The 21 Best Self-Tanners to Get a Streak-Free, Natural Glow

Including the ones that are best to use on your beautiful face!

There’s nothing better than a natural summer glow. Except when you can fake it without damaging your skin by laying in the sun or a tanning booth. Enter the top-tested self-tanning lotions, sprays, and mousses ahead.

“The active ingredient in most self-tanners is DHA or dihydroxyacetone, which has been allowed by the FDA for external use,” says Sabina Wizemann, a senior chemist at the Good Housekeeping Institute‘s Beauty Lab.


  1. Always self-tan in a well-ventilated room, and protect your nose and mouth when you’re using a spray.
  2. Exfoliate your skin first, which beauty YouTuber Jaclyn Hill does by using a sugar scrub, then shaving.
  3. Avoid using moisturizers, as it could form a barrier on skin that prevents the tanner from developing evenly.
  4. You can put cream on your hands and feet, as Hill does, which she says helps with blending.
  5. Always read the packaging on your tanning solution to determine how long you should wait before showering.

Wondering what’s the best self-tanner for your face? Make sure the product you’re using mentions “face” or “face and body” on the bottle, advises Good Housekeeping Beauty Director April Franzino. See #4 ahead for the best facial self-tanner. From there, aftercare is the most important part of self-tanning.

How long will your self-tan last? The results should last about a week, and exfoliating first will help your tan last longer. Keep reading for top-tested picks from the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab and other online bestsellers to help you look sun-kissed for any occasion!

Best Overall

Xen-Tan Fresh Tanning Mousse



Xen-Tan’s product was the overall winner in our instant self-tanner test. This fave earned high marks for its non-messy, nearly foolproof formula, and splotch-free appearance. It’s easy to apply, and testers loved the clean, light grapefruit scent.

Best Value

Jergens Natural Glow Instant Sun Mousse



When we tested the hydrating foam version of the cult classic tanning moisturizer, it received high scores for going on quickly and giving skin a subtle warmth. “I’ve tried many, and this is my favorite,” one tester said. “I’d pay any price for results like these.”

Best for Fair Skin

Coola Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist



While testers loved that this pick absorbed quickly and left skin feeling great, many thought the mist was harder to control than lotion and left some streaking. Keep bathroom floors clean by standing on an old towel or newspaper while applying.

Best for Face

Kate Somerville 360 Face and Body Self-Tanning Towelettes



Kate Somerville’s towelettes took second place in our tests. Great for on-the-go bronzing, the fast-absorbing formula was mess-free, and testers loved the natural-looking tan. A few people said the towelette ran dry toward the end of application.


Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water

Isle of Paradise


“Clear” self-tanners are all the rage right now because they claim not to ruin your sheets and towels. This new formula from Isle of Paradise looks and feels just like water. And few hours after rubbing it in, you’ll be glowing.

Streak Prevention

St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist



St. Tropez is also getting on-board with the clear, no-mess trend. Its version doubles as a cooling face mist that won’t leave you looking streaky.

Amazon Bestseller

Beauty By Earth Self Tanner

Beauty by Earth


This lotion-based tanner is a best-seller on Amazon for a reason: Reviewers say they liked that they could control how deep their color got by applying over the course of 4-7 days — and the fact that they could actually pronounce the ingredients.

Gradual Results

St. Tropez Gradual Tan Everyday Tinted Body Lotion

St. Tropez


Lab testers thought this tinted body lotion worked quickly (on average, three days) to deliver their perfect color. To avoid staining your clothes, make sure skin is completely dry before getting dressed — some people said the rich texture took longer to absorb.

Best Scent

Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self-Tanning Oil

Josie Maran


Available in five fruity scents, testers rated Josie Maran’s oil best-smelling and liked the natural color but wished it were deeper. The formula is quick-drying and non-greasy.

Great Scent

Body Drench Quick Tan Self Tan Dry Oil

Body Drench


Self-tanners are infamously bad-smelling, but Lab testers enjoyed the scent of Body Drench’s product. Shake the bottle before use since it separates over time and put down a towel — some thought the dry oil’s thin consistency made it messy and hard to apply.

Good Scent

Ten Minute Tan for Face & Body

Vita Liberata


Testers liked that this had a pleasant scent during application, but it did fall short in performance. Many felt it didn’t produce their desired depth of color following the directions provided and the minimal color achieved faded quickly.

Best for Travel

Sun Bum Self Tanning Towelettes

Sun Bum


These individual towelettes are easy to pack for a vacation or take to-go. Our pros found they absorbed quickly into skin making application virtually mess-free. Though easy to use, many testers only noticed a faint color payoff.

Natural Look

Guerlain Terracotta Sunless Heavenly Bronzing Mist

Guerlain Terracotta


After a few days, testers loved the natural color and depth of tan from Guerlain’s aerosol mist. Some found application messy, so stand on an old towel and apply in a well-ventilated area. For your face, mix with lotion in your hand and then apply.

Quick Results

St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mist

St. Tropez


Grab St. Tropez’s self-tanning mist (and mitt) for a natural-looking tan in just a few hours. Lab testers loved that they got their perfect level of color after one use. Since it’s an aerosol mist, apply in a well-ventilated area that you don’t mind getting messy.

Even Color

Fake Bake 5 Minute Mousse

Fake Bake


$15.95 (32% off)

Great for people who always worry they’re going to miss a spot, Fake Bake’s formula is tinted, which acts as a guide for even application. Testers liked the natural-looking color they got, but many felt that the mousse application was a little messy.

Sephora Bestseller

Tarte Brazilliance PLUS+ Self-Tanner



Score Tarte’s product at Sephora and get a handy application mitt with it. The updated version of their best-selling tanner, it’s now packed with ingredients to exfoliate and moisturize (key for smooth, non-streaky tans) while adding color.

Ulta Bestseller

Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drops



A bestseller at both Ulta and Sephora, Tan-Luxe’s oil mixes into your facial moisturizer, serum or oil for a boost of color. It’s a little pricey, but one reviewer said, “It took using three drops for three days to get a base tan and now I only use it every other day or so.”

Smooth Finish

Tan-Luxe The Gradual Illuminating Tan Lotion



Testers loved the lotion’s scent during application and development, and that their tan looked natural and not blotchy. For best results, apply it with a tanning mitt since some people said its thin consistency “made application a little more difficult.”

Easy to Apply

St. Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse

St. Tropez


This easy-to-apply formula is the mousse version of one of our Beauty Lab’s top-tested picks. With hundreds of positive reviews, it’s a bestseller at Amazon, Sephora and Ulta. Apply and leave it on for one to three hours before rinsing to get your perfect bronze.

Facial Pad

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads



One of Sephora’s bestsellers, these facial pads are a two-in-one self-tanner and skin perfector. Swipe one on to up your glow while also exfoliating, tightening pores and helping to reduce sun spots, thanks to added alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids.


Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel



Testers liked this gel’s natural-looking and streak-free color, but the results were a tradeoff with the formula’s unpleasant smell during application. A few testers also said the gel left skin feeling tacky and sticky.


6 Best Retinol Creams and Serums to Buy in 2019, According to Beauty Experts

Get ready for the smoothest skin of your life.

You’ve probably heard that retinol is the Holy Grail for anti-aging — but do you actually know what it is, how it works, or if it’s right for you? The experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab do. We’re here to give you the lowdown on this powerful over-the-counter vitamin A derivative that’s finding its way into more and more skin care products.

Check out their answers to some of your biggest questions about retinol:

What is retinol?

Retinol is powerful wrinkle-fighter, but it’s also so much more. The potent ingredient boosts skin’s collagen production (and decreases its breakdown) to both minimize and prevent fine lines. It also speeds up cell turnover to reduce dark spots and helps unclog pores, making them appear smaller.

When should I use retinol?

At night! The theory is that your skin repairs itself as you sleep, so any anti-aging ingredients will be more effective if you apply before bedtime. Sunlight and retinol are not BFFs, either: UV has been thought to degrade retinol, decreasing its effectiveness. But more and more daytime moisturizers now contain retinol and SPF (like one of our top picks, Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer SPF 30).

Be sure you only use it once a day to start: Your skin needs to get used to the ingredient. If you don’t experience residual dryness, stinging, or redness, then you can try using it both A.M. and P.M. a few days a week. If you do have side effects, reduce use to every second or third day. In the interim, try other anti-aging ingredients like peptides or vitamin C.

Should I use prescription-strength retinol?

Not necessarily. Prescription-only retinoic acid is stronger and can give you better results than retinol, but it also can be more irritating. Some dermatologists recommend starting with retinol products (like our picks below) to let your skin acclimate to the ingredient before ramping up the potency. Plus, retinols are available at a fraction of the cost of prescription retinoic acid and you don’t need to schedule a doctor’s visit.

Will retinol make my skin more sensitive to the sun?

Yes, that one is true. Your skin will be more susceptible to burning and irritation from the sun for the whole time you’re using a retinol, and for several weeks after you stop. This is because speedier cell turnover pushes new, delicate skin to the surface. That means you must apply sunscreen every day when you’re using a product with retinol. (But you should already be doing that!) Check out our pros’ go-to moisturizers with SPF or facial sunscreens.

Now that you have a retinol primer, let’s get to the goods. Here are our Lab’s top-tested picks, plus some long-time GH Seal-holding favorites:



Top Lab Pick

No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum



An all-time Lab favorite and GH Seal star, No7’s serum consistently wows in our clinical studies. We found the retinol serum improved skin texture, blurred the look of pores, and boosted firmness by 21% after just four weeks. Powerful peptides, retinyl palmitate (a form of retinol), hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C antioxidant complex helped to regenerate skin with less irritation. The formula also impressively delivers in under two weeks: “In 10 days, my wrinkles were less visible!” a tester said.



Best Value

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer SPF 30



Our Lab tests confirm that this Neutrogena day cream, a GH Seal star and test winner, firms skin and lessens lines over time. “It contains stable and fast-acting forms of retinol, which increased skin firmness by 9%,” explains Birnur Aral, PH.D., director of the GH Beauty Lab, “and it improved the look of some consumer testers’ nasolabial folds (aka laugh lines) after eight weeks of daily use.”


GH Seal Star

RoC Retinol Correxion Max Daily Hydration Crème



Perfect if you need a quick skin refresh before a wedding or birthday, this GH Seal star works fast. The RoC cream left skin looking 32% smoother and more radiant after just one week of use, and hydrated it for 24 hours. It only gets better — after four weeks, people saw a further reduction in fine lines and eye wrinkles and after eight weeks, they reported fewer deep wrinkles and dark spots.


GH Seal Star

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Skin Therapy Oil for Face



Another GH Seal star, Palmer’s facial oil is formulated with retinol and also boasts hydrating argan, almond, and coconut oils to deeply hydrate on contact. It rated highest among Beauty Lab testers for immediately moisturizing skin so it looked “plumper and smoother.”

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Best Luxury Cream

La Prairie Cellular Power Charge Night

La Prairie


Yes, this is a serious splurge, but if you’re in the market for a high-end retinol cream, it doesn’t get better than La Prairie. In Lab tests, it firmed well in both short- and long-term tests, and it improved skin tone. Testers agreed: “This retinol product is unlike any I’ve ever used. The smoothness and even tone of my skin lets me go without makeup, which I normally would never do,” said one. It also earned top scores for being gentle and non-irritating.

6 Best Custom Cream: Skinceuticals Custom D.O.S.E. Corrective Serum with Retinol

Prices vary


Skinceuticals has created the ultimate personalized skin care. Here’s how it works: head to the doctor for a 5-minute consultation (find a participating derm) and leave with a unique custom corrective formula, which doses retinol depending on your skin’s needs. Use the serum for three months, then head back to see if you’ll stick with the same blend or adjust the levels of active ingredients.