This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
You know what goes great with an ice-cold Aperol Spritz, even when it's being enjoyed in the comfort of your studio apartment? Gleaming, sun-kissed skin. There's an undeniable mood boost that comes with catching your reflection in the living-room mirror and seeing bronzed shoulders — made even more satisfying by the fact that the tanned glow was achieved in the dead of winter and without any risk of skin damage.
That's why we've made it our mission to find the next best thing: believable self tanners. After years of testing, lotions, mousses, and invisible tanning waters, we'd argue that the best formulas — with zero downsides in application — are self-tan drops. You don't need a mitt or new skin-care routine to use them: Just mix them into your daily moisturizer, smooth the concoction onto your face or body, and check back in a few hours for a noticeable glow. Scroll through for our favorite foolproof options, ahead.
Clean Tan Black Tea Tanning Drops
Derived from herbal tea and formulated without any synthetic additives, these Clean Tan Drops live up to the label, leaving your skin a few shades darker without any chemical smell or streaking.
Clean Tan Black Tea Tanning Drops, $, available at Clean Tan
Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops
One of the most-hyped self tanners on the market, Isle of Paradise's Self Tanning Drops come in three shades — light, medium, or dark — so you can customize your glow from barely bronzed to "I just got back from vacation" (even if you can't remember the last time you stepped on a jet bridge).
Isle Of Paradise Self Tanning Drops, $, available at Sephora
Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drops
The more drops you use, the deeper your tan will be — so go slow and remember to scrub your hands after you mix the liquid into your moisturizer or serum.
Tan-Luxe THE FACE Illuminating Self-Tan Drops – TAN, $, available at Sephora
Foxie Cosmetics Goldtone
Indie and Black-owned beauty brand Foxie Cosmetics makes vegan skin and body-care products using only sustainable and fair-trade ingredients. A must-try? The bronze glow drops that nourish skin with rose hip and walnut oils, while leaving behind the faintest golden shimmer (not glitter) for an instant gleam.
Foxie Cosmetics Foxie Cosmetics Goldtone, $, available at Foxie Cosmetics
Fans love Tanologist drops for the price and packaging — a 30 mL bottle is just $20 and will last you well through 2021. Another win: The formula has a refreshing eucalyptus scent, which helps cut the telltale self-tanner smell.
Tanologist Tanologist Drops, $, available at Revolve
James Read H2O Tan Drops Face
James Read's water-based serum is formulated with a blend of aloe vera and hyaluronic acid to give dry skin a boost of moisture and prevent the tanner from clumping, streaking, or seeping into dry patches.
James Read Tan H2O Tan Drops Face (30 ml.), $, available at DermStore
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