The Best Natural Self-Tanners To Get A Safe Glow

Since our skin hasn’t seen the light of day in a few months…I thought I’d share some natural self-tanners and tips! Self-tanners have come a LONG way in the past few years. There are a lot of natural, organic, and/or vegan options out there…which is better than the alternative, right? And it’s definitely better than exposing yourself to harmful UV rays. If you’re looking to get that bronzy glow, here’s a way to look tan…naturally.

If you missed it, read about the truth behind clean beauty here (it can be confusing!) All of our clean beauty posts can be found here.

Fashion blogger wearing flattering Norma Kamali halter neck mesh overlay one-piece swimsuit and natural self-tanning product on beach

Ingredients In Self-Tanners

It can be tough to find a completely clean tanner because most of the ingredients that change your skin color will not be completely safe for you. Makes sense, right? While researching, the two biggest questionable ingredients I noticed in the tanners were fragrance and dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which is the most common active ingredient in all tanners.

  • We know that fragrance is bad because it’s so broad and non-specific, so we have no idea what’s really in it. Most self-tanners have fragrance in them because they would reek without it! If you’re interested in ingredients to avoid, read this post.
  • Dihydroxyacetone or DHA is a chemical compound derived from beets or cane sugar that reacts with your skin cells to give you that bronzy glow. It is considered safe according to the FDA and even EU standards for external use only (I talk more about how the EU has better beauty regulations in this post). Studies on the effects of absorption, internal consumption such as inhaling (think spray tans), and its reaction with the sun are still underway. This ingredient is approved, but, because self-tanners are cosmetics, they do not require FDA approval. This means there may be other ingredients in tanners that are unsafe and not approved by the FDA.

Flattering Swimsuits, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of wearing a blue Becca one piece with plunge neckline in the Bahamas

Natural Self-Tanners

If you’re new to the self-tanning world, it can be confusing. There are drops you can add to moisturizers, mousses, lotions, creams, and more. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what will really work. We all have different skin types so what works for one person may not work for another. These are the top products I found based on EWG rating, ingredients, and customer reviews. If you’re unfamiliar with EWG (Environmental Working Group), make sure you read this post.

#1 | Beauty by Earth Self Tanner

This self-tanner is a lotion and scores as a 1 on EWG (this is the best score after EWG Verified). It’s vegan, cruelty-free, and all-natural. It’s gentle on the skin and won’t leave you looking orange! You can get it on Amazon and it has over 17,000 reviews (67% are 5-star ratings)!

#2 | Kora Organics Gradual-Self Tanning Lotion

This is a good, hydrating tanning lotion for someone who wants to try tanning for the first time. Or you can use it regularly to gradually build your tan. It’s vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and comes in recyclable packaging! It scores as a 2 on EWG.

#3 | Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self Tanning Oil

I’ve tried Josie Maran’s Whipped Argan Body Butter and I really liked it. So I was excited to see this argan oil with the tanning aspect added to the mix! It’s not a featured product on EWG but I built my own report to find more information on the ingredients. Excluding the fragrance, it scores a 5, which isn’t the best…But I do like this brand and it is organic!

#4 | Tarte Brazilliance + Self Tanner

If you’re looking for a different formulation, this could be for you! Tarte’s Brazilliance is a gel and has a lot of great reviews about the ease of application. It also contains maracuja and sunflower seed oil which are helpful for dry skin, scores a 5 on EWG, and comes with a mitt. But a few reviewers say it applies best with rubber gloves. I’ve heard that tip from a few different sources and plan to give it a try!

More Popular Self Tanners

  • Coola is another brand known for their popular self-tanners including this one for your face. They also have a body lotion that adds a nice color and has good reviews!
  • Tan-Luxe is very popular right now. Their The Gradual is a buildable self-tanner that’s fool-proof. When you exclude the fragrance, it scores a 6 on EWG. Their The Butter and face drops are also really popular!
  • Isle of Paradise is also very popular and considered clean by Sephora. You can find all of the self-tanners in Sephora’s clean category, here.
What I’ve Been Using

I’ve slowly started making the transition to cleaner beauty so what I was using was the Charlotte Tilbury Supermodel Body Shimmer Shape, Hydrate & Glow. It blends beautifully, doesn’t get stuck in those tough dry spots (elbows, knees, heels), and absorbs very quickly. It gives your skin a beautiful glow and makes you look toned! But even more recently I’ve started using the Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil Illuminzing Body Butter that gives a really beautiful glow and it’s super hydrating! It scores a 6 on EWG when excluding fragrance.

Full Coverage Swimsuits, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of wearing a paisley print one piece swimsuit by Becca in Moab, Utah

Self Tanning Tips

  • Make sure you shave and exfoliate 24 hours before, not the day of
  • Put moisturizer on your heels, ankles, and elbows
  • Tan your hands in a claw shape (clasp one hand on top of the other) to get all-around your fingers, then wipe your nails clean
  • If you’re using the tanner on your face (some people just mix tanning drops in their moisturizer) make sure you use a dry cloth to lightly buff your upper lip after tanning to avoid the tan mustache
  • Wear dark, loose clothing afterward and take the time to let it dry
  • Follow instructions on the bottle!

Full Coverage Swimsuits, fashion blogger Erin Busbee of wearing a white mesh OYE one piece swimsuit in Moab, Utah

More Natural Self Tanning Products

What tanning or clean beauty questions do you have? Let me know in the comments below!

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Join the Conversation

9 thoughts on “The Best Natural Self-Tanners To Get A Safe Glow

  1. I’m trying very hard this year to self tan and not lay out or use a tanning bed. After using self tanner can you get in the pool or ocean? Or will it be running everywhere. Also what about sweating?

    1. We’d recommend reading the instructions on whatever self tanner your end up purchasing to get the best results. But generally, you should shower off your self tanner between 2-6 hours after putting it on. After that, you should be fine to get in any sort of water and sweat without worrying about it running everywhere or rubbing off on clothing. Hope this is helpful, Amy! Please let us know if you have any other questions! ~Team Busbee xo

  2. Thank you Erin for this info on self tanning. I will look at the new tanning products you mention but do you know of any products that DON’T have that awful ‘after’ smell. Omg it’s even woken me up at night after putting it on before I go to bed. I’ve tried so many, especially the ones that proclaim to NOT have this horrible ‘after’ small. I have bought so many and most end up in the bin because the smell makes me feel nauseous. Thanks. Gill

    1. Hi Gill! We know how terrible the smell of self tanners can be! Erin likes the Josie Maran illuminzing body butter. It’s not a traditional tanner…more of a lotion that just gives you a nice glow and a little color. But it doesn’t smell bad! Here’s a link in case you’re interested! Thanks so much for reading! Let us know if we can help with anything else. ~Team Busbee

  3. I have been using the Beauty by Earth self tanner & facial tanner for the past two years. I have them on subscribe & save at Amazon which discounts the price plus free shipping, even if you are not a prime member (which I am). I have the new EWG app on my phone & it is great. They have added food & household products to it along with the original health & personal care items

    1. Oops, my post got messed up & submitted itself when I tried to change health to beauty in that last sentence. It must be Monday morning….LOL! Anyway, I moisturize my whole body with Eucerin AHA lotion when I step out of the shower & immediately apply the Beauty by Earth self tanner right over it. I have red hair & fair freckled skin & Beauty by Earth gives my body & face a beautiful natural looking summer glow. I’m happy to see it included in your post. Thanks, Erin! You & your team are friends who show up in my inbox each morning. Love you guys!

  4. I’m so sorry a miserable person tried to make you miserable Too. Please try to forgive her so you can shine. The greater and happier you are the more Unhappy people want to bring you down. But, your inner light shines right through and that’s what sets you apart!. They choose to take and you choose to share. Thank You so much for All the Words of wisdom and inspiration YOU’VE given Us. please don’t stop being yOu 🙂 Youre a classy women. Now show em’ whose boss!

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