There’s nothing worse than revealing your pasty white skin, especially when the bare skin and swimsuit season is right around the corner. If you’ve considered using a self tanner, or have had a bad experience with one in the past, there are several things that might make you nervous, with good reason.
Even though they’re one of our favorite guilty pleasures, that Cheeto color isn’t really what you’re going for, and self tanners are infamous for delivering a weird orange hue versus a natural tan color to your skin.
Second, lots of self tanners are full of chemicals with names you can’t pronounce, that you’re about to let absorb through your skin.
Lastly, lots of them just stink to high heaven. In light of these issues, we thought it was time to search out the best organic and natural self tanners, with ingredients you can feel good about slathering all over your body. If you’re ready to fake it, rather than bake yourself in the sun, here’s the skinny.
You might be wondering how an organic self tanner works. Most self tanners, even those in the natural and organic categories, rely on DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid that mixes with amino acids in your skin to cause a browning effect. While the jury is still out on whether DHA is a concern, most doctors would agree that self tanners inflict a lot less potential damage, than exposing your skin to the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. There are lots of ways to source this ingredient from fish oils and algaes to sugar cane, so basically, it is an organic ingredient, with little research to prove any negative side effects.
Organic and natural sunless tanners come in many different forms. We’ve included everything from lotions and creams, to organic spray tan oils. Some are specifically for your body, but we’ve also recommended a few for your face.
Many of these products come with what’s called a color guide – basically that’s a tint in the lotion to better show you if you’ve done well with your application. There’s nothing worse than missing a big patch on your arms, chest, legs or other regularly exposed skin, because your self tan will end up looking downright ridiculous.
If you’re looking for a tan that mimics two weeks in Bermuda, there are many products on this list that are buildable, and continue to deepen in color with frequent application. If you’re looking for a simple bronze glow, there are tanners to accomplish that too.
To get a fake tan that looks real, preparation is the key. You’ll need to exfoliate your skin before beginning the process. That makes for more consistent application of your chosen tanner, which equals even – not streaky – development of color.
The other tricky thing is that not all skin is created equal. You’ll want to pay special attention to those dry rubbery areas, like your knees, ankles and elbows, where tanner can create a colorful mess, turning darker and way more intense. And be sure to pay special attention to your hands. That DHA is going to react, no matter where you put it, and as to the aforementioned Cheetos, you don’t want your palms to look like you just downed a bag full.
As a rule, tanners need to stay on your skin anywhere from eight to 12 hours before getting in the pool or the shower. For those with color guides, that color will then wash away, revealing your tan underneath. And technique is important too.
Your natural sunless tanner may work best if you use a tanning mitt to evenly spread the product, plus it helps you avoid the orange palms and fingernails. We’ve found that simply washing your hands thoroughly after application usually suffices in terms of cleaning though, just in case you don’t want to mess with one more step in the routine.
Taking time to self tan is important, too. It’s a lot less than the time you’d spend sunning outside, but these products take time to dry on your skin. Organic spray tan oils dry quite quickly, while more emollient creams and lotions take a little longer.
Those tanners with color guides, and even some of those without, can transfer your browned skin cells onto clothes and bedding, and it’s tough to get out. Dry time isn’t the only issue. Most tanners take hours or even a full day to fully develop into their final color.
Before you get too excited and start applying coat after coat, make sure you really know what color your tanner is going to deliver. If you’ve overdone, exfoliate and on the next try, perhaps moisturize your skin ahead of time, which can help to dilute the tanning product somewhat.
Keep in mind, these products, for the most part, do not contain SPF so you’ll still want to use a good sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF every day. It’s also vitally important to use that protocol on your face, to keep signs of premature aging at bay. And it goes without saying, your little ones are especially vulnerable to the sun. You’ll find our recommendations for them right here.
Unlike a real tan, a sunless tan won’t make you more resistant to sunburn. But if you’re looking for quick color, we think you’ll love these Top 10 Best Organic & Natural Self Tanners 2018 that can keep your skin golden and glowing 365 days a year.
1. Amazon’s Choice: Beauty by Earth Organic & Natural Sunless Tanner
If you’re looking for that perfect golden glow, without the danger of a tanning booth or hours of exposure to the sun’s harmful rays, this Beauty by Earth self tanner could be the answer to that sun kissed skin. Loaded with skin loving ingredients, this organic self tanner pampers you with aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, argan oil, green tea and witch hazel to leave you soft and moisturized.
The magic in this natural sunless tanner is DHA, a natural Omega-3 fatty acid that’s good for your heart, brain and body. In four to seven days, you can build your tan to a lovely bronze, with daily application. But as with all self tanners, care is required to prevent darker knees and elbows.
With a little effort you can be ready for your tropical vacation, without ever setting foot in front of old Sol. Users rave about the fact that this tanner is less orange toned than most, avoiding that obviously fake tanned look. That’s a bonus.
Price: $27.54 (17 percent off MSRP)
- Amazon’s Choice
- Organic and natural skin loving ingredients
- Buildable tanning in a short amount of time
- Won’t turn you into an orange mess
- Must wait up to four hours before water exposure
- Can get streaky if you’re not careful
- Smell is off putting to some
- Can build up too much on knees and elbows
2. Skinerals Organic & Natural Self Tanner
You know how we love to give props to companies with a big social conscience, and that we’re always applauding ways to vote with your checkbook? Well, this company happens to be one we’re a fan of, because not only does their product encourage you with a positive option to reduce your chances of skin cancer, it donates a portion of the sales of this organic self tanner to go toward funding skin cancer research.
While we think that’s super cool, what’s even cooler is how well this natural self tanner works. With natural plant-based oils, essential oil blends, fruit and plant extracts from goji and acai berry to fig, you’ll soon have a glowing bronze color that lasts and lasts. Another plus is the fluffy mousse formula that’s especially easy to blend well – a notorious issue with many self tanners.
Because it has a slightly brown tint, it’s easy to see if you’ve accidentally missed a spot before everything dries, and turns out looking splotchy. This vegan formula is non-irritating to your skin, and there’s enough in this pump bottle to cover your body four times over. If you’re like most, you’ll probably only use it on your arms and legs, so it will last longer depending on how much self tanned skin you intend to show.
Price: $21.85 (5 percent off MSRP)
- Fluffy mousse formula is easy to apply
- Different formulas for more personalized tanning
- Tinted formula allows you to ensure even coverage with no missed spots
- Vegan and cruelty free, with a cool corporate philosophy
- Pretty spendy for the amount of product
- You must stay dry 8-12 hours for the best results
- Color doesn’t last as long as some
- May stain clothes and sheets
3. Bahama Tan Organic & Natural Self Tanner
If a buildable tan is what you’re hoping for, Bahama Tan natural sunless tanner is a great option that’s easy to apply, and mostly streak free. This organic self tanner is actually good for your skin, containing lots of great moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, cocoa oil, argan oil and monoi oil, which leave skin feeling soft and smooth.
Because this sunless tanner comes out with a slight tint, it’s easy to spread evenly without missing spots – the curse of so many other sunless tanners. Don’t worry, it doesn’t contain any dyes, and the guide color washes off when you next shower, revealing only your new, more suntanned looking skin.
This sunless tanning lotion has a slight shimmer, which enhances the way your skin looks after application, but might make it a little less desirable for guys who don’t want that look. It uses non-GMO ingredients, so if that’s a hot button for you, you’ll want to consider this vegan formula that’s free of parabens, paba and petro-chemicals. None of us really want to put that stuff on our skin, right?
This lotion is perfect for medium and lighter skin tones, but if you’re looking for a darker tan, you can continue to apply until you reach the level of bronze that’s desired. We like the flexibility of this tanner, because they actually tell you how to lighten your tan by using moisturizer first. It gives you the ultimate custom color palette.
Bahama Tan also has a self tanning spray, if you prefer that over sunless tanning lotion. It also comes with a tanning mitt, which, as you know, is recommended so you don’t accidentally tan the palms of your hands.
Price: $22.33 (5 percent off MSRP
- Buildable and blendable for custom color
- Thick and creamy, with skin friendly ingredients
- Tinted to help you get full coverage
- Gives you bronze versus orange color
- Pretty expensive
- Oddly scented
- Color fades more quickly than some
- Tan tends to be darker than expected for a medium shade
4. Best Buy: Alba Botanica Sunless Tanning Lotion
The game of sunless tanning can be an expensive one, as you can see from product prices which are substantially higher than non-organic brands, but this organic self tanner from Alba Botanica is a surprisingly affordable option. Granted it’s a smaller bottle than many, but the price per ounce is far less, despite that.
With 100 percent vegetarian ingredients, this natural sunless tanner is a thick and creamy lotion that leaves your skin feeling super soft, and smelling awfully nice too. That coconut scent practically transports your mind into summer mode, doesn’t it? The ingredients make this natural sunless tanner suitable for your face, while not all of them are.
This non-streaking lotion develops color quite a bit faster than some, with your sun kissed glow showing within three hours, and you can reapply right then, if you’re looking for a darker tan. Safflower oil, sweet almond oil and shea butter make it a rich, emollient formula that feels as good as it makes you look. This self tanner is nice for lighter skinned people who want subtle, versus super dark, color. But, since it’s buildable, you can pretty much customize your experience, and the three hour wait time is far less than most.
Price: $6.07 (5 percent off MSRP)
- Gives skin a nice, sun kissed glow in just three hours
- Creamy and easy to apply
- Excellent for fair skin as it gives a light tan first
- 100 percent vegetarian ingredients
- Can be a bit orangey
- Not dark enough results for some
- No tint in this lotion, so you can miss spots and leave streaks
- Scent isn’t everyone’s favorite
5. Sun Laboratories Self Tanning Lotion
Do you like the thought of waking up with a glowing and gorgeous tan? The Sun Labs organic self tanner develops while you sleep, so you can wake up looking like you’ve spent a day at the beach, without the investment of hours, or the dangers of sun exposure.
This dark tanning fluid can be daunting when you first see it, but it definitely lets you see what you’ve covered and what you may have missed. Don’t panic. As you rub, it almost immediately begins to fade away. This thick, slightly almond scented lotion feels good on the skin, because it contains lots natural almond oil, although it also has dimethicone, which gives it that somewhat slippery texture.
For optimal results, you’ll need to wait at least eight hours before showering or pool time, which can make it a bit more frustrating than some. The tinted color in the lotion will then wash away, revealing your actual color beneath it.
One thing we like about this product is that it comes with a mitt, which you can use to apply this natural sunless tanner without worrying about staining your hands and nails. That saves you ten or eleven bucks right off the bat, so you actually aren’t paying quite as much for the tanner as it appears.
This is a paraben free product, but it does contain other ingredients that don’t seem as natural and organic as some others on our list.
- Comes with a tanning mitt included
- Caramel color allows you to evenly distribute the product
- Gives you nice bronze color
- Light almond scent
- Not as natural a formula as many others reviewed
- Longer waiting time than others before using pool or shower
- Messy to use
- Can stain sheets and clothing if not allowed to dry
6. Golden Star Beauty Sunless Tanning Spray
A clear, dry, self tanning oil, this organic self tanner spray tan from Golden Star beauty is vegan and made with certified organic ingredients your skin will love. Organic jojoba, avocado and macadamia oils blend with other organic botanicals that soften and smooth dry skin, but dry quickly, leaving you feeling so soft and smooth.
This colorless oil is easy to rub on and gives you a natural looking glow, that’s buildable with regular application. It won’t rub off on clothes or sheets, once it’s dried, so that’s a plus over many other organic self tanners. The oil is easy to smooth on, so you’re less likely to deal with odd streaks later.
Plus this natural sunless tanner contains one of our favorite skin care ingredients, hyaluronic acid, which has amazing moisture holding powers to keep your skin hydrated. Since this oil doesn’t have any color guide, you might want to be extra careful when applying just to be certain you don’t miss a spot that may show later, but you don’t have to worry about double coverage, so better to be certain than splotchy.
If you’re not accustomed to dry oils, you might be surprised at the more watery consistency of this product, but that’s a part of it’s charm. It dries quickly, without a greasy feeling. You’ll also get a free e-book about self tanning best practices when you order. That’s cool.
This company also has a non-comedogenic natural and organic self tanner for your face as well.
Price: $28.97 (24 percent off MSRP)
- Lightweight oil spray that dries quickly
- Doesn’t stain your clothes or bedding
- Organic, vegan formula
- Creates a bronze glow that you can keep building
- Super spendy
- Takes 24 hours to develop fully
- Requires many applications to build a dark tan
- Many complaints about the spray bottle
7. Top Rated: Control Your Glow Natural & Organic Sunless Tanner
How often have you felt you had to buy one sunless tanner for your body, and then a completely different product for your face? With this organic self tanner, one product covers all the bases from head to toe. This creamy and moisturizing lotion actually gives you the tan that’s your color, not someone else’s.
You can build on it, with more frequent applications, and you can soften your tan by moisturizing first. That flexibility gives you the ultimate control over your tan. You can also ditch any worries about introducing nasty chemicals to your skin, because this natural sunless tanner is made with lots of the good organic stuff you want on your skin.
The sweet scent of coconut is only one of the side benefits of this sunless tanner. We love that it doesn’t turn you into an orange mess, and in eight hours, you’ll see your early glow develop. Natural and organic butters, oils and extracts leave your skin soft and smooth, as well as beautifully tanned.
- Nice natural formula
- Creates a natural tan that’s believable
- Buildable color with more applications
- Very moisturizing with a yummy coconut scent
- Not as fast drying as some
- Isn’t a dark tanning lotion
- Scent is overpowering to some
- Not as long lasting as others reviewed
8. Coola Suncare Organic Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist
We frankly love any company that makes an organic sunless tanner that also delivers anti-aging benefits along with a natural looking tan. Coola Suncare has done just that, using moisturizing argan oil, skin brightening vitamin C and amino acid rich hibiscus to make their dry oil spray do double duty as a beauty product.
This sunless tanner sprays on and you rub it in, using a circular motion, to get even distribution. After eight hours, a lovely golden bronze emerges, and your skin doesn’t feel oily because this organic spray tan dries quickly, and won’t stain your clothes.
One of the things we like about this natural sunless tanner is that it doesn’t really have that smell many sunless tanners do. The light scent disappears quickly after drying. And while this seems to be a pretty small bottle for the price, because it’s an oil, you actually use less product, meaning your investment goes a bit further.
After three to four hours, you can see its effect, and you can continue to apply a second time in one day, or for multiple days to build a better base tan. The nice thing is that this spray creates a natural look, versus the overly orangey fake tan outcome of many other brands.
Coola also makes an organic sunless tanner for your face in the form of a serum that features hyaluronic acid, and plant stem cell cultures, to give you a golden glow and keep you looking younger. Bonus.
- Light spray oil dries quickly
- Anti-aging benefits in addition to a nice tan
- Very easy to apply evenly, without streaks
- Very faint scent that disappears quickly
- A bite to the wallet
- Small amount for the large price tag
- Doesn’t last nearly as long as some others reviewed
- This doesn’t deliver super dark color right away
9. Vita Liberata Fabulous Gradual Self Tanning Lotion
An African botanical, Marula oil, adds to the quality of this nice, gradual organic self tanner from Vita Liberata. This oil has anti-aging properties, with fatty acids Omega-6 and Omega-9, that hydrate, nourish and improve your skin’s elasticity.
This natural sunless tanner is unique, because it goes on clear, and gradually develops into a tan that looks believably yours. With odor removing technology, this clear lotion has virtually no smell, and that’s a really big deal. Unpleasant scent is often the most complained about issue, right after streaking and bad color. Thankfully, you won’t likely have any of those complaints with this formula.
It also won’t stain your clothes or bedding. This organic self tanner works gradually, and you can continue to build color with daily use. Once you’ve got the tan you want, simply refresh it by using this lotion every few days.
Aloe vera, lychee, licorice root and raspberry deliver additional anti-aging benefits, as well as moisturizing your skin with long lasting hydration. For faster results, with the same great organic underpinnings, the Vita Liberata Phenomenal Self Tanning Mousse is a popular choice, and delivers longer lasting color, and you can get it in either medium, or dark.
- Creates a natural looking tan that’s buildable
- Organic ingredients deliver anti-aging results
- It doesn’t stink
- Clear lotion doesn’t transfer to clothes or bedding
- Expensive compared to some
- Gradually develops color, and may need many applications
- Color fades faster than others reviewed
- Sensitive smellers still think it stinks
10. Best Tanner for Men: Famous Dave’s Tanner Organic & Natural Self Tanner
Sure, you might be thinking we chose this natural self tanner as the best for men because it’s named for a guy, but honestly, there’s a lot more thought that went into our selection. Most men we know like to keep their grooming routines pretty simple, and Famous Dave’s self tanning lotion fits right in with that.
It’s a great solution to avoid pasty white skin, but you use it just once every four or five days. Organic argan oil and hyaluronic acid keep your skin hydrated and smooth, along with looking younger and more tan. The pump bottle makes it simple to get the right amount, and this creamy lotion spreads easily, without leaving streaks.
It fades well, without leaving patchy marks, and you simply reapply whenever you want to refresh your tan. It also has antioxidant rich Q10, an enzyme that helps to fight the signs of aging, and for men who care about their appearance, that’s key.
This natural sunless tanner is great for women too, so it’s the perfect product to share if you’ve got one bathroom and limited counter space. It gives you a natural looking tan, while pampering your skin at the same time. While it does contain some natural and organic ingredients, the downside is that it isn’t a totally organic product. Since you use this natural self tanner less frequently, you can count on it lasting a little longer than most.
- Creates a nice glow
- Only requires application every four to five days
- Skin pampering ingredients that moisturize and fight the signs of aging
- Good for men and women
- Pretty spendy
- It’s kind of smelly
- Doesn’t create a super dark tan
- Takes longer to dry than some others