You’ve heard the horror stories about streaky orange tans with dirty-looking dry patches that have gone too dark. We’ve been there, done that. After all of our experimentation with self-tanning mousse, spray, wipes, and lotion, we found the no-fail solution for the perfect bronze. Now we use the best self tanning drops to get a healthy glow.
We were inspired by celebrity makeup artists Melissa Hurkman and Jennifer Streicher. They help the stars look red carpet-ready with tan in a bottle. Celebrities like Margot Robbie and Elle Macpherson are two of the sunless tanners that come to mind. So, how do they get the ideal bronze?
How to use self-tanning drops
Always check the label for instructions – don’t go by what we say as individual products may differ in their directions. Other than that, self-tanning drops are super easy to use.
Many can be applied straight like a serum. Dispense a few drops into your hands and pat the liquid evenly into the skin. Then wash your hands so they don’t change color later.
The same sunless tanning drops can usually be added to moisturizer, body lotion, sunscreen, and foundation. Remove the desired amount of cream or whatever and add a couple of drops to it before putting it on your skin. Just be sure to wash your hands after application. (And don’t add the drops to the jar or bottle – mix up only what you need each day).
Why do self tanning drops work?
How does self tanning work? The drops contain DHA (dihydroxyacetone). It’s a sugar that has a chemical reaction with the amino acids in the epidermis.
You’ve seen what happens when you slice an apple and leave it exposed to the air. It’s kind of like that. It turns the skin brown without affecting the deeper layers of skin. That’s why DHA is the only FDA-approved method for sunless tanning and way safer than sunbathing (1).
The higher the concentration of DHA in the formula, the darker the skin goes.
Pro tips for the perfect fake tan
If you’ve tried sunless tanning but ended up with streaks, an orange tone, or dark patches, here’s how to avoid those problems.
Start by exfoliating and doing hair removal the day before. At the bare minimum, complete these tasks in the morning of the day you plan to tan. You need to give your pores time to close or you’ll end up with little dark spots.
Next, shower before tanning and use a pH-balanced body wash instead of bar soap. You need to get the excess oil off your skin but maintain the correct pH so you don’t turn orange. (Thankfully, modern formulas usually correct the problem).
Apply the self tanning drops on dry skin or mix them with the desired product and then apply to dry skin. (In some cases, you might want to moisturize first to keep dry patches from soaking up too much DHA).
Tinted drops make it easier to see what you’re doing and they give you a bit of color right out of the bottle. Although the instant bronzer will wash off, your skin will have bronzed in the time in between.
Using a brush can help achieve the perfect blend and keep the drops from settling into creases.
Lastly, skip swimming, showering, and sweating for a few hours so that the chemical reaction can take place. We recommend 8 hours but some products take less time. Then don’t use retinol-based products or exfoliants for a couple of days to maintain the beautiful new color you’ve developed.
A single application of self tanning drops can give you a beautiful bronze for 3 days or longer, sometimes as long as a week. It should fade naturally in the same way as a regular tan would. We usually reapply twice a week.
Are you ready to get tan? Then check out the reviews of the best self tanning drops below:
|The best self-tanning drops||Why we love them|
|SOL by Jergens Deeper by the Drop Serum||
|Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops||
|TAN-LUXE THE FACE Illuminating Self-Tan Drops||
|Bondi Sands PURE Self-Tanning Drops||
|Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bronzing Face Drops||
Best Self-Tanning Drops in 2023
SOL by Jergens Deeper by the Drop Serum
If you’re hesitant about trying self tanning drops because of the price, here’s where to start. This travel-sized bottle is affordable and contains enough to let you do your face and body multiple times.
To cover everything, you’ll need about 15 drops. For just your face, only 3 or 4. The decision depends on how dark you want to go. More drops equals a deeper color.
Happily, this sunless tanning product from a major name brand is paraben-free and oil-free. It uses DHA derived from natural sugars, plus it’s been dermatologist-tested for safety.
What’s also nice is that it’s non-drying to the skin and offers antioxidants from botanical extracts. The addition of erythrulose means that the tan lasts for a day or two longer than you’d expect. Plus, the light fragrance helps disguise the self-tanning odor.
Reviewers say the drops build a streak-free tan in hours even on pale skin. Add the drops to your moisturizer or apply it straight to the skin and put moisturizer on top. If you put it on at bedtime, you’ll wake up with a vacation glow.
- Customizable tan – just add more drops for a deeper color
- Can be used alone or added to moisturizer
- Cruelty-free, with no parabens, artificial dye, or oil
- Can be used on the face and body
- Small bottle but affordable and convenient to pack
Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops
How long does it take for Isle of Paradise drops to work? You’ll need to wait a few hours to see the tan develop so apply them first thing in the morning to look tanned by dinnertime or right before bed to wake up bronzed.
If you have pale skin and start with 1 to 3 drops in your face cream or hyaluronic acid serum, your face will look radiant. Double that and you’re headed into base tan territory. When you hit 12 drops, you’ll look like you’ve been on vacation somewhere tropical.
We love the fact that the formula has violet color-correcting actives so that the color never looks orange. Instead, the drops provide a rich, natural-looking bronze, plus they even out skin tone and make redness less noticeable. The drops also nourish the skin with avocado oil, chia seed, and grapefruit to keep it healthy and hydrated.
What’s the downside? One reviewer said she gets “Cheeto” fingers if she forgets to wash her hands after putting on the drops, but that’s true of any sunless tanning product.
- Customizable tan depending on the number of drops used
- Color-correcting actives ensure a rich bronze color with even skin tone
- Nourishing ingredients like chia seed, grapefruit, and avocado oil
- Remember to wash your hands after applying the drops
TAN-LUXE THE FACE Illuminating Self-Tan Drops
Which are the best self-tanning drops for the face? We prefer ones like these that don’t have a fake tan smell. (We didn’t get to try the TAN-LUXE The Body self tan drops but reviews indicate they perform just as spectacularly.)
We found out about these drops from the beauty director of Bustle. She says that she’s even gotten her friends addicted to them because they work so well and are so easy to use.
The drops are suitable for all skin types, even sensitive complexions. They turn serum, face oil, and moisturizer into self-tanner. That’s interesting as oil sometimes has a disruptive effect on sunless tanning and can lead to patchy results. But happily, that’s not the case here.
The Triple Tan Technology developed by the brand blends DHA with erythrulose plus an instant bronzer so that you will look radiant from the moment you apply it. Then, aloe, vitamin E, and raspberry seed oil keep the skin moisturized and smooth.
Obviously, this is a product sold at Sephora so it’s free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates. It uses Eco-CERT organic DHA, too. No wonder it’s an Allure Best of Beauty award winner.
The only con is that you can’t use it if your skin is broken (razor rash, picked pimples, etc.). Be careful around your eyes as well.
- Triple Tan Technology gives instant radiance while the tan develops over the next few hours
- Eco-CERT organic DHA plus erythrulose for long-lasting color
- Moisturizes with vitamin E, aloe, and raspberry seed oil
- Best of Beauty award winner at Allure
- Can’t be used on broken skin (good advice for all fake tan products)
Bondi Sands PURE Self-Tanning Drops
Which are the best tanning drops for sensitive skin? We like this product because it’s fragrance-free and colorless. Since artificial fragrances and dyes are often culprits behind skin irritation, we appreciate their absence.
However, this isn’t just a fake tan product. It’s also an anti-aging serum with vitamins C and E and hyaluronic acid. It works hard to make your skin look younger, not just more bronzed.
Add a few drops to your moisturizer and wait 6 hours to enjoy your tan. Our favorite trick is to put it on at bedtime and wake up looking like we laid out on the beach. Unfortunately, one reviewer points out that the number of drops she used ended up diluting her skincare product beyond a desirable point.
Also, the drops are vegan and packaged in recyclable materials. We weren’t surprised to learn that they won the Fashion Spot Earth Day Award plus a New Beauty Award from SheFinds.
- Fragrance-free and colorless to protect sensitive skin
- Award-winning drops can be mixed with moisturizer
- Feature vitamin C, E, and hyaluronic acid
- Vegan formula packaged in recyclable materials
- Might require more drops than competing brands to achieve the same depth of color
Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bronzing Face Drops
Vegan, cruelty-free, and packed with DHA so that you only need a couple of drops in your moisturizer. What more could you want from a product like this?
The list of benefits continues. The drops have tons of helpful ingredients like hyaluronic acid, coconut, banana, dragon fruit, and orange peel oil to keep skin supple and strong. It won’t dry out the skin like some kinds of fake tanning products do. Instead, the drops help to smooth lines and even skin tone.
What’s more, the formula is non-comedogenic and dermatologist-approved even though it contains a fragrance and a dye. On the plus side, there are no parabens or alcohol, and it smells like mango and guava instead of fake tan.
Another thing we liked is that there are different versions for light, medium, and dark skin.
- Available in different versions for light, medium, and dark skin
- Made with natural DNA; alcohol and paraben-free
- Infused with dragon fruit, coconut, hyaluronic acid, and other botanicals
- Dermatologist-approved and non-comedogenic
- Has an artificial color and synthetic fragrance (but it’s yummy mango and guava)
Go ahead and bronze yourself to your heart’s content with the best self-tanning drops. They make sunless tanning quick and easy as you can add them to your moisturizer. There’s no need to spend tons of time working on your tan.
We hope our reviews helped you find your new favorite skincare product today. If the self-tanning drops are making you happy, we’d love to hear about them. Feel free to leave us a comment below.
1. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/dihydroxyacetone Dihydroxyacetone, by Vanessa Ngan, published 2002