15 Best Gradual Self-Tanners That Are Worth Trying In 2023

These gradual self-tanners are your key to getting the perfect sunkissed tan every time.

By Shiboli ChakrabortiShiboli Chakraborti, Certified Skin Care Coach  • 
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If you wish to get a fake tan to get that most sought-after bronze glow without sitting out in the sun or going on a vacation, you are definitely in the right place. This article will acquaint you with the best gradual self-tanners available in the market for purchase. With these options by your side, you do not have to run to the salon anymore to add some color to the skin, as it can be taxing at times. These self-tanners can offer you that perfect, consistent golden glow just the way you desire. These products leave a hint of tint on the skin without making any unwanted shade change. So, go ahead and check out our list of the 15 most effective gradual self-tanners that are worth trying.

Top Picks

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

Best Streak-Free: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. Take a look at this video of the Jergens Natural Glow + Firming Daily Moisturizer to learn more about the product.

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


  • Tans unevenly

Price at the time of publication: $18.96

Best Transfer-Proof: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. Here is the video of an honest review of the Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk.

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


  • Strong smell

protip_icon Pro Tip
It takes around 4-8 hours for your gradual tan to develop fully, and it is advised not to shower, swim, or engage in activities that cause perspiration during this time.

Why It’s Worth Buying: With over 8,715 reviews, this product has become a fan favorite among users.
Price at the time of publication: $13.0

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. Check this video for a clear demo of the Neutrogena Micromist Airbrush Sunless Spray.


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


  • Contains parabens
protip_icon Pro Tip
Always exfoliate before tanning to avoid any streaking on unsmooth skin and to allow the product to get absorbed evenly.

Price at the time of publication: $13.05

Best Fast-Drying: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.

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


  • May look orange on pale skin.

Price at the time of publication: $13.49

Best Non-Greasy:Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Butter

Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Butter Image: Isle Of Paradise

The Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Butter is a color-correcting, ultra-hydrating, progressive self-tanning body butter that leaves skin with an instant luminous finish. It also has color-correcting features that help balance out skin tone. The velvety product hydrates and locks in moisture with a natural combination of coconut, eucalyptus, chia seed, and peppermint oils. The vitamin E from avocado prevents dry skin. The self-tanning butter has luminous pigments that soak quickly and do not leave a greasy residue. It provides an immediate glow.

  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Non-greasy
  • Fast absorbing
  • Easy to use


  • May look orange on pale skin
  • Expensive

Price at the time of publication: $28

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.


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


  • Unpleasant odor
Price at the time of publication: $30.0

Best Mess-Free:b.tan Medium Gradual Self Tanner MousseBody Drench Quick Tan Gradual Self Tanning Lotion


If you are seeking a gorgeous golden glow, the b.tan Medium Gradual Self Tanner Mousse is what you need. It is formulated with coconut oil that makes the mousse hydrating and nourishing for the skin. It is a combination of a daily moisturizer and a delectable, lightweight gradual tanning lotion. It helps to keep your skin well moisturized as it gradually develops a bronzed glow. Just apply after self-tanning every day to maintain your tan or begin again if you want a natural sun-kissed glow. This product is completely toxin-free, and the mousse has no discernible scent.

  • Hydrating
  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free
  • Chemical-free
  • No added harsh chemicals



Price at the time of publication: $9.97

Best With Natural Ingredients:NKD SKN Gradual Glow Daily Tan Moisturizer

+ Lux Unfiltered N°32 Gradual Hydrating Self Tanner Image: Lux Unfiltered

The + Lux Unfiltered N°32 Gradual Hydrating Self Tanner is a self-tanning cream that is moisturizing and gives you a glow and color that looks completely natural. It is made with a combination of shea butter, cocoa butter, and passion fruit oil that gives you bronzed, moisturized, and radiant skin. It does not leave any build-up or sticky residue behind. This lotion-like self-tanner has a pleasant scent reminiscent of rosewood and can be applied to the skin much like tanning lotion, making the process of self-tanning simple and mess-free.

  • Cruelty-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Paraben-free
  • Paraffin-free
  • Phthalate-free
  • Silicone-free
  • Sulfate-free
  • Vegan
  • Pleasant fragrance
  • Natural ingredients
  • Moisturizing


  • Expensive
Price at the time of publication: $38

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.


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


  • Unpleasant smell

Price at the time of publication: $25.95

Best Lightweight: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.

  • Lightweight formula
  • No streaks
  • No odor


  • May wash off with an immediate shower.

Price at the time of publication: $34.0

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.


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


  • Thick consistency

Price at the time of publication: $18.99

Best For Overnight Treatment: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.

  • Works overnight
  • Blends well


  • Can get streaky.
  • Requires a lot of the product.
Price at the time of publication: $12.0

Best For Daily Use: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.

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


  • May turn the skin orange.

Price at the time of publication: $8.9

Best Fragrance-Free:Coppertone Glow Protect and Tan Sunscreen Lotion

Coppertone Glow Protect and Tan SPF 45 Image: Coppertone

The Coppertone Glow Protect is a lightweight, moisturizing sunscreen that provides powerful protection from UVA/UVB rays with a water-resistant formula that lasts up to 80 minutes. The lotion has an SPF 45 rating so you can rest assured that your skin is well protected against harmful UV rays. Its unique blend of ingredients like vitamin E and aloe vera extract also helps nourish your skin, leaving it feeling soft all day. It works as a gradual self-tanner for a natural-looking tan.

  • Water-resistant
  • No synthetic fragrances
  • SLS-free
  • Phthalate-free
  • No animal testing
  • Oxybenzone-free
  • Dye-free
  • PABA-free


  • May transfer a bit

Price at the time of publication: $10.39

Best Long-Lasting: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.

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


  • Can cause stains.
Price at the time of publication: $16.99

Summer might be over, but that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to your sun-kissed skin just yet. A gradual self-tanner is the perfect way to keep your skin looking healthy and bronzed all year long, no matter what the weather is like outside.

There are a lot of different gradual self-tanners on the market, so it can be hard to know which one is right for you. To help make the best decision, we have put together a buying guide for you.

Things To Look For In A Gradual Self Tanner

  • Skin Type: First and foremost, you want to make sure that the product is right for your skin type. If you have sensitive skin, for example, you’ll want to steer clear of products with harsh chemicals.
  • Formula: First, decide what type of formula you want. There are lotions, mousse, and gels—all of which have their own advantages. Lotions tend to be the most hydrating, gels the quickest to dry, and mousses the easiest to apply evenly.
  • Shade: Once you’ve chosen your formula, think about how dark you want to go. If you’re new to self-tanning or just want a subtle glow, go for a light or medium shade. If you’re looking for a deeper tan, choose a dark shade.
  • Features: Consider any other features that might be important to you. Some self-tanners have built-in sunscreens, while others have aloe vera or other ingredients that help soothe your skin. Choose the one that’s right for you and your skin type!
  • Ingredients: Next, consider the ingredients. You want to make sure the self-tanner you choose is packed with nourishing ingredients that will leave your skin looking and feeling its best. Look for products that contain hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and vitamin E.
  • Application: Some self-tanners can be difficult to apply evenly, so opt for a formula that is easy to use and offers streak-free results.
  • Long Lasting: Think about how long you want your tan to last. Some gradual self-tanners only provide a temporary tan that will fade after a few days, while others provide a more long-lasting tan. If you’re looking for a long-lasting tan, be sure to read the label carefully to see how often you need to reapply the product.
  • Price and Reviews: Once you’ve found a few potential candidates that are gentle enough for your skin, it’s time to compare prices and reviews. Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra on a quality product, after all, this is something that you’ll be applying on your skin often.

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!

Infographic: Step-By-Step Guide On Using Gradual Self Tanners

Tanners can help you achieve that sun-kissed look even when summer is gone. A gradual self tanner is the most convenient way to tan on your own. Once you have decided on the best product for you, it is critical that you use it the right way. Check out the below infographic for more information.

Step-By-Step Guide On Using Gradual Self Tanners (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Save the high-quality PDF version on your device now.

Download Infographic in PDF version Download Infographic
Download Infographic in PDF version

It is easy to achieve a sun-kissed glow using self-tanner lotions without spending prolonged hours in the sun. Staying continuously under sun rays for the tanned look might damage your skin layers, but you can prevent sun damage with a self-tanner. There are numerous lotions available in the market. However, consider lotions that nourish your skin besides providing a tanned glow. Some self-tanners provided in the article are long-lasting, transfer-proof, and non-sticky. But avoid lotions that stain your clothes as the stains might be strong and hard to remove from the clothes.

Why Trust StyleCraze?

Our product writer and certified skin and hair care expert, Shiboli Chakraborti, specializes in writing informative content and selecting the best skin care products in the market. After carefully analyzing their ingredients and other vital specifications, she has compiled this list of the best gradual self-tanners. She has also discussed the directions for use, benefits, and pros and cons of each product to help you make an informed choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a gradual fake tan last?

A subtle natural-toned fake tan lasts throughout the year. Many gradual fake tans contain hydrating formulas and last up to 10 days with the right preparation and aftercare.

Does gradual tan actually work?

A gradual tan is the best choice for people looking for a sun-kissed glow. Gradual tanning lotions use the sugar-derived active ingredient as DHA, which causes a non-toxic browning effect on the skin.

Does gradual tan wash off in the shower?

Yes. Your golden glow will disappear after a shower or dip in the pool. If you leave the product at least 4-8 hours after a shower will have enough time to sink until you wash it again.

Does gradual tan go patchy?

A gradual tan takes time to build color. So, they never give a streaky or patchy finish.

How often should you apply gradual tan?

Applying a gradual tan daily for 3-4 consecutive days will help you achieve a bronze glow. For a subtler buildup, use it consistently for seven days to get glowing skin.

Should I use a mitt for a gradual tan?

Yes. Wear a mitt if you are using a fake or gradual tan. A mitt will help you to achieve an even tan when using a fake tan, as it is highly concentrated. Not wearing a mitt may pose the risk of over-tanning the palms.

Is gradual tan better than fake tan?

Most fake tanning creams just color the skin and cause dryness. On the other hand, gradual self-tanners provide a good color payoff, hydration, and healthier, glowing skin.

Do you put a gradual tan on your face?

Yes. Some gradual tanners can also be used on the face. However, before application, check the product label and do a patch test to avoid irritation.

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