13 Best Face Self-Tanners — My Picks for a Sun-kissed Glow

Written by Anoushka Sinha, Skincare Coach & Writer
Updated on Feb 07, 2024
Best Face Self-Tanners
Best Face Self-Tanners
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Tired of looking like I spent the weekend in a Dorito bag, I embarked on a mission: finding the best face self-tanner that doesn't scream "I've been Tangoed!" Especially for my face. Let's be real, the last thing anyone needs is a glaringly fake tan up there. So, I dived into the world of self-tanners, armed with determination and a healthy dose of skepticism.

Firstly, what sets face self-tanners apart from their body-loving counterparts — a.k.a travel-friendly sunscreens? Well, they're like the sophisticated cousins of body tanners. Face self-tanners are lighter, more delicate, and designed specifically for the nuances of facial skin. They aim for a subtle, natural-looking glow without the risk of clogging pores or turning your forehead into a different zip code.

I've tried out numerous self-tanners, armed with a checklist: no zero streaks, and please, no biscuity smell. I've put these potions through the wringer, considering everything from ease of application to how long the glow sticks around.

Whether you're dry, oily, or sensitive, I've got a little something for every face out there. From gradual tanners to instant sun-kissed miracles, these bad boys have been tried, tested, and approved by yours truly.

13 Best Face Self Tanners

On the pinnacle of my list, the Bronzing Foam is one of the best self-tanner for the face, and here’s why — it’s an anti-cellulite marvel, hydrating and replenishing your skin by leveraging coconut extracts, amino acids, and antioxidants derived from bananas, cocoa, figs, and papayas. These goodies keep the skin nourished and protected. And the scent? Think energizing notes of tropical mango and guava — and no icky biscuit odors! Each bottle lasts a whopping 10-20 tanning sessions, and trust me, a little of this magic mousse goes a long way. 

Recommended Use: Daily

Development Time: 4-5 Hours

Pros
  • Cruelty-free
  • Vegan
  • Non-sticky formula
  • Lightweight mousse
  • Ideal for all skin tones
  • Blurs pigmentation
  • Pleasant scent
Cons
  • Color may transfer to bedsheets
  • Best Non-Comedogenic Product

    ST. TROPEZ Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist

    ST. TROPEZ Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist
  • St. Tropez's Self Tan Purity Face Mist is a game-changer for a natural glow with instant hydration. The product is a breeze to apply, boasting a tropical scent and moisture-surging hyaluronic acid. Its lightweight formula offers a subtle, sun-kissed radiance without clogging pores. This product is excellent for a quick pick-me-up, but results may vary based on skin type and tone. Best for a light, buildable tan, it's perfect for a daily boost. Its development time may vary, but its quick-drying nature is a plus. However, it might not yield deep tans for those seeking a darker shade. Overall, it's a convenient, hydrating option for a gentle facial tan and the best face self-tanner for acne-prone skin.

    Recommended Use: Daily

    Development Time: 4-8 hours

    Pros
    • Antioxidant protection
    • Weightless and easy to apply
    • Pleasant tropical scent
    • Non-comedogenic
    • Quick-drying formula
    • Suitable for daily use
    Cons
    • Results may vary based on skin type and tone
  • Best for Customizable Tan

    Tanologist Dark Self Tan Drops

     Tanologist Dark Self Tan Drops
  • Cop a “tan-talizing” glow with Tanologist's Face and Body Drops! These illuminating self-tan drops offer a 100% customizable radiance when mixed with skincare or makeup. Perfect for rookies or seasoned tanners, the more drops, the merrier the glow! No color guide means no blocked pores, skin drying, or stains on sheets. Dermatologist-approved, it's gentle even on sensitive skin, free from pore-clogging culprits. Infused with pink grapefruit, goji berries, and juniper berries, this non-comedogenic formula not only tans but nourishes. With 3 adaptable shades, from Light Glow to Dark Bronze, you can achieve your desired tan effortlessly.

    Recommended Use: Daily

    Development Time: 6-7 hours

     

    Pros
    • Vegan
    • Cruelty-free
    • Brightens the skin
    • Ideal for all skin types
    • Sulfate-free
    • Catalyzes collagen production
    • Non-comedogenic
    Cons
    • Less convenient to use than others
  • Best Development Time

    SOL by Jergens Deeper by the Drop Serum

    SOL by Jergens Deeper by the Drop Serum
  • As an avid seeker of that year-round sun-kissed glow, I recently ventured into the world of Jergens SOL Deeper by the Drop Self Tanning Drops, and oh, what a revelation! The power of customizing my tan was truly in my hands — a few drops for a subtle tint, a bit more for that "just got back from vacation" radiance. The magic lies in its natural sugar-derived formula, seamlessly blending with any moisturizer without a hint of oiliness. My skin soaked it up, leaving behind a long-lasting, streak-free tan. Plus, the travel-sized bottle became my trusty companion, joining me on every escapade. My personal rating? A solid 4 out if 5 for its effortless customizability and portable charm!

    Recommended Use: Daily

    Development Time: 4-5 hours

    Pros
    • Dermatologist approved
    • Oil-free formula
    • Blends well
    • Streak-free results
    • Travel-friendly size
    • Perfect for on-the-go application
    Cons
    • Potential for uneven application
  • Best Vegan Face Tanning Drops

    Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Tanning Drops

    Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Tanning Drops
  • Dive into the world of sun-kissed radiance with these self-tanner drops, your passport to a golden glow! The vanilla infused in the concoction not only offers a calming scent, but also some great antioxidant anti-inflammatory properties — as per a study published in the National Library of Medicine, caressing your skin. Joining the party are powerhouse antioxidants, vitamins A and C, teamed up with the calming aloe vera to kiss inflammation goodbye. Adding to this potion is the nourishing jojoba seed oil and refreshing cucumber fruit extract. With every drop, I felt the glow, a beautiful blend of bronzed charm and skincare magic. Each dab of this elixir seemed like a skincare symphony, where my skin soaked up the dewy radiance.

    Recommended Use: Occasional 

    Development Time: 6 hours

    Pros
    • Very soothing
    • Boosts hydration
    • Ideal for dry skin
    • Vegan
    • Cruelty-free
    • Easy to apply
    Cons
    • May over darken
  • Best Unscented Option

    +Lux Unfiltered N°12 Bronzing Face Drops

    +Lux Unfiltered N°12 Bronzing Face Drops
  • Amongst my top picks for tanners, Lux Unfiltered N°12 Bronzing Drops reign supreme. These fragrance-free drops redefine the tanning game by seamlessly integrating into your skincare routine. Enriched with a luxurious blend including hyaluronic acid, pomegranate extract, coconut water, passion fruit oil, and vitamin E, they're the key to a glowing, hydrated complexion. With the mantra "Fake Tan. Real You. No Filter," these drops cater to all skin types, offering a customizable and buildable tan. Plus, their commitment to clean luxury shines through, making them one of the best face tanners for sensitive skin — vegan and free from harsh ingredients. 

    Recommended Use: Daily 

    Development Time: 8 hours

    Pros
    • Gluten-free
    • Paraben-free
    • Clean ingredients
    • Fragrance-free
    • Non-comedogenic
    • Cruelty-free
    Cons
    • Could use a natural scent
  • Best for All Skin Types

    L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self Tanning Water Mist

    L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self Tanning Water Mist
  • I've always been cautious with facial tanners, but the L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self Tanning Facial Mist was a safe choice. Spritzing on this weightless mist felt like a refreshing breeze, and the water-based formula made application a breeze too. The gradual glow it provided was so natural — no hint of that dreaded orange tone. What struck me most was the non-sticky finish; it absorbed quickly, leaving my skin feeling hydrated, making it the best fake tan for the face. Knowing it's infused with vitamin E and free from pore-clogging nasties made me feel like I was treating my skin to a mini spa day. A trusty sidekick for that radiant, sun-kissed look without the fuss!

    Recommended Use: Daily 

    Development Time: 10-11 hours

    Pros
    • Moisturizes the skin
    • Doesn't clog pores
    • Suitable for all skin types
    • Silicone-free
    • Paraben-free
    Cons
    • Some users might prefer a faster-developing formula
  • Best in Convenience of Use

    Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad

    Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad
  • I consider this the ace of spades in my self-tanning deck — the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad Intense Glow for Face. It's not just a card; it's the golden ticket to a flawless tan. Picture a towelette that not only imparts a sun-kissed hue but also works its magic by exfoliating and offering anti-aging benefits. This natural face tanner gifts you with a streak-free, radiant tan in 3-4 hours, thanks to its swift-drying formula infused with vitamin D. The generously doused towelettes make application a cinch, ensuring an even, mess-free result. And it's not just about the tan — it's a guilt-free indulgence, being vegan and cruelty-free. This is the trump card of radiant, age-defying glow!

    Recommended Use: Occasional

    Development Time: 3-4 hours

    Pros
    • Convenient to use
    • Mess-free application
    • Vegan-friendly
    • Paraben-free
    • Cruelty-free formula
    Cons
    • Low on tan intensity
  • Best for Dry Skin

    Isle of Paradise Hyglo Self Tan Serum

    Isle of Paradise Hyglo Self Tan Serum
  • From the first drop, the Isle of Paradise Hyglo Self Tan Serum felt like a sip of nature's goodness on my skin. Its embrace was gentle, gradually painting a sunlit glow while hydrating my face. The hyaluronic acid seemed like a kiss of dew, leaving my skin plump and radiant. What truly surprised me was the nourishing oil complex — it felt like a luxurious treat, making my skin supple and continuously improving its texture. After the first-hand experience, I would give it a 3.9 out of 5 for its hydrating formulation that seems suitable for dry, parched skin — however, it’s a bit much for naturally oilier skin. It's not just a tan; it's a holistic skincare journey that celebrates natural beauty in every drop.

    Recommended Use: Daily

    Development Time: 7-9 hours

    Pros
    • Absorbs quickly
    • Less to no streaks
    • Improves skin texture over time
    • Provides a radiant, luminous finish
    • Vegan
    • Cruelty-free
    Cons
    • Less in quantity
  • Best for Combination Skin

    Loving Tan Deluxe Face Tan

    Loving Tan Deluxe Face Tan
  • I chose the Loving Tan Deluxe Face Tan for a simple reason: its promise of a natural-looking, streak-free tan for my face. This face tan is more than a self-tanner— filled with powerhouse ingredients like aloe vera, green tea, pomegranate, and acai extracts to nourish your skin while delivering that sun-kissed radiance. Applying it is a breeze, effortlessly working its wonders. It is quick-absorbing and melts seamlessly into your skin for that natural glow. My experience left me amazed; within hours, my face glowed naturally as if kissed by the sun after a tropical escapade. As one of the best drugstore self-tanners for face, it earns a spot on my list for its assertive, professional-strength results.

    Recommended Use: Daily

    Development Time: 9-10 hours

    Pros
    • Good value
    • Easy to use
    • Ideal for combination skin
    • Natural ingredients
    • Professional-grade
    • Streak-free tanning formula
    Cons
    • Less intense in tan
  • Gleow Self Tanning Drops for Face & Body - Medium

    Gleow Self Tanning Drops for Face & Body - Medium
  • Another go-to on my list for that radiant glow is Gleow Self Tan Drops. Dermatology-tested, paraben-free, and cruelty-free, these drops make self-tanning a breeze for both face and body. It’s like having a glowing tan in a bottle at your fingertips — literally. What's incredible is the control it offers over my tan; it’s all about my glow goals.

    Enriched with skin-loving ingredients like Chamomile, Calendula, and Green Tea, these drops create the best face tanning lotion. Even with fair skin, the results were impressively natural — no orange tint, just a subtle sun-kissed glow. However, for a deeper tan, a few more drops might do the trick. Nonetheless, it's a delightful, skin-loving formula that puts me in charge of my tan journey.

    Recommended Use: Daily

    Development Time: 6-8 hours

    Pros
    • Ideal for oily skin
    • Paraben-free
    • Easy to apply
    • Convenient packaging
    • Cruelty-free
    • Paraben-free
    Cons
    • May look a bit orangey on fair skin
  • Nuda Face Tan Water

    Nuda Face Tan Water
  • To those who seek a complete extensive self-tanner line, Nuda proudly introduces this enriched clear face-tanning spray. Packed with aloe vera, white tea, cucumber, rosehip, and chamomile extracts, it's a vitamin-infused wonderland featuring A, C, and E for their potent antioxidants. I would recommend you prep your skin by exfoliating first and then spraying this lightweight magic onto a clean face, neck, and décolletage — for best results. This gem stands out for its swift absorption, gradual yet visible tan development, and the freedom to craft my desired glow. It's my go-to potion for an effortless, radiant face tan that feels like a weightless, dewy dream.

    Recommended Use: Daily

    Development Time: 4-5 hours

    Pros
    • Lightweight
    • Clear formula that absorbs quickly
    • Paraben-free
    • Cruelty-free
    • Ideal for all skin types
    Cons
    • Some users might prefer a faster-developing tanning product
  • TAN-LUXE The Crème Advanced Hydration Self-Tan Facial Crème

    TAN-LUXE The Crème Advanced Hydration Self-Tan Facial Crème
  • Last but certainly not least, I bring to you TAN-LUXE’s The Crème. This isn't your basic tanning lotion — it's packed with stuff like amino acids, antioxidants, and other fancy ingredients. As per its claims, I noticed it helped repair and renew my skin while also giving a sun-kissed glow. They talk about glycine, leucine, and L-Phenylalanine doing wonders for your skin, like reducing dark spots and lines. It's likely better suited for lighter skin tones or those seeking a subtle tan boost. As for skin types, it seemed alright for my normal skin, not overly oily or dry. Overall, it might suit folks looking for a gradual, natural-looking tan rather than a dramatic change.

    Recommended Use: Daily 

    Development Time: 9-10 hours

    Pros
    • Contains squalane
    • Ideal for mature skin
    • Suited for fairer skin tones
    • Gradual development
    • Works for normal skin types
    • Cruelty-free and paraben-free
    Cons
    • Results may take several uses to become noticeable

    Having covered my top face tanners, I sensed an opportunity: a discreet guide to help you pick your ideal match. Your secret map to find that perfect glow for yourself.

    How to Select the Best Face Self-Tanner?

    Choosing the right self-tanner for your face involves considering various factors to achieve a natural, even, and safe tan. Here’s a guide to help you select the best face self-tanner:

    1. Ingredients: Look for self-tanners formulated with skin-friendly ingredients. Opt for DHA (dihydroxyacetone), a colorless sugar that reacts with the amino acids on the skin's surface to create the tan effect. Natural ingredients like aloe vera or coconut oil can provide hydration and nourishment. 

    2. Skin Type: Consider your skin type. For oily skin, a lightweight, gel-based formula might be ideal. Dry skin may benefit from a self-tanner with added moisturizing properties.

    3. Gradual Vs. Instant: Decide between gradual and instant tanners. Gradual tanners offer a subtle, buildable tan over time, while instant ones provide immediate results. For beginners, I’d recommend gradual formulas to avoid streaks and allow better control over the color intensity.

    4. Color Tone: Choose a shade that complements your natural skin tone. Lighter skin tones might suit lighter self-tanner shades, while medium to darker tones may opt for deeper shades for a more noticeable tan.

    5. Application Method: Consider the application method that suits you best — lotions, sprays, mousses, or serums. For the face, lightweight formulas like serums or facial-specific tanners often offer easier and more precise applications.

    6. SPF Content: Some self-tanners contain SPF, offering added protection against harmful UV rays. While this won’t replace your sunscreen, it can provide an extra layer of defense.

    7. Longevity And Maintenance: Consider how long the tan will last and how often you’re willing to reapply. Some tanners require daily application for a consistent tan, while others offer longer-lasting results.

    Remember, exfoliating your face beforehand, moisturizing dry areas (like eyebrows and hairline), and applying the self-tanner using gentle, circular motions can help achieve an even application. Ultimately, the best face self-tanner varies from person to person based on preferences, skin type, and desired results. Experimenting with samples or travel-sized products can be a great way to find the perfect match for your face.

    Tips on Effective Self-Tanning Application:

    Achieving flawless self-tan requires more than just applying the product; it's about technique and preparation. Here are some tips for an effective self-tanning application:

    1. Prep Your Skin: Before applying a self-tanner, exfoliate your skin to remove dead cells and create a smooth canvas. Focus on areas like elbows, knees, and ankles where tan tends to build up unevenly. Moisturize dry areas to prevent them from absorbing too much product.

    2. Choose the Right Formula: Select a self-tanner suited for your skin type and tone. Consider a lighter formula for oily skin and a hydrating one for dry skin. Opt for a gradual tanner if you prefer subtle color changes or an instant tanner for immediate results.

    3. Start with Small Amounts: Less is more when it comes to self-tanner application, especially on the face. Begin with a small amount and gradually build up the color to avoid streaks or an overly dark result.

    4. Focus on Technique: Apply the self-tanner in circular motions to ensure even coverage. Blend thoroughly, especially along the hairline, jawline, and around the nostrils to prevent noticeable lines or patches.

    5. Use Appropriate Tools: Consider using a mitt or specialized face applicator to evenly distribute the product. These tools help avoid stained hands and ensure a smoother application.

    6. Be Patient And Thorough: Take your time during application. Rushing can lead to uneven results. Double-check areas that might be easily missed, like the ears and neck, and blend carefully.

    7. Allow for Drying Time: After application, give the product enough time to dry completely before dressing or applying makeup. Avoid sweating or getting wet for the recommended time to let the tan develop properly.

    Bonus Tip — Adjust Your Routine: To maintain your tan, moisturize regularly and avoid harsh exfoliation. Reapply the self-tanner as needed to keep the color consistent.

    Following these tips will help you achieve a natural-looking, streak-free tan on your face, enhancing your overall appearance without the sun's harmful effects. From gentle options for sensitive or acne-prone skin to natural, drugstore finds, there's a perfect match. Whether it's drops for an integrated routine or lotions for a flawless tan, these choices deliver a sun-kissed look without compromise.

    Conclusion

    Regarding the best self-tanners for the face, two standout products deserve the spotlight. First, the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad combines tanning prowess with anti-aging benefits, offering a streak-free, radiant tan that doubles as a skincare gem. Second, the Isle of Paradise Hyglo Self Tan Serum stands tall, providing a natural-looking glow while nourishing the skin, thanks to its blend of skin-loving ingredients. Each product boasts its unique strengths, catering to different preferences — be it the anti-aging punch or the natural radiance. Choosing between these two depends on your priority: tanning with skincare perks or a radiant, nourished glow.

    FAQ's

    How do face self-tanners work?
    Facial self-tanners contain DHA (dihydroxyacetone), which reacts with amino acids on the skin's surface, causing a chemical reaction that darkens the skin temporarily. This reaction creates a tan-like appearance without exposure to UV rays.
    How long does it take for a face self-tanner to show results?
    Typically, face self-tanners start showing results within a few hours to a day. The full color usually develops within 24 hours, but it varies based on the product and skin type.
    Are face self-tanners suitable for all skin types?
    Yes, face self-tanners are generally suitable for all skin types. However, formulations may vary, and individuals with sensitive or acne-prone skin may need to opt for products specifically designed for their skin concerns.
    Can I wear makeup over a freshly applied facial self-tanner?
    It's advisable to wait until the self-tanner fully dries and develops (usually within a few hours) before applying makeup. Doing so ensures the tan sets properly and prevents smudging or uneven coloration.
    Can I use a face self-tanner if I have acne-prone skin?
    Yes, some self-tanners are designed for acne-prone skin, and formulated to be non-comedogenic and gentle. However, patch testing is recommended to check for any adverse reactions.
    Can face self-tanners cause skin irritation?
    Some individuals may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions to certain ingredients in self-tanners. Patch testing before full application can help identify any potential issues.
    Are there face self-tanners with anti-aging benefits?
    Yes, some face self-tanners contain antioxidants, vitamins, or hyaluronic acid, which can offer moisturizing or anti-aging benefits. These ingredients aim to hydrate and nourish the skin while providing a tan.

    Why Trust Pinkvilla

    Anoushka, the writer of this article and a skincare and beauty expert, was compelled to delve into the world of face self-tanners, craving that sun-kissed glow without the faux pas. After discovering the Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam's rave reviews for its seamless application and natural finish, she was inspired to share her findings on the best face self-tanners for a flawless, believable radiance.

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    Author BIO
    reviewer
    Anoushka Sinha
    Skincare Coach & Writer

    Anoushka is certified in Professional Skincare and is a Mass Media (Journalism) graduate from Mumbai University. As a More