13 Best Self-Tanners for Face: Come Get Your Glow

Best self-tanners for face

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Getting ready to show some skin? Go ahead with confidence! But if you’re planning to prep for the big reveal by laying on a nice glowy tan I know you’re going to make the smart choice and get your glow from a bottle (or jar or tube or pre-moistened towelette). Instead of risking your butt in a cancer-causing tanning bed or laying out for hours sans SPF, you can save your time and save your skin. Self-tanners have come a long way baby, and we’re no longer dealing with those orangey streaks and gaggy smells if you pick the right ones. But here’s the big tanning Q from the skin-obsessed generation: Can you use the same self-tanner for your face and your body?

While a few faux glow formulas are fair game head to toe, most self-tanners for the body aren’t the greatest choice for your face’s sensitive skin. Some may cause breakouts and other bad reactions. And if you’re on a budget you can still get the really good stuff for where it matters, since your face is a much smaller surface area, even if you can’t afford the splurge product for your whole body.

I’ve been testing and trying self-tanning products for many years. And because I’ve been breakout-prone, and had sensitivity issues, I’ve found that for my skin there’s no risking it with anything but the best. With the new generation of skin-friendly tanning products, it’s easy to find something that will boost your sensitive facial skin’s health at the same time as its color. Many of the shoppable picks on this list contain powerful skincare active ingredients in addition to color boosters. From creating a natural-looking healthy glow to smoothing, toning, treating signs of aging, and more, these self-tanners are not your mother’s fake-n-bake.

You could be brightening and hydrating your skin while admiring your glam new glow in just as long as it takes a futuristic Amazon Prime drone to drop a package at your door.  So do yourself a favor and get the right product for the right skin—yours! Here’s our list of the absolute best self-tanners for face.

What are the best self tanners for face?

Tan luxe self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Mix with existing skincare
  • Anti-aging
  • Better than real sun
Price: $49.20 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Coola Organic serum self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Smells amazing
  • Lightweight
  • Works as skincare
Price: $54.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Beauty by earth best self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Amazon top choice
  • Buildable glow
  • No yucky stuff
Price: $27.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Sisley best self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Buildable color
  • Works on fair skin
  • Feels luxe
Price: $158.42 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Soleil Toujours Organic Daily Sunless Tanning Serum for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Goes on smooth
  • Skincare benefits
  • Natural-looking glow
Price: $56.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Tan luxe super glow self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Heals while it tans
  • Brightens skin
  • Lightweight serum
Price: $34.75 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
St. Tropez Purity best self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Light scent
  • Reasonable price
  • Highly reviewed
Price: $30.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
James Read sleep mask best self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Rich color
  • Affordable
  • Botanical ingredients
Price: $32.50 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Supergoop sunless tan best self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Affordable
  • SPF
  • Face and body
Price: $38.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Vita Liberata foaming tan water best self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Luxe feel and scent
  • Comes in 3 shades
  • Light foam hydation
Price: $32.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Tan Towel best self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Packable
  • Simple to use
  • Lightweight
Price: $30.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Dr. Dennis Gross gradual glow best self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Contains skincare actives
  • Odorless
  • Streak-free
Price: $71.32 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Golden star beatuy best self tanners for face Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Budget buy
  • Good for dry skin
  • Nourishes while it tans
Price: $25.79 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. The Absolute Best of the Best: TAN-LUXE The Face Anti-Age Rejuvenating Self-Tan Drops

    Pros:
    • Customizable glow
    • Neutralize redness
    • Incredibly natural glow
    Cons:
    • Has a faint smell until the tan has developed
    • One customer had a bad reaction with Retin-A
    • Must keep bottle sealed

    I’m going to tell you something that may shock you. I have been using self-tanning products since the late nineties. Eep! I was very young then, and the self-tanning products were very very bad then. I had muddy-looking smudges of color between my fingers, I smelled like chemicals. I remember a friend asking me if I had orange dust from the softball infield on me. 

    I wish I could go back and give myself TAN-LUXE drops because I would have slayed. I’ve tried so, so many products and the self-tanning drops from TAN-LUXE are my favorite hands down. You can be sure I mean this, because as a beauty writer I do often receive free products to test, but I have been buying these on my own. For years.

    One of my favorite things about the TAN LUXE The Face Anti-Age Rejuvenating Self-Tan Drops is that you mix them in with some of your existing facial moisturizer or serum. If you are a skincare nut like me, or are using a special regimen of products for a particular concern and don’t want to disrupt that, the TAN-LUXE drops fit right into your existing skincare routine. I love, love, love that I can stick with my painstakingly chosen product routines and still bust a glow.

    They are just so customizable. Yes, you can mix them in with your current skincare products and choose to buy the light/medium or the medium/dark formula. But beyond that, TAN-LUXE also gives recommendations on how many drops you should add at a time. The directions say two drops for a “radiant” look, four drops for “sun-kissed,” eight for “golden” and 12 for “bronzed.” 

    Because I’m super fair-skinned, I buy the light/medium shade, of course. (Pro tip: these are particularly the best self-tanner for fair skin because they really neutralize redness.) And I usually apply my drops to my night serum. If I’m going for a real glow for a vacation or an event and haven’t been regularly self-tanning I’ll go ahead and use four or five drops. If I’m just doing maintenance self-tanning all season, I might use two drops every other night or so. The bottle feels like it lasts forever, even though it’s only 30ml. Plus, they’re not even the most expensive self-tanning product out there. 

    Since you’re mixing these drops in with your normal skincare, make sure you apply the mixture evenly, wait for it to dry before bed, and you won’t wake up with streaks or lingering scents. And with naturally derived DHA (where the color comes from) and no dangerous chemicals, you can feel good about what’s going on your skin. 

     

  2. 2. COOLA Organic Sunless Tanner Serum

    Pros:
    • Buildable color
    • That summer vacation smell
    • Organic ingredients
    Cons:
    • No Erythrulose
    • Contains alcohol
    • Works best on fair skin

    “A lightweight serum infused with a blend of argan oil, hyaluronic acid, and plant cell cultures for smooth, glowing skin.” The description may sound like it’s for a luxury anti-aging or deeply hydrating serum, but it’s actually for COOLA Organic Sunless Tanner Serum.

    Coola is a swoon-worthy example of the glossy new generation of self-tanners for face that boost skin inner glow as well as outer glow. Healing botanical ingredients soothe skin and luscious extracts like Bergamot and hibiscus give this serum a forever vacation kind of feel. 

  3. 3. Amazon’s Pick for Best Self Tanner for Face: Beauty by Earth

    Pros:
    • Thousands of positive reviews
    • Works for all skin tones
    • Affordable
    Cons:
    • Washes off easily
    • Have to wait between layers
    • Some want a deeper tan right away

    Check the ingredients list. You won’t find anything in Beauty by Earth’s Face Self Tanner that will gross you out. This affordable but potent brand promises “Organic, natural skincare products that nourish your body without disrupting its natural state.” While it’s not marketed as a gradual tanner, it is meant to be buildable one layer at a time, so it works for all skin tones. Even if you’re as pale as I am, it will still work as a great self-tanner for fair skin. In addition to the active ingredient, naturally-derived DHA, this creamy option includes organic shea butter, organic green tea extract, and organic witch hazel extract that will “care for your skin while supporting a streak-free sunless tan.”

  4. 4. Best Splurge: Sisley Self Tanning Hydrating Facial Skincare

    Pros:
    • Covetable ingredients
    • Long lasting luxury
    • Nourishes skin while it colors
    Cons:
    • Costly
    • It takes layers to build up a very dark color
    • Might be too hydrating for very oily skin

    Don’t let sticker shock throw you. There’s a cult of followers who swear up and down that Sisley Self Tanning Hydrating Facial Skincare is the best self-tanner for face they’ve ever tried and that they will never stray. Phrases like “Excellent results for a nice natural tan with a light textured cream,” and “Best self tanning cream in the market. Definitely worth the price.,” fill the reviews sections online. And another reviewer says there’s: “no dreaded orangish tone and the smell is very mild & non-offensive.”

    It’s no wonder that this winner of a SELF Healthy Beauty Award in 2020 is so popular. One of the major things to look for in high-end self-tanners for face is the mixture of two tanning agents. DHA (short for Dihydroxyacetone) is the main darkened derived from natural sugar. But the color works best and stays on longer when paired with another sugar chemical called erythrulose. A quick look at the ingredients list shows the Sisley self-tanner for face has both desirable ingredients as well as a host of other beneficial skin-soothers. The result? An expensive-looking, long-lasting, smooth feeling glow. 

  5. 5. Soleil Toujours Organic Daily Sunless Tanning Serum

    Pros:
    • Infused with botanical extracts
    • DHA and Erythrulose
    • Mixable
    Cons:
    • 30% non-organic ingredients
    • Contains a version of alcohol
    • May stay on too long

    Anything with a French name has to be good for your skin, right? Kidding. But in the case of Soleil Toujours Organic Daily Sunless Tanning Serum, the stereotype happens to be true. The first four ingredients contain aloe, and the two naturally-derived coloring agents you want to see in a high-quality self-tanner for face: Dihydroxyacetone and Erythrulose. 

    You can mix several drops of this serum in with your existing skincare for a light glow boost. Or if you want a nice deep bronzing overnight, use an entire dropper full on clean, dry skin and follow with your favorite moisturizer.

  6. 6. TAN-LUXE Super Glow Hyaluronic Self-Tan Serum

    Pros:
    • Moisturizes naturally
    • Tans gradually
    • No yucky stuff
    Cons:
    • Tans only gradully (could be +/-)
    • Less tan per bottle than the full strength Luxe drops
    • Can evaporate if bottle not sealed

    Ok, yes TAN-LUXE Super Glow Hyaluronic Self-Tan Serum is amazing. I won’t wax poetic over it quite the same way I did about the TAN-LUXE Face Anti-Age Rejuvenating Self-Tan Drops, because the thing that makes me obsessed about those is that you add the drops to your existing products. The TAN-LUXE Super Glow Hyaluronic Self-Tan Serum gives you the same natural-looking streak-free, scent-free color, however, but in the form of its own luscious hyaluronic serum. 

    You can use the serum every day because the amount of tanning power in each dropper is measured out to deliver a gradual glow. Hyaluronic acid, mixed with botanical ingredients like avocado oil, chia seed oil, and beetroot extract, delivers a powerful dose of moisture and anti-aging to your skin while gently tanning. If you don’t already have a serum you’re married to, this is definitely a good bet for spring, summer, and fall. 

  7. 7. Best Tanning Face Mist: St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist

    Pros:
    • Lightweight scent and feel
    • No rubbing
    • Natural highlighting glow
    Cons:
    • Keep spray off light hair
    • Must dry before applying lotion
    • Best for light skinned users

    The name St. Tropez is pretty much synonymous with high-end self-tanning. And this light and lovely face mist or “tanning water” fits the mood. Light notes of citronelle and hibiscus tingle your nose rather than any chemical scent, and a lovely sun-kissed glow will warm highlight your face. I love that you don’t need to rub this cooling spray in. You can simply mist it all over your face and decolletage and feel like a million euros while you’re doing it. 

  8. 8. Best Deep Bronze: James Read Sleep Mask Tanner for Face Go Darker

    Pros:
    • Overnight mask
    • Deep color after just one use
    • Good price
    Cons:
    • May be too strong for fair skin
    • Only a few uses per bottle
    • Application takes practice

    Many self-tanners for face use the gradual or buildable color model. In case you make an error putting it on you won’t have streaks on your face that way, right? Well, if you don’t want to wait to apply multiple layers and what an extra gorgeously deep bronze with just one application, you’ll love the James Read Sleep Mask Tanner for Face in the “Go Darker” shade. 

    It dries fast and even and reviews say this rich bronze mask is worth the money. Also, it’s “infused with luxurious black rose oil,” which is unique on our list of the best self-tanners for face. 

  9. 9. Best Self Tanner with SPF: Supergoop! Healthy Glow Sunless Tan SPF 40

    Pros:
    • Contains sun protection
    • Non-comedogenic
    • Goes on as a light spray
    Cons:
    • Can be hard to dispense
    • The SPF has a scent
    • Bottle can drip

    Supergoop! has made a big name for itself in the beauty spaces in recent years for being an SPF and skincare-focused beauty brand that just won’t quit. And their totally awesome Supergoop! Healthy Glow Sunless Tan SPF 40 is unique on our list of the very best self-tanner for face for a couple of reasons.

    First: It’s one of the only full-body self-tanners we’ve deemed good enough for your face as well. And second: It’s the only self-tanner that contains a full dose of SPF right in it. Talk about skincare right in the bottle. Is there any active ingredient in a skincare product more important than SPF? 

    This truly sunless tanning option gives you the glow you want without the harsh rays and protects you from the light that does find you all at the same time. Win-Win. 

  10. 10. Best foam: Vita Liberata Advanced Organics invisi Foaming Tan Water

    Pros:
    • Extra long-lasting
    • Super hydrating
    • Amazing smell
    Cons:
    • May be hard to remove (long-lasting)
    • Patch test first
    • Foam dispenser can clog

    “Best ever from years of experience.” “Such a lovely tan.” “Don’t hesitate, buy it now!” These are quotes taken directly from real customers reviewing Vita Liberata Advanced Organics invisi Foaming Tan Water on Amazon, where it has crazy-high ratings. This light “tanning water” foams beautifully and smells like a summer fragrance, not a self-tanner. It’s super hydrating and non-sticky, and comes in three shades for perfect customization of color. 

  11. 11. Best for Packing: Tan Towel Face Tan

    Pros:
    • Vacation-ready
    • Pre-measured
    • Lovely scent
    Cons:
    • Can come off with makeup remover
    • Small size
    • Best for fair skin

    These individually wrapped towelettes by Tan Towel are a breeze to pack on vacation and a delight to use. Just tear one open, swipe carefully over all the showing areas of your face (and blend down your neck of course) and then wait a few minutes for the formula to dry before putting on a moisturizer or otherwise touching your face. They feel like you’ve got nothing at all on your face. But in a few hours you’ll be blessed with a natural, lightly perfumed glow. 

  12. 12. Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face in Gradual Glow

    Pros:
    • Brightening formula
    • Skin soothers
    • Packable
    Cons:
    • Actives make skin sensitive to sun
    • Some prefer old formula
    • Small size

    Self-tanner in an eminently packable individual towelette? Check. Exfoliating AHAs and BHAs? Gotcha. Vitamin D and soy proteins to soothe your skin? Yep! This is a triple threat self-tanner for face. One of the only reasons the super-effective Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads aren’t our number vacation towelette is that the AHAs and BHAs do make your skin sensitive to the sun so you need to pack on the SPF and the giant ridiculous hats after you use them, ok? Promise? 

  13. 13. Best Budget Buy: Golden Star Beauty Self Tanner Facial Serum

    Pros:
    • Hyaluranic serum
    • Great price
    • Organic, eco certified ingredients
    Cons:
    • Comes off easily
    • Must exfoliate first
    • Tan comes on gradually (could be +/-)

    Even though it’s our budget buy and won’t deliver quite the same wow-worthy results as some of the other pricier options, Golden Star Beauty Self Tanner Facial Serum isn’t about to let you down. It has a lot of the hallmarks of a high-end product, like hyaluronic acid, botanical oils and extracts, and all organic, eco-certified ingredients. Reviewers with dry skin love it because it glides on evenly without being greasy., and leaves only a faint, pleasant scent. 

What are the best self-tanners for face?

We like to think our above list is pretty exhaustive :) But seriously, in our opinion, the best self-tanners for face are the ones that mix the two naturally-derived coloring agents Dihydroxyacetone and Erythrulose for a more natural, smoother, and longer-lasting look. Plus we love the ones that do double duty by including skincare actives to hydrate, plump, brighten, and treat other skin concerns while dishing out that shining faux glow.

How does self-tanner for face work?

Dihydroxyacetone is the most famous active ingredient for self-tanners. It's great because it's natural and comes from sugar. Sweet! The more updated luxury self-tanners often include a mix of this and Erythrulose, another sugar derivative, which helps to stabilize the DHA;

How long does self-tanner for face last?

Depending on how much you sweat and wash your face, and what kind of carrier lotion the product uses, your self-tanner for face might last anywhere between one and seven days. 

 

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