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Achieve a natural sun-kissed glow with the best tanning lotions

A great self-tanning lotion can give you a bronzed look without spending too much time under the sun.

Published May 14, 2024
5 min. reading time
Image of four types of tanning lotion including St. Tropez, Coola, Hawaiian Tropics and The Gradual

As summer approaches, you’re probably thinking about getting a nice, healthy tan to don on your days out by the beach. 

While some have the patience to spend long hours under the sun or on a tanning bed, you may prefer looking for ways that help you get that sun-kissed look in less time.

That’s where having the best sunless tanner can help. Tanning products allow you to get your desired color results without exposing your skin to UV rays. 

Whether you’re looking for a gradual tan or an instant change to your shade, our editors have selected the best tanning lotions available on the market to help you achieve that sun-kissed glow.

Read more: Get the best sunscreen to protect you from UV rays

Browse top-rated fake tan lotions

Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Self Tanner Mousse
Best overall
Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Self Tanner Mousse
$34.20 at Amazon
Gradual Tan Watermelon Firming Lotion
Best scent
Gradual Tan Watermelon Firming Lotion
$23.20 at Ulta Beauty
Banana Boat Summer Color Self Tanning Lotion
Dermatologist recommended
Banana Boat Summer Color Self Tanning Lotion
$8.78 at Walmart
Hawaiian Tropic Sunless Gradual Tanning Milk
Best for beginners
Hawaiian Tropic Sunless Gradual Tanning Milk
$8.99 at Target

Best overall

Pros & Cons
  • Does not transfer

  • Vegan formula

  • Fast-drying and lightweight

  • Tends to streak

This Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Self Tanner Mousse wins our vote for the best self-tanning lotion for its anti-aging benefits, great scent and vegan formula. Infused with raw virgin coconut, botanicals and amino acids, it helps boost hydration and blur pigmentation to give you a golden glow.

Its fast-drying formula develops in just two hours to give you a long-lasting tan. The bottle has enough pumps to give you up to 20 full-body tanning sessions too. 

When it comes to scent, its tropical mango and guava fragrance gives you the feel of an island escape.

To apply, use a small pump in a circular motion, let it sit for two hours, and shower in warm water before gently patting your skin dry.

Pro tip: Apply it before bed and sleep overnight for a deeper, longer-lasting tan. The formula won’t transfer if that’s what you’re worried about.

Best scent

Gradual Tan Watermelon Firming Lotion
Photo: Ulta Beauty
Pros & Cons
  • Gradually builds tan

  • Up to 72 hours of hydration

  • Refreshing watermelon scent

  • Application may be blotchy

This tanning mousse from St. Tropez is highly recommended if you’re looking for a product that smells good on your skin. With five super skincare benefits including hydrating, protecting, smoothing, soothing and firming skin, this should be your holy grail product this summer!

It’s a lightweight lotion with a refreshing watermelon scent that gradually builds a sunkissed glow and locks in moisture for up to 72 hours upon application. It’s also safe to reapply as needed to achieve the desired shade.

Did we also mention that the packaging is made with recycled plastic and it’s 100% recyclable?

Dermatologist recommended

Pros & Cons
  • Free from endocrine-disrupting chemicals

  • Streak-free application

  • Backed by studies

  • No  sun protection

Looking for the best self-tanner that is dermatologist recommended? Try the Banana Boat Summer Color Self Tanning Lotion. Backed by studies done by researchers at the University of Texas, this tanning lotion is one of the three products recommended in the study that focuses on skin safety.

This oil-free formulation contains aloe vera and vitamin E that help hydrate skin while giving you a natural-looking tan. The Self-Adjusting Color formula works with all skin tones and lets you control the shade of your tan.

It’s also free from oxybenzone or octinoxate, which are considered to be endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

Pros & Cons
  • PETA-certified cruelty-free

  • Dermatologist tested

  • Non-sticky formula

  • May require a lot of application for darker tan

  • Smell might be overpowering for some

Trying out fake tan for the first time? Getting the best fake tan shouldn’t be hard, which is why this Hawaiian Tropic Sunless Gradual Tanning Milk is on our list. 

PETA-certified cruelty-free and free from oxybenzone and octinoxate, you’ll achieve a tan body without worrying about side effects.

Lightweight and non-sticky, this gradual tanning lotion is transfer-resistant and dries quickly, making it easy to apply for first-time tanners. With aloe vera and vitamin E, the dermatologist-tested, moisturizing formula nourishes while you tan for a healthy glow.

You’ll even love the scent of Hawaiian island botanicals from this sunless tanner.

Pros & Cons
  • Hawaii Reef Compliant (Act 104)

  • Has anti-aging benefits

  • Cruelty-free

  • Scent may be too strong for some

This Organic Sunless Tan Anti-Aging Daily Moisturizer is the best tanning lotion for those looking to maintain their youthful skin. Safe for facial skin, this tanning moisturizer contains hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and green Tea Extract to keep your skin hydrated.

The streak-proof formula develops your tan over time, thanks to its Eco-Cert-approved ingredient derived from sugar beet. Lasting up to three days, 94% of participants from its consumer testing panel agree it has anti-aging benefits.

Additionally, the application will leave you with a natural piña colada scent. It’s also coral reef safe if you’re thinking about taking a dip in the ocean. We do advise layering it with sunscreen if you’re out in the sun.

For an ultra-dark tan

b.tan Ultra Dark Self Tanner
Photo: Amazon

b.tan Ultra Dark Self Tanner

You save $5.61 (37.42%)
Pros & Cons
  • Cruelty-free

  • Free from harmful chemicals

  • Achieves a dark tan

  • May transfer to clothing within 48 hours of application

The b.tan Ultra Dark Self Tanner is the best fake tanner for those looking for a deep tan. All you have to do is apply on your face and body, wait for an hour and watch as the tanner does it work. You can even leave it on for up to six hours for a darker result.

Sustainably sourced and free from harmful chemicals like parabens, this self-tanner also contains moisturizing ingredients like vitamins E and C, coconut oil and avocado oil. Because it’s lightweight, you can double-coat your application. However, note that the formula may continue to develop up to 48 hours after application.

Best for sensitive skin

Pros & Cons
  • Reduces appearance of cellulite

  • Free from harmful chemicals

  • Smoothes uneven texture

  • May not tan as well as others

Sensitive and flaky skin requires special care, which is why we recommend THE GRADUAL Illuminating Gradual Tan Lotion for dry skin. Free from parabens, sulfates and phthalates, this hybrid lotion tans while removing dullness and uneven texture.

With plenty of skin-loving ingredients like vitamin E and aloe vera, this lotion moisturizes and reduces the appearance of cellulite, thanks to Cellutone Complex.

In short, it’s the best sunless tanning lotion if your skin needs extra attention.


Which of the best tanning lotions gets our top vote?

We’ve carefully researched products on the market to bring you the best tanning lotions, so we’re confident with every choice on our list.

Try the Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Self Tanner Mousse if you’re looking for a nice-scented tanning lotion with easy application.

Want a tanning lotion with natural ingredients that’s highly recommended by dermatologists? The Banana Boat Summer Color Self Tanning Lotion is a great choice.

First-time self-tanners will find the Hawaiian Tropic Sunless Gradual Tanning Milk ideal as it give a gradual tan and is transfer-free.

Ready to rock a summer glow? Start adding these lotions to your cart!

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Prices updated on 05/14/2024. We are not responsible for any changes to the prices mentioned above.

Afina Najib Professional Headshot
Written by
Afina Najib

A journalism graduate from Curtin University, Afina Najib specializes in writing tech, finance, automotive and wellness content. Now residing in Kuala Lumpur, Afina spends her weekends hitting the gym or watching Formula 1 races.

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