Good news: Staying sun-safe this summer doesn't have to mean giving up your glow. A category that was once synonymous with orange, streaky formulas that left you smelling like an early-aughts tanning salon has gotten bigger and better these past few years. It's never been easier than it is right now to use sunless tanners to achieve a natural-looking tan without exposing yourself to UV damage. (Or stinking like a bad spray tan.)
Not only have the products themselves improved, but there are also so many options to choose from. Whether you're in the market for a skin-tone evening serum that will deepen your complexion over time or something that will give you an instant bronze, you'll be set for the entire season ahead.
Shop award-winning sunless tanners
Bondi Sands, Technocolor Express 1-Hour Instant Tan - $27
With four shades to choose from, the varieties that this formula offers will allow everyone to achieve their perfect tan, whether they’re looking for something golden or olive, warm or cool. The foam is easy-to-apply (just be sure to use a glove) and works fast—you can expect to see noticeable results in under an hour.
Dermachromatic color technology, hydrating electrolytes
No sun protection
Must wear a glove to apply (not included)
St. Tropez, Self-Tan Luxe Whipped Crème Mousse—$48
As far as self-tanners go, this one is basically idiot-proof. The light-yet-luxurious mousse is ultra-easy to apply, and streaks are few and far between (our testers didn’t have any to speak of). In addition to delivering a gorgeous glow, the formula offers skin-nourishing ingredients like niacinamide (to even skin tone), vitamin E (to moisturize), echinacea (to defend against free radical damage), and hyaluronic acid (to hydrate).
Niacinamide, Vitamin E, Echinacea, Hyaluronic acid
An oldie but a goodie, this $13 gradual tanning lotion does the trick of making you look fresh off the beach when you actually haven’t seen the sun in months. It comes in two flexible shades so that everyone can find their perfect match, and a few quick post-shower applications will have you sufficiently bronzed within a week.
Antioxidants, Vitamin E
Drunk Elephant, D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Bronzing Drops With Peptides—$38
If you can get them, Drunk Elephant’s fan-favorite D-Bronzi drops are by far the best luxury instant facial bronzing drops your money can buy. These instant bronzing drops create the most beautiful, buildable glow that doubles as a protective skin-care treatment. Aside from the subtle, shimmery tint, they’re infused with barrier-building ingredients that guard skin from environmental stressors and stave off free radicals. And they’re not just for your face—add a drop or two into your favorite neck cream or body moisturizer for a “just-stepped-off-the-beach” glow in seconds.
If you’re tired of waiting for Drunk Elephant’s bronzing drops to restock, Indeed Labs makes these drops that are just as good, and are significantly more affordable. The pigmented drops can be mixed in with lotion or cream for a subtle, summery glow, sans the actual sunshine. While there’s unfortunately no SPF in the formulation, there are a slew of actives that nourish skin and protect it from other stressors, specifically hyaluronic acid (for moisture retention and plumping), blumilight (the brand’s proprietary blend of actives that protect against blue light), pea extract (for brightening), and kelp extract (which guards skin against pollution while boosting its elasticity).
Pea extract, Hyaluronic acid, Blumilight blend, Kelp extract
Isle of Paradise, Self Tanning Natural Glow Face Drops—$32
Hype around these bronzing drops on social media has been strong, and it’s for good reason. They utilize DHA to even out skin tone and create a golden (never orange) tan, and come in three shades (light, medium, and dark) to deliver your perfect sun-kissed finish. They contain vitamin C-rich ascorbic acid to defend against free radical damage, plus avocado oil to moisturize skin, and can be used on the face and body.
A few spritzes of this $17 formula will make your face look like it’s just spent an afternoon laying out at the beach—without the typical sun damage that comes along with it. Spraying the serum into your favorite moisturizer allows for an easy, streak-free application that delivers noticeable results in only a few hours.