My Top 4 Favorite Self-Tanners For Every Budget

best self tanner lotions

the best self-tanning lotions for every budget

Growing up, there was nothing I loved more than soaking in the sun and leaving the beach with perfect tan lines during the summer. I had glowing skin nearly year round, and to be honest, I had no idea my natural skin tone was so pale until a few years ago! Since next week marks six years since our dad passed away from melanoma, we wanted to share how our secrets to having glowing skin without the risks of sun damage: self-tanner!

So yes, self-tanner is nothing new – but there are SO MANY sunless tanning products on the market that it can be a tad overwhelming. Trust us, we’ve had our fair share of tanning mishaps from orange skin to splotchy applications – it’s never a good look! That being said, we’ve also found a handful of amazing products that give the perfect post-vacay glow for every budget. Check out of favorites below:

Note: I tan easily and have an olive complexion, so I listed the colors I generally use. If you’re new to self-tanner or have a light complexion, start with a Medium tone tanner!

SUN LABORATORIES ULTRA DARK SELF TANNING LOTION – $59

If I could only use one self-tanner for the rest of my life, this would be it. To be honest I can’t even remember how we heard about this miracle product, but ever since Blair ordered a bottle off of Amazon 10 years ago, we’ve been hooked. While this product is $59 per bottle, it will literally last FOREVER! Sun Laboratories Ultra Dark Self-Tanning Lotion goes on like any lotion and blends into your skin easily. You will see color instantly, but the self-tanner will intensify within 3 hours. Don’t be alarmed when you pump out the product – It will look super dark with a twinge of green, but it provides a perfect (and natural-looking) tan! – Shop Sun Laboratories Ultra Dark Self Tanning Lotion

ST TROPEZ SELF TAN DARK BRONZING MOUSSE  – $44

I’ve heard so much hype about St Tropez self-tanner over the years, so I figured it was time to give it a whirl. Though I was a bit weary to spend $44 on a product I wasn’t sure would work or not, I am now a huge fan of this self-tanner! Similar to the Sun Lab tanner above, this product gave color immediately – but wow, within a few hours I was bright orange… to say I panicked was a bit of an understatement. I tried to remain calm while waiting the 4-8 hours, and after hopping in the shower and watching the tanner wash off like mud, I was left with a perfect bronzed look! Best of all, the tan lasted for almost a week! I definitely recommend this product, however, be sure to apply the mousse when you know you will not be in public before showering. – Shop St Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Mousse  

JERGENS NATURAL GLOW INSTANT SUN MOUSSE – $12

Drugstore beauty finds – Is there really anything better? The Jergens self-tanning mousse is one of my favorite products not because of the dark tan, but more so because of the affordable price point and accessibility. The Jergens Mousse is applied the exact same way as the St. Tropez Mousse, but you will not see immediate color. It’s a great product to apply if you have somewhere to be and can’t wait six hours to shower before arriving. Unlike the products mentioned above, this mousse will not give a dramatic tan – BUT it will give a perfect sunkissed glow! I can always trust this product for giving me just the right amount of color, without the panic of the pre-shower orange of St. Tropez. It’s lightweight, so once it dries, I can dress for the day and keep going. Best of all, it’s only $12! – Shop Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Mousse

NKD TINTED TAN MOUSSE – $19

You can probably tell by now that I’m a big fan of tanning mousse, but a mousse goes on smoothly and feels lighter than traditional lotions. I discovered NKD tanning products through a blog collaboration, but it’s still one of my favorite products. Best of all, I can pick up a bottle at Ulta when I run out! This product is super similar to the St. Tropez Ultra-Dark Tanning mousse, but priced at only $19. If you’re new to self-tanners but want something with a lot of color, go with this one! – Shop NKD Tinted Tan Mousse

QUICK TIPS: 

  • If you’ve never used a self-tanner, start with a mousse. It’s easier to apply and less splotchy
  • Buy a tanning mitt – I was a bit late to the game on this one, and I always had orange hands. This is a game-changer.
  • If you DON’T use a mitt, wash your hands with Dawn Dishwasher soap after applying. It works better than regular hand soap to remove the tanner, preventing the dreaded orange hands.
  • If you apply self-tanner to your face (like I do!), wash your face an hour or two before the rest of your body. It gives your face a perfect glow without being overly tan.

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