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Editor’s note: Article updated on February 5, 2024.
Looking for the best self tanner for beginners and pale skin? We’ve got you. At-home tanners are far more affordable than getting regular spray tans, and the safer option as opposed to harmful tanning beds. If you want that instant (or gradual) bronze without a streaky mess or bright orange complexion, stick with Us!
Which Self Tanners Are Best for Beginners?
The answer to this can definitely vary based on your skin tone, your desired look and how fast you want results, which is why we’re listing a huge variety of products below. In general, however, you might want to start with something gradual or less intense until you get the hang of things. You could even go for something totally temporary. Self tanning can get tricky if you go too dark or permanent and put too much on your knees, for example!
How to Avoid Overdoing a Self Tan on Pale Skin
Even if you’re not fully new to tanning, you still have to be careful when applying to pale skin if you don’t want to turn bright orange or way darker than could ever be natural. Again, a gradual tanner could be a great pick here, or something that’s very easy to apply everywhere so you don’t miss a spot, such as an oil or mist. A splotchy application will unfortunately be more obvious on pale skin, so make sure to take your time, pick the right products and even start by doing a test patch on a part of your body that’s usually not exposed!
Beginner Tips for a More Natural Tan
There are definitely some expert tips you’ll want to know right away. First, you should always exfoliate your skin for a clean, even base before tanning, and make sure it’s clean. Another tip is to make sure you’re not missing any less obvious spots, such as your ears, your armpits, your neck or even the backs of your hands. Another tip is to start down at your feet and work your way up to avoid streakiness! Of course, yet another hot tip is to use an accessory like a tanning mitt or brush for a flawless tan!
Just as you don’t want to miss any spots, you also want to make sure you’re doing overdoing it on certain spots! Knees, hands, elbows and even fingernails can be tricky, especially if you’re new to the self tan world, so pay extra attention to make sure they don’t end up with dark creases.
Products that may help you get the perfect tan:
Ready to find your go-to for this summer and all of the months and years after that? Check out 17 of the best we picked below!
20 Best Self Tanners for Beginners and Pale Skin
Our Pick for Best Self Tanner: St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist
This clear, streak-free mist can be used under or over makeup for a natural glow that may last for days. Thanks to its antioxidant properties and ingredients like fresh green mandarin water, it might just become a key part of your skincare routine too. And hey, none of that chemical smell you can’t stand!
Self Tanner for Face: Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drops
This tanning concentrate may look small, but it’s mighty. Simply add a few drops to your serum, moisturizer or face oil for a glorious tan. So easy. We’re talking Triple Tan Technology here for nourished, natural radiance. Reviewers say they “couldn’t recommend this more” and that they now have a “perfect bronzed glow”!
Self Tanner for Legs: Vita Liberata Body Blur Instant HD Skin Finish
If you’ve ever been stuck wearing pants in 90-degree weather because of a terrible tan you couldn’t remove, this is the body bronzer for you. It rinses off, so that fear of commitment is gone, making it great for beginners especially. The hydration will stick around though — this self tanner has moisture-locking technology which lasts up to 72 hours!
Self Tanner for Face and Body: SOL by Jergens Deeper by the Drop Self Tanning Drops
If you’re a beginner, a single product for face and body might be more up your alley. These drops are designed for both and can be used by all skin tones, because you can customize your tan! Add anywhere between three-to-15 drops with any moisturizer, serum or oil that you regularly use on your face and body to get the glow you want.
Gradual Self Tanner: COOLA Organic Gradual Sunless Tan Sculpting Mousse
You can’t go wrong with COOLA. As one reviewer said, “COOLA is the best and this product confirms my opinion.” This gradual tanner is perfect for confidently tanning pale skin. It’s already unique thanks to its mousse formula, but it gets even better from there when you realize it has ingredients like green coffee extracts to contour and firm up the skin. It’s made with 70%+ certified organic ingredients too!
Instant Self Tanner: Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel
Not wasting any time? You’ll want to try out this instant tanner from Clarins. This non-oily gel tanner has aloe vera and shea butter to keep skin soothed and smooth in the sun, and it dries fast so you can get dressed just a few minutes after application!
Fine Mist Self Tanner: Tanologist Express Self Tan Water
Reviewers say this is one of the easiest tanners they have used because of the mist packaging. It spritzes on clear and you don’t have to wash it off, which is one less step in the tanning process to deal with. Shoppers say the end result is a perfectly even and natural-looking bronzed glow!
Ultra-Fast Express Self Tanner: b.tan Pre-Shower Self Tanner Mousse
If you need to get a tan fast, this is the mousse to use! You can leave it on for as little as nine minutes and wash it off immediately after — though leaving it on for longer will result in a deeper hue. But after you do shower (just water, no soap), the tan will continue to develop, which makes this ideal if you’re dealing with a time crunch.
Self Tanner for Very Fair Skin Tones: Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam
Bondi Sands is easily a favorite among influencers, and we can see why. Getting an even tan is so easy with this professional-grade tanning foam, and it comes in a light/medium shade for those of us with fairer, very pale skin. It’s made to give you “the ultimate Australian tan in minutes,” and we have no complaints about that!
Classic Self Tanner: Jergens Natural Glow + Firming Self Tanner
One of the OG self tanners on the market, the Jergens Natural Glow + Firming Self Tanner gradually gives you natural-looking color while tightening your skin. This anti-cellulite formula will make you feel your most confident in a swimsuit or your birthday suit! Plus, this sunless tanning lotion hydrates your skin as a moisturizer.
Cruelty-Free Self Tanner: Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops
These cruelty-free tanning drops are vegan, organic and hypoallergenic, free of toxins, gluten, mineral oils and more. They are also a total fan-favorite with over 1,300 reviews. Shoppers say they “wake up with a soft glow” after using them and claim these are a “must-have for an even all-over tan”!
Self Tanner That Also Fights Cellulite: Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Self Tanner Mousse
This natural DHA tanning mousse is made with the brand’s Cellushape technology. It’s infused with raw virgin coconuts, botanicals, amino acids, fruit extracts and cocoa to potentially hydrate skin, blur pigmentation and stretch marks and provide anti-aging, anti-cellulite benefits!
Self Tanner: Loving Tan Deluxe Gradual Tan
Luxuriously rich and creamy, this Loving Tan Deluxe Gradual Tan lotion hydrates your skin while delivering natural-looking color. This is a great option for those who prefer a slightly slower development so you can build your tan over time.
Formulated with acai berry, shea butter and coffee extract (yum!), this Loving Tan self tanner leaves your skin soft and silky-smooth. And the tinted lotion helps extend the life of your tan.
Self Tanner That Will Fit Any Budget: Alba Botanica Sunless Tanner Lotion
For under $10, we’d recommend this clean tanning lotion to just about anyone. It has plenty of fans and a beautiful ingredient list featuring shea butter, sweet almond oil and safflower oil — and no gluten, parabens, phthalates or synthetic fragrances!
Self Tanning Wipes for a Mess-Free Application: Tan Towel Self Tan Towelette
These wipes come individually packaged and pre-soaked with the self tanning formula to help make the process that much easier! You can use them on both the face and body, and can toss them in the trash once you’re all wrapped up. These are perfect for tanning on the go if you don’t have the time to spare before a vacation!
Self Tanner for a Little Extra Glow: Moroccanoil Shimmering Body Oil
Whether you already have a little bit of a tan going on or just want a little bit of natural-looking radiance to make your pale skin more like porcelain, this pearlescent body oil is our pick. It’s not exactly a tanner, but it can still give you that even-toned, glowy effect. Impossible to overdo it, in our opinion!
Luxurious Self Tanner: Sisley-Paris Self Tanning Hydrating Facial Skin Care
Want every self tanning session to feel like a trip to the spa? The fancy, moisturizing cream is the perfect pick for adding to your facial skincare routine. It contains stunning ingredients like hibiscus flower extract and alpine rose extract!
Self Tanner for Dry Skin: Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Body Butter
If you have dry skin, you don’t want to risk your self tanner clinging to dry patches. That’s why we suggest a rich moisturizing lotion like this one, which can keep your skin hydrated while your tan is developing. You can also control how deep your color is depending on how many times you apply the product!
Clean Self Tanner for Sensitive Skin: Tarte Brazilliance PLUS Self Tanner
If you try to stick strictly to clean beauty to avoid any negative reactions, this self tanner may be the one for you. It’s hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested and sulfate-free!
Temporary Self Tanner for a Day-Long Bronze: Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream
If you don’t want to commit to a face tan — especially if you’re not sure how it’ll turn out — try something like this bronzing cream instead that you can just wash off at the end of the day and reapply as needed. It’s non-comedogenic and has a lovely, velvety finish!