Liquid
The original Fake Bake works for every skin tone. It has a tropical fragrance that will put you in a vacation mindset. Then, you can enjoy your bronze in about 4 hours.
It’s based on DHA, DMI, and erythrulose for a long-lasting deep tan. Plus, it’s a liquid, not a lotion, so it sinks in quickly.
TAN-LUXE The Face Self-Tan Drops
What if you’re happy with your face moisturizer yet would like a healthy glow? No problem – mix a few drops of this elixir into your lotion. It will bronze your skin and add a little extra nourishment.
The formula features DHA and erythrulose, raspberry seed oil, aloe, vitamin E, and caramel. The latter will give you the barest hint of color immediately.
Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Body Mousse
What is the best store-bought self tanner? Out of all the drugstore sunless tanning products, Jergens wins. It has a fruity fragrance, not floral, and it doesn’t leave a shimmery residue.
What’s more, it dries in 60 seconds, and you can dress without worrying that it will rub off on your collar.
Choose from light or medium versions. Both are buildable and will darken the more you use them. If you end up with extra dark knees or elbows, a little body scrub will fix the problem. Otherwise, the color naturally fades in about a week.
Fellas, it’s easy to get tan from a bottle these days. There are foams, liquids, wipes, and lotions to help you achieve a golden glow in an hour or overnight.
A bronze looks healthier, it looks successful, and it feels powerful.
Pick your potion and give it a try.
1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-do-sunless-tanners-wo/ by Randall R. Wickett, published May 30, 2005, accessed December 1, 2020