As someone with a deep, sometimes uneven complexion, I’ve tried and often failed to discover products that leave me glowing inside out. Without a doubt, as we head into summer, self-tanners will be promoted as the must-have product for glowing, gorgeous skin whether you have a plane ticket to a sun-soaked destination or not. Unfortunately, those with darker skin tones are often left out of the conversations around tanning, as much of it is associated with the idea of deepening one’s natural skin. But what about tanning products and practices that brighten and illuminate those with naturally deep skin tones?
Let’s start with a fact: Tanning is for everyone. For individuals with darker complexions who desire a noticeably more even and vibrant skin tone, self-tanners are a must-have product year-round. “For those with a deep skin tone, using a self-tanner enables them to eliminate dull skin and achieve a healthy, hydrated glow,” says celebrity spray-tan artist Isabel Alysa, founder of Dolce Glow. Most recently, Alysa has been making headlines as the spray-tan artist behind Sofia Richie’s ultra-chic wedding look. Her brand, Dolce Glow, offers accessible self-tanning products for all skin tones, ethnicities, and body types.
Of course, the secret to creating and maintaining that glowing, natural-looking finish depends on how you practice. When using a self-tanner, preparation, and follow-through lead to a perfect result. “Skin preparation is the key to a great tan and even coverage,” Alysa explains. “Make sure to exfoliate your skin before applying self-tanner. This will help create a nice base to apply your tanner evenly over your body.” Another one of her biggest tips following the initial application of the self-tanner is to properly moisturize the dry areas of your skin such as your elbows and your knees. The more moisturized your skin is, the longer your tan will remain.
Like any beauty product, ingredients play a huge role in the finished look. The next time you browse the shelves of a drugstore or beauty supply store in hopes of discovering your new go-to self-tanning product, take a quick look at what makes up the formula. DHA, for example, is a very dehydrating ingredient that is popular among self-tanners, as it is necessary for the skin to tan. “You want to make sure you pair it with aloe vera, jojoba seed oil, vitamin E, and sodium hyaluronate,” says Alysa. Now that you know the biggest tips and tricks behind achieving your self-tan, why not shop a few of our favorites? Keep scrolling to discover more self-tanners that have caught our eye.
The Best Self-Tanners for Melanated Skin
DOLCE GLOW Self-Tanning Mist
When asked what her favorite self-tanning products are, Alysa highlighted Dolce Glow’s Luce Clear Self-Tanning Mist and the Dolce Self-Tanning Mist for a darker, bronzed glow. Providing optimal 360º results, the easy-to-use sunless tanning mist evenly illuminates the skin.
Customer review: “This product makes me feel so flawless. I love how it gives me the right amount of coverage. It’s so easy to use and just a great product, actually the best product out there and I’ve used many. So do yourself a favor and make this purchase you won’t regret it!”
FENTY BEAUTY Body Sauce Body Luminizing Tint
Leave it to Rihanna to develop a subtle, illuminating body cream offering long-lasting blendable and buildable coverage. Its smooth-glide texture blends into the skin, accentuating your natural skin tone while adding a slight, wearable sparkling finish.
Customer review: “This is amazing! It gives such a beautiful glow and tint to the skin and doesn’t feel heavy or sticky at all. I am [shade] 385 in Fenty but I chose this shade to add a nice summer glow to my skin tone. This spreads very easily on the skin and has a nice subtle scent. It is truly transfer-resistant and long-wearing. I look forward to wearing this during the summertime!”
JERGENS Natural Glow Self Tanner Lotion
I’ve been a fan of this self-tanner lotion since I learned just how bronzed and healthy my skin could look with a product that enhances my natural shade. Nearly 2 years later, I still flock to this product whenever I’m looking to even out my tone, want a warm glow, or need natural-looking shimmer as a finishing touch to any look.
Customer review: “I love this lotion! It really works! I usually have pasty, dry legs, especially in the winter, and recently developed those small red dots (strawberry legs) and this lotion fixed all my problems! If you spread, it on evenly and let it dry completely before applying again it works great. I saw results after my third application. Will be ordering more and [using as] my daily lotion.”
L’ORÉAL Sublime Bronze Tinted Self-Tanning Lotion
This product has soared to the top of TikTok’s heavily populated #BlackGirlsTan hashtag as one of the go-to self-tanners that work miracles for deep skin tones. It’s not streaky, has no strong fragrance, and lasts for up to a week. For the best results, smooth the product evenly over the skin and remember to moisturize.
Customer review: “I have used a few different products, and this is by far the best. The color isn’t orange like other products I have used in the past and the dark color allows for even application without streaks. I didn’t expect to like it so much because it is much less expensive than other ones, but I love it!”
BONDI SANDS Aero Self Tanning Foam
When it comes to fast-drying tanning foam, Bondi Sands’ Aero Self-Tanning Foam is, by far, one of my favorites and, evidently, a favorite of many other dark-skinned people looking to add a little glow to their skin tone. Available in four natural-looking shades, the formula quickly absorbs into the skin for a long-lasting, sun-kissed finish.
Customer review: “I love this. It’s very buildable so if you just want a nice glow, apply it more sparingly. Go heavier with application if you want to be darker. I highly recommend getting a tanning mitt to avoid streaky hands. The mousse is lightweight and goes on smooth. I have not tried it on my face, so I cannot comment on that. Put lotion on dry spots like elbows, knees, and ankles and the palms of your hands before applying.”
ST. TROPEZ Self Tan Luxe Whipped Crème Mousse
Glow inside out with this cream-based self-tanning mouse by St. Tropez. Enriched with cutting-edge tan technology and skin-loving ingredients like niacinamide, vitamin E, and echinacea, this self-tanner ensures you’ll achieve an even, natural-looking glow.
Customer review: “First time trying St. Tropez Self-Tan Luxe Whipped Crème Mousse: it is beginner friendly; application is very easy and smoothly. Really like that is lightweight and had a subtle but nice scent. Left the skin feeling soft & hydrated; in my experience it didn’t feel sticky at all. And the final result is a very natural glowy tan look (not orange or patchy). Overall, a great experience and product to incorporate into your routine if you, like me, want the summer tan look avoiding sun exposure.”
VITA LIBERATA Body Blur
Available in five gorgeous shades, Vita Liberata’s Body Blur offers its wearer a bronzed, smooth base for photo-finish skin. Instantly concealing and blurring uneven tones, textures, and dullness, this product also features light-reflecting technology for long-lasting radiance. Pro tip: When applying to the face or décolletage, blend out the product with a makeup brush.
Customer review: “I absolutely love this product! It makes my skin look smooth and glowy when applied. It is perfect for any occasion, and you will feel like a golden goddess while wearing it. While it doesn’t completely blur all imperfections on the skin, it still gives you a nice finish that will last for a few hours without having a lot of transferring.”
St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse
Whether you’re new to the self-tanning game or are a self-professed veteran, this bronzing mousse has remained a favorite among users of all skin tones. Promising to tan the skin in one to three hours, it uses a no-fuss formula and advanced color technology that deepens in tone the longer it sits on the skin. My favorite part? It’s non-streaking and transfer-proof.
Customer review: “I’ve used this mousse for over 2 decades. It is the gold standard of self-tanning. I’ve tried others along the way but always return to this one. It lasts for over a week if you exfoliate and moisturize. It’s a pretty hue to the skin and doesn’t look orange or some other odd color. Best self-tanner out there. Purchase one.”
BALI BODY Gradual Face Tan Hydrating Cream
The best way to describe this product is sunshine in a pot. This ultra-hydrating daily face moisturizer is infused with self-tan to nourish the skin while also gradually building a subtle, sun-kissed tan. It’s suitable for all skin types and tones, so you can count on this cream to add the perfect amount of warm color to the skin.
Customer review: “Obsessed! I never have any luck with face self-tanners, they always make me break out in a rash or pimples. I’m so incredibly happy to say this one does not. In fact, I find it makes my skin super glowy and smooth looking.”
JERGENS Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse
I’ve saved another personal favorite for last. This product has been making the rounds on social media as a must-have product for anyone with a deep skin tone craving an even, illuminating tan. Jergens’s Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse makes it possible with a streak-free and transfer-proof formula that offers an even and precise glow.
Customer review: “I’m usually not as big of a fan of the sunless tanning mouse but had fell in love with this product! It’s very light on your skin and leaves a nice glow, giving you that perfect sun-kissed look! It also has no smell, which is just amazing, unlike other brands I’ve tried. Applying it is very easy and it dries in only 60 seconds.”
TAN-LUXE The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drops
Self-tan drops like these from Tan-Luxe are a smart way to create a natural-looking tan over time without losing your glow. Ideal for all skin types and tones, this tanning concentrate can be added to your moisturizer, serum, or face oil to combat uneven texture and tone.
Customer review: “Illuminating Tan Drops are a great option for those, like myself, looking for a customizable self-tanning solution. You can add anywhere from one to 12 drops to any of your moisturizers, depending on how deep you want your tan to be, to create a natural-looking and most importantly streak-free tan. Four to six drops give me a nice ‘base tan.’ To maintain the tan and enhance the glow, I also add one drop to my daytime moisturizer.”
BEAUTY BY EARTH Self Tanner Mousse
Beauty by Earth’s effective and easy-to-use self-tanner mousse is fast-absorbing and delivers a deep, natural bronze color to the skin in just a few hours. Multiple applications will deepen the tone, lending a sun-kissed and healthy-looking glow. For streak-free and even results, consider applying the product with a mitt.
Customer review: “I’ve been self-tanning for years now but wanted to try and find something more natural, so I found this after searching. I expected since it’s more natural it wouldn’t last or would barely make a difference for some reason. It actually gave me the perfect tan. I didn’t feel gross with it on, it actually smells nice! And I got in a hot tub the next day and the color didn’t really fade much at all! It hasn’t gotten splotchy either.”