Close your eyes for a moment and try to picture your idea of self tanner. Is it a tinted lotion that smells like burnt toast? A foaming fluid that imprints the Shroud of Turin on your sheets overnight? A brown mist that gradually turns your white bathroom tile to bronze?
What if we told you there were actually self tanners out there that look and feel like water, smell like practically nothing, and won’t stain your white cut-offs. No, you’re not dreaming — this is actually a reality now in 2018, thanks to a few companies who listened to our complaints and got inventive with their formulas.
The fact is, you don’t actually need a tinted formula for the active tanning ingredient (DHA) to work. Most of the added colorants are to adjust the shade of the tan or to provide a guide color for even application. In fact, co-founder of Tan-Luxe, Marc Elrick, tells us that some of these dyes can actually prevent the DHA from penetrating the skin, which shortens your tan’s lifespan before it begins.
There aren’t a ton of products on the market with this innovation quite yet, but there are a few gems we’ve tried and loved. Click ahead to check out nine dye-free products necessary for all the self-tanning skeptics and devotees out there.
Tan Towel Body Tan Towelettes, $29, available at Tan Towel.
Mix DHA with vitamins B,C, E, and raspberry oil and you get a tanning mousse that leaves your skin hydrated, smooth as silk, and tan within four hours. You can swirl it on, throw on clothes, and go about your day without a single brown streak on your outfit. But be warned: This stuff works fast and hard. Heed the shade names (light to medium or medium to dark), because they’re not messing around.
Tan-Luxe Hydra Mousse, $58, available at Tan Luxe.
Brown tanning lotions and creams are notoriously gross — it’s just a fact most self-tanning lovers live with. But this new formula from St. Tropez is quite the opposite. In fact, some of us have even swapped out our daily body moisturizer for this cream.
It dries immediately and, despite the “gradual” label, offers up a sun-kissed tan within two hours. So, if you’re rocking a dress to a wedding and forgot to spray tan, this will have you glowing by the reception.
St. Tropez Tanning Essentials Gradual Tan Plus Sculpt And Glow Everyday Multi-Active Toning Lotion, $35, available at Sephora.
Want a natural glow, but haven’t been to the beach since last summer? Use a face mist. This clear formula eliminates the biggest complaint surrounding self-tanning facial sprays: stains. Spritzing a DHA-packed mist straight onto your face normally means sacrificing whatever white top you’re wearing — but with this, there’s no need to worry. In four to eight hours, your tan will reach peak bronze without one streak in sight.
St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist, $30, available at Sephora.
For many, face tanners are not a complexion’s best friend. The formulas can often be clogging or cause breakouts — with the exception of these pads from Dr. Dennis Gross.
With one swipe, the AHA and BHA formula exfoliates and smooths skin better than a grainy scrub. Even better: Each one is packed with DHA to gradually bronze your skin overnight (without staining your pillowcase) or throughout the day. After a few applications, it’ll look like you got a facial while on vacation in Aruba — even if you haven’t left your desk.
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Gradual Glow Pad Self-Tanner for Face, $35, available at Sephora.
James Read Coconut Melting Tanning Balm, $35, available at Blue Mercury.
The first-ever self-tanning sheet mask exists and it combines the best of two skin-care worlds: DHA (to gradually bronze) and hyaluronic acid (to boost moisture). Slip it over your face like any other sheet mask, let it do its job for up to 15 minutes (depending on the level of tan you want), and you’ll wake up with a believable glow. Just be careful to watch the placement and rub the residual serum in after you finish: One of our editor’s masks slipped a little too low on her face, creating a pretty unflattering line of demarcation.
St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Face Sheet Mask, $9, available at Sephora.
Though it’s not as mess-free as a sheet mask or towelette, these DHA-infused drops do one thing both of those things do not: brighten. Unlike other pore-clogging oils of the past, this self-tanning serum is lightweight and infused with a color-correcting technology that supports the skin’s glow from within while actually offering up a sunless tan. Available in three levels of depth — sun-kissed, golden, and bronzed — these drops also utilize the avocado, chia seed, and coconut oil formula to nourish your skin long after you’ve washed it away.
Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops, $29, available at Sephora.
Name a better streak-free duo than a buffing mitt and a clear self-tanner. Don’t worry, we’ll wait…
If you’re in a hurry to secure a post-vacation tan without actually paying for a flight to paradise, this non-aerosol bottle will do the trick. Use the mitt in circular motions to ensure that the tan develops evenly without missing a spot. Bonus: This smells so good you will think you’re poolside at a five-star resort.
Tarte Little Mist Sunshine Self-Tanning Spray + Mitt, $39, available at Sephora.
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