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Fall’s just around the corner, which means it’s time to start doing some upkeep on that tan! I had skin cancer once– and I pray I never get it again, so I actually use sunless tanners year-round. I think it’s just the safer option, and now that so many brands (specifically cruelty-free brands) have mastered the scent and orange tint issues, they have very little downside. Not all sunless tanning products are created equal, though. As someone who’s practically tried them all over the years (specifically during my pageant days), I thought it’d be fun to round up my top twelve favorite products in today’s post! From drops to bronzers and mitts, here are my top twelve favorite cruelty-free self-tanners on the market–
Best Cruelty-Free Self Tanners
1. Tan-Luxe THE BUTTER Illuminating Tanning Butter– Tan-Luxe’s THE BIG BUTTER was one of the top-selling beauty products (like… industry-wide) this summer, so it’s unfortunately sold out. THE BUTTER is the exact same product; it’s just less of a value. Regardless of the size you buy, Tan-Luxe’s Illuminating Tanning Butter is amazing, and it only takes two-ish applications to give you a legitimately perfect tan.
2. Australian Glow Gradual Tanning Lotion– This gradual tanning lotion is probably the best bang-for-your-buck on this list (well, tied with Bondi Sands’ Gradual Tanning Milk). It’s $20 and has amazing reviews. It’s not the most hydrating cruelty-free self-tanner on this list, but it goes on smooth, dries quickly, smells great, and doesn’t stain your sheets or clothing.
3. Beauty by Earth Self Tanner– If you’re looking for a completely organic self-tanner, Beauty by Earth’s Self Tanner is for you! It’s perfect for all skin types and has above a 4.5-star rating with 8,000+ reviews. This applicator works particularly well with it, too!
4. Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops– Maybe I’m a nerd, but I think these self-tanning drops are just the coolest thing. If you already have a ride-or-die moisturizer you love, you can just add in a few of these color-correcting drops for a natural glow with zero streaks, zero smell, and zero orangeness. They come in three shades, too, and can be used on both your face and body. Fair warning, though– they’re not for everyone. According to Sephora’s reviews, users either love them or hate them (I just happen to personally love them).
5. Tarte Brazilliance PLUS Self-Tanner (with Mitt!)– Tarte’s mitt-tanner combination is golden (pun intended). My favorite thing about it is that it only lasts a few days, so if you do mess up, it’s easy to wash off and re-even out your skin tone. That said, though, it doesn’t provide long-lasting results, so don’t expect it to not fade within a few days.
6. St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse– If I’m being totally honest, St. Tropez’s products have been hit or miss for me. Their Classic Bronzing Mousse, however, has been an absolute godsend. It’s actually what I used to use when I competed in pageants all those years ago. I will say that it does have a noticeable smell, but it’s easy to apply (highly recommend their Luxe Double-Sided Applicator) and produces a gorgeous, even tan every time.
7. Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tanning Liquid (with Mitt)– What’s interesting about Fake Bake’s Flawless Self-Tanning Liquid is that it comes in a spray bottle. Surprisingly, it applies beautifully (not sure why more self-tanners aren’t sprays!) and works wonders on pale skin. I also love that it smells like coconuts and comes with a mitt, too! Full disclosure, though– some reviewers have said that it can sometimes leave pigment on white sheets, although I’ve never known that to be the case.
8. COOLA Organic Sunless Tan Firming Lotion– If you’re particularly pale, I highly recommend COOLA. I’ve tried dozens of self-tanners, and their Sunless Tan Firming Lotion has always been one of my favorites. It smells pleasant, moisturizes nicely, and gives you a nice, non-orange, non-streaky, natural-looking glow within a few hours.
9. Skinerals Californium Self Tanner Mousse– Skinerals Californium is a whipped mousse (fancy term for foam) that works super fast and can last up to a week. Probably my favorite thing about it, though, is that it’s formulated with all-natural, organic ingredients, like antioxidants (specifically acai berry and fig extract) to reduce inflammation and help keep your skin looking youthful.
10. Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Sunshine Drops– Yes, Drunk Elephant’s products cost a small fortune, but a little goes a long way. Also, ugh… I just love their brand so much. Their Sunshine Drops have won a ton of awards (Brides Beauty Award, InStyle Best Beauty Buys Award, etc) and work wonders on tired pale skin. Since they’re so pricey, I recommend only using them on your face, which is honestly what they’re intended for, and mixing them with a morning serum, moisturizer, or sunscreen. It’ll give your face the most gorgeous and even glow!
11. SOL Body Gradual Sunless Tanning Lotion– SOL Body’s products (not to be confused with SOL by Jergens’ products, which are not cruelty-free) are budget-friendly and 100% vegan! Unlike so many others on this list, their Gradual Sunless Tanning Lotion is completely colorless and develops over several days of continual use. It also smells heavenly and is super moisturizes nicely!
12. Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk– Saved one of my all-time favorite products for last! Bondi Sands’ products are well-reviewed across the board, but the ease of use of their Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk is hard to beat. It’s essentially a 24-hour hydrating body moisturizer that gives you a natural-looking, gradual tan with minimal effort. It’s under $20, too!
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So there they are– the best of the best cruelty-free self-tanners from a former Floridian pageant queen (ha!). Let me know if you have any questions about any of the products I featured. I’m more than happy to help! Also, I rounded up all my favorite cruelty-free skincare products in another post, so check it out if you’re looking to make the cruelty-free switch and need product recommendations!