15 Best Gradual Self-Tanners

Written by Mallika Joshi
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A fake tan is the best way to get that desirable bronze glow without sitting out in the sun or flying out on a vacation. But are you tired of fading colors, streaks, and sudden darker shade of your skin? Running to the salon to add some color to your pale skin can be quite taxing. A foolproof way to beat this issue and maintain a consistent golden glow is to use a gradual self-tanning lotion.

This product leaves a hint of tint on your skin without making any shocking change of shade. It also gives you the freedom to transform your skin into the shade you prefer. Below is a list of the 15 best gradual self-tanner lotions for you to make that glossy chocolate complexion a cakewalk. Scroll down to check them out!

TOP 10 PRODUCTS
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Jergens Natural Glow + Firming Daily Moisturizer
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Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk
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Neutrogena Micromist Airbrush Sunless Spray
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Australian Gold Gradual Sunless Lotion
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St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Everyday Body Lotion
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VITA LIBERATA Advanced Organics Fabulous SelfTanning Gradual Tan Lotion
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Body Drench Quick Tan Gradual Self Tanning Lotion
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NKD SKN Gradual Glow Daily Tan Moisturizer
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Fake Bake Fair Gradual Self Tan Lotion
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Tan-Luxe The Gradual
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What Is A Gradual Self-Tanner Lotion?

A gradual self-tanning lotion is one of the easiest and safest options for self-tanning. It works slowly and allows the color to develop subtly over time. A gradual tanner also hydrates and moisturizes the skin through the tanning process. It also covers streaking and patchy spots.

Let’s now take a look at the 15 best gradual self-tanners.

15 Best Gradual Self-Tanners

1. Jergens Natural Glow + Firming Daily Moisturizer

This sunless tanning lotion also visibly firms the skin. It creates a light bronze tan that sets in gradually and naturally while hydrating and nourishing the skin. The Jergens Natural Glow + Firming Daily Moisturizer is enriched with elastin, collagen, green tea, and an anti-cellulite formula that diminishes the appearance of cellulite and enhances skin elasticity in just seven days. Vitamin E, along with antioxidants and coconut water, nourishes, hydrates, and firms the skin, giving it a healthy look. This gradual self-tanner has a fresh and light fragrance.

Pros

  • Hassle-free
  • Streak-free
  • Easy to use
  • Light scent

Cons

  • Tans unevenly

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2. Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk

This tanner from Bondi Sands is created with an innovative dual action formula that nourishes the skin while giving it a natural-looking tan. It is enriched with vitamin E and aloe vera that imparts glow and a long-lasting tan. This tanning milk is easy to apply and assures 24-hour hydration and moisturization. A cocoa butter fragrance and a gradual bronze colored tan is what you will get with this body milk.

Pros

  • Streak-free
  • Long-lasting
  • Transfer-proof

Cons

  • Strong smell

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3. Neutrogena Micromist Airbrush Sunless Spray

The Neutrogena Micromist is a lightweight mist airbrush spray that covers the skin evenly. This self-tanning spray has a hands-free application design and works on a single touch at any angle. It makes it easy to cover the hard-to-reach places and has a quick-drying formula that does not clog pores. This tan is usually two shades darker than your usual skin tone. This spray is infused with witch hazel that soothes the skin.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • No-rub application
  • Dries in 5 minutes
  • Non-comedogenic

Cons

  • Contains parabens

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4. Australian Gold Gradual Sunless Lotion

The Australian Gold Gradual Sunless Lotion provides a gorgeous tan with its specially designed tanning formula. It prevents the usual sun damage to the skin that comes with a naturally achieved tan.

The product is enriched with a blend of DHA and erythrulose, caramel, and DermaDark bronzers to achieve a perfect natural bronze shade. Its Fade-Defy Technology includes a blend of kakadu plum, which is rich in vitamin C, and shea butter that moisturizes the skin and retains the color for a longer time. A combination of maka extract and vitamin B hydrates and softens the skin, while caffeine provides energy.

Pros

  • Dries fast
  • Easy to use
  • Soothing tropical breeze fragrance

Cons

  • May look orange on pale skin.

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5. St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Everyday Body Lotion

St.Tropez’s everyday tanning lotion provides an immediate hint of illuminating bronze and gently develops into a natural gold within four to eight hours. It comes with an instant guide that helps you choose your tan shade. This body lotion leaves the skin soft and radiant and covers the imperfections evenly. It is recommended to use the provided tanning mitt to avoid staining. The formula dries quickly and fades evenly.

Pros

  • 100% vegan
  • Quick-drying
  • Not sticky
  • Streak-free
  • Stain-free

Cons

  • Expensive

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6. VITA LIBERATA Advanced Organics Fabulous SelfTanning Gradual Tan Lotion

The Fabulous Gradual Self-Tanning Lotion by VITA LIBERATA can be used as a daily moisturizer. It provides a gorgeous hueto your skin while moisturizing and hydrating it. The tanner contains 100% organic aloe vera that soothes the skin and repairs sun damage. Glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and natural silk present in this formula restore skin health and fight aging signs.

The antibacterial ingredients like shea butter, papaya, and witch hazel create a shield to protect the skin against UV rays. The licorice, pomegranate, and melon in the lotion balance the skin and reduce irritation and inflammation. Organic raspberry, rich in vitamin E, locks in moisture and improves skin elasticity by boosting collagen production. Gingko fortifies the skin, while cucumber soothes the pores and removes wrinkles. Marula oil repairs dehydrated skin and panthenol offer deep moisturization.

Pros

  • Contains organic botanicals certified by Ecocert
  • 100% natural DHA
  • Suits all skin tones
  • Gentle on sensitive skin

Cons

  • Unpleasant odor

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7. Body Drench Quick Tan Gradual Self Tanning Lotion

This tanning lotion by Body Drench gives you the perfect beach tan throughout the year. It can be used in summer and winter instead of a normal moisturizer to maintain your tan. This lotion is smooth and does not create blotches.

It contains extracts of aloe vera, chamomile, and black walnut, which cool and soothes the skin. Sea kelp nourishes the skin, and orange extract is rich in antioxidants. The DHA in this lotion reacts with the epidermis of the skin and produces a golden brown tan. This cream suits all skin types, including sensitive skin. It helps you achieve a beautiful tan without UV and sun damage.

Pros

  • Paraben-free
  • Contains 100% natural DHA
  • Mess-free
  • Streak-free
  • Ultra-fast drying
  • Dermatologist recommended

Cons

  • Unpleasant smell

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8. NKD SKN Gradual Glow Daily Tan Moisturizer

The NKD SKN Gradual Glow Daily Tan Moisturizer works gradually on the skin to give it a natural tint within a few days. This lotion is enriched with 100% organic extracts that are safe for the body and the face. It dries instantly and creates no patches or streaking.

This gradual self-tanning lotion contains grape extract, which is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals to prevent aging signs. It improves skin texture and keeps it hydrated for a long time. The DHA in this cream hydrates the skin and provides it with a gorgeous sun-kissed bronze hue.

Pros

  • Paraben-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Zero transfer
  • Vegan
  • 100% natural ingredients
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • Unpleasant smell

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9. Fake Bake Fair Gradual Self Tan Lotion

This gradual tanning lotion from Fake Bake has an easy-glide formula made with DHA and erythrulose, which are natural tanning agents. The product provides a consistently radiant golden glow to the skin without making it look unnatural. It is suitable for all skin types and is best for medium and fair skin tones. The self-tanner comes with a cosmetic color guide that helps you pick the right shade for your skin. It can be used daily as a regular moisturizer for a perfect golden bronze tan.

Pros

  • Non-sticky
  • Stain-free
  • DMDM hydantoin-free
  • Paraben-free
  • Streak-free

Cons

  • Unpleasant smell

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10. Tan-Luxe The Gradual

Tan-Luxe is a lightweight moisturizer that provides a gradual glow to the skin. It consists of a blend of oil and lotion and is a cult favorite. The lotion melts into the skin and delivers a natural color. It starts showing effect within an hour, giving you a naturally tanned glow. This moisturizer is enriched with raspberry seed oil, hydrolyzed silk, and caffeine that nourish, smoothen, and condition the skin. It is also a great option to maintain your post-holiday glow.

Pros

  • Lightweight formula
  • No streaks
  • No odor

Cons

  • May wash off with an immediate shower.

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11. Bahama Tan Control Your Glow Gradual Tanner

This gradual self-tanner lotion is entirely natural and organic. It is crafted with a perfect blend of botanical ingredients like shea butter, safflower seed oil, argan oil, and babassu oil, which offer deep hydration and moisturization to the skin. The vegan formula is non-comedogenic and does not cause streaks or blotches. This tanner provides a beautiful bronze tint without any sun damage and is suitable for all skin types.

Pros

  • Natural and organic ingredients
  • Mineral oil-free
  • Lanolin-free
  • Paraben-free
  • PABA-free
  • Petrochemical-free
  • SLF-free
  • Artificial fragrance-free
  • Chemical-free

Cons

  • Thick consistency

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12. Ulta Beauty Bronze Glow Self Tanning Glow by Morning Gradual Tan Drops

The Ulta Beauty Bronze Glow mixes well with a nightly moisturizer to provide a gradual and natural tan in the morning. It creates a beautiful and glowing bronze complexion. This formula is enriched with aloe vera and green tea that keep the skin hydrated and soothed.

Pros

  • Works overnight
  • Blends well

Cons

  • Can get streaky.
  • Requires a lot of the product.

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13. Neutrogena Build-A-Tan Gradual Sunless Tanning Lotion

The Neutrogena Sunless Tanning Lotion allows you to control your tan shade. It offers a hint of color with every application and gradually builds up to your desired color. This lotion makes the tan look natural and realistic. The more often you apply it, the darker hue will be. The creamy lotion helps develop color in two to four hours and is suitable for everyday use.

Pros

  • Dries in 5 minutes
  • Light, fresh scent
  • Streak-free
  • Can be used daily

Cons

  • May turn the skin orange.

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14. Mineral Fusion Gradual Self Tan Lotion

Mineral Fusion’s gradual self-tanning lotion is enriched with bronze mineral pigments that provide a natural tan on the same day. It contains peptides that boost elasticity and tighten the skin. The aloe, shea butter, and grapeseed oil keep the skin hydrated while covering it with a golden hue. This lotion is infused with the goodness of powerful minerals that nourish and rejuvenate the skin.

Pros

  • Gluten-free
  • Paraben-free
  • Talc-free
  • No artificial colors
  • No synthetic fragrances
  • SLS-free
  • Phthalate-free
  • No animal testing

Cons

  • Strong smell

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15. Bronze Tan Coconut Gradual Tan And Extender

The Bronze gradual tanning milk is one of the best sunless tanning products on the market. It contains a tan enhancer that increases the durability of your tan. This lotion is enriched with vitamin E, aloe vera, and antioxidants that moisturize the skin and keep it healthy. It reduces tan break-ups, improves fading, and eliminates streaks. It offers a perfect bronze tan with every use.

Pros

  • Extends durability of tan
  • Works with all tanning products
  • Streak-free

Cons

  • Can cause stains.

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If you want a streak-fee, even bronze color that will last long, you must follow the correct technique of application. Here are some steps to follow for the best outcome.

How Do You Apply A Gradual Tanner? Top Tips For Application

Step 1:Cleanse and Exfoliate – It is best to start with a good cleansing process and exfoliating dead or dry skin. This will give the skin a smooth clean texture so that the tanning lotion can be applied evenly without causing blotches or streaking.

Step 2: Moisturize – Dry areas on your skin, like the elbows and knees, tend to soak in more of the tanning lotion, making them darker than the rest of the skin. To achieve an even and smooth tan, it is recommended to use a moisturizer right after your shower, especially on the dry areas, before you apply the self-tanning lotion.

Step 3: Application – You are now ready for the self-tanner. Apply the lotion evenly all over your body. The dry areas will need less lotion as they tend to soak in more and could become darker than the rest of the skin surface. You can use your hands or a mitt to apply the lotion. Wash your hands once you are done so that your hands don’t become darker than the rest of your skin.

Step 4: Get Dressed – Wait for the lotion to totally dry up before wearing your clothes. Also, initially, opt for dark colored or loose clothes to avoid staining.

How does a gradual self-tanner differ from a traditional one and what are its benefits? Find answers to these questions in the next sections.

How Is A Gradual Self-Tanner Lotion Different From A Traditional Self-Tanner?

A traditional self-tanner provides a noticeable color change almost immediately. This can last from a couple of days to weeks, depending on the formula you have used. A gradual tanner, on the other hand, gives you a very subtle color change initially and eventually allows the intensity of the color to increase, making the process look more natural. Depending on the shade of tan you want on your skin, the gradual tanner lotion can be used a few times a week.

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Gradual Self-Tanner Lotion?

A gradual self-tanner provides a beautiful bronze color within hours of application and lets the skin color slowly buildup to a perfect tan. This lotion not only colors the skin but also moisturizes, nourishes, and softens it, making it look naturally healthy and bronzed. It also protects the skin from the natural UV rays and sun damage caused by direct suntanning. A gradual self-tanner allows you to control the shade of tan you want. It can be used throughout the year to give you a tan that looks natural.

Below are the best times to incorporate this product into your skin care regimen.

When To Use A Gradual Self-Tanner Lotion

  1. The cold winter months are a good time to start using a gradual self-tanner. It can be applied regularly to get a gradual and realistic tint.
  2. If you are headed for a vacation soon, a slightly bronzed look could blend well with your holiday mood. Use the gradual tanner a few weeks before your date of travel and build a soothing base tan, which can enhance the natural tan you get while holidaying.
  3. If you are looking forward to a big event like a marriage, work, or social party, the gradual tanner could give you a nice bronze color to pump up your style. The sun-kissed complexion could really enhance your look in every photograph!

A gradual self-tanner provides a realistic natural tan developed over a few days. No more waiting for the sun to give you that radiant hue! Find a lotion suitable for your skin from our highly recommended list of 15 best gradual self-tanners and rock your vacay pics.

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Mallika has 10 years of experience in copywriting and blogging. She has worked closely with B2C & B2B companies, providing digital content to increase social media popularity and gain high search engine visibility. She holds a post-graduate degree in Computer Science and has actively worked as a digital marketer in the past.