I've been self-tanning for as long as I can remember. I've always loved a nice bronze glow and thankfully realized in my early 20s how bad the sun is for you, so I've since turned to sunless solutions. I've been using a bronzing mousse for years (St. Tropez is my favorite) but have recently discovered self-tanning drops and I'm officially hooked. I still love the mousse before an event or a trip as it provides a major boost of color quickly, but the process is a bit involved for maintaining everyday color.
This is where self-tan drops shine—they're customizable so you can control the level of color you get, plus they're beyond easy to use. Just mix a few drops into your favorite moisturizer and apply to your face and body as you normally would. Then go about your day and a few hours later you have a nice golden tan with minimal effort. I find this to be a much more sustainable way of tanning and I like that I can just add a touch of color that feels better for everyday looks.
Summer is right around the corner so I figured it was time to do some research on the best self-tanning drops to add to my routine. With a combined total of 3679 reviews, the below self-tanning drops are the best of the best. Keep reading to see what reviewers had to say about each, plus some tips on prepping your skin to ensure the best at-home tan.
Properly exfoliating your skin before self-tanning is essential. Sloughing away all the dead skin leaves you with smooth, fresh skin that's ready to be tanned—and won't end up dry and flakey immediately. My personal favorite way to do so is by using a face-exfoliating pad plus a body scrub the night before I'm planning to tan, followed by a thick moisturizer to prep my skin. I've noticed my tan looks better and lasts longer when I take the extra steps to prepare.
These peel pads are my new favorite product—seriously. My esthetician Vanessa just launched these, and I'm already hooked! This powerful yet gentle blend of glycolic, hyaluronic, and salicylic acids works to exfoliate the skin while skin nutrients and stem cells balance them out to calm skin simultaneously. I have sensitive skin and most products with acids don't work for me, but this one is a game-changer. The nourishing ingredients perfectly balance out the active exfoliants so my skin doesn't feel irritated at all. I use them at night and wake up with brighter skin with a visibly improved texture.
One product I can personally vouch for is the Tan-Luxe The Face drops, as they provide a customizable, natural-looking tan with no mess. I'm not the only one who thinks so—here's what one Sephora reviewer says, "I’m obsessed with self-tan and I could never find the perfect one for my face. They either made me breakout or would darken some areas way more than the others—even if I exfoliate regularly and hydrate my skin properly. When I tried this one (OMG) life changer. You can control you tan with the amount of drops you use, I’d recommend using 3–4 drops on your face and neck for a big difference and 2 for a natural glow."
The Tan-Luxe drops also come specifically formulated for your body that works the same way. Just mix them with your moisturizer and watch your tan develop over a few hours. One happy Sephora reviewer says, "I’m a tan fanatic, I've tried everything on the market and nothing has been as easy and as pretty as this tan! It doesn’t smell when developing, doesn’t transfer, doesn’t fade quickly, doesn’t end up streaky, and the bottle lasts a long time!! 10/10 worth every penny."
These drops come in three color shade options—light, medium, and dark—so you can tailor your tan perfectly. According to reviews, there's no streaking, no transfer, and no skin irritation even on sensitive skin. One Sephora reviewer specifies "Love this stuff! This is the only self-tanner I use now, or see myself using in the future. Three drops of the light shade mixed with Cetaphil moisturizer and I get a perfect light glow! I haven’t had any streaking or orange smudges on my clothes or bedding. No skin irritation and I have eczema and keratosis pilaris."
One Revolve reviewer says, "A must have!!! This works great on the face and body, it is kind of a small bottle to use for both since putting on the body it requires a lot of drops ? But I use it mostly on my face and it works amazing! I wake up with a tan/glow! This works the same as the other bottle that's clear. One night I forgot and I put the nigh cream on and then added the drops afterwards and it still worked great. Same way as I would mix it with my night cream. PLUS it doesn't have as strong of a smell as other tanning lotions! Obsessed! Will continue to purchase this."
They also have a version formulated specifically for your face. "Love this stuff! It gives a beautiful and natural tan. Not orange or streaky, really beautiful and natural. Make sure to read the instructions, (1-4 drops) a few drops goes a long way!" says one review.
With over 500 positive reviews, this + Lux Unfiltered formula seems to have it all. One reviewer explains it perfectly: "I cannot rave about this product enough. I have extremely sensitive, severely acne prone skin and this is a dream. It doesn’t clog your pores and not once has this caused a breakout. I add a 4-5 drops to my moisturizer every few days to maintain a nicely tanned face. The color is beautiful, more of a deep glow, not that artificial orange you get from so many self tanning products. I am on my second bottle and will be purchasing this for a very long time."
"I have used Australian Glow tanning mousses in the past so wanted to try the drops for my face - I did use a few more drops then on the label but the outcome was what I was looking. Products which allow you to control how much tan you add is a game changer," writes one Amazon reviewer.
"I am one of those fair skinned women that always looks orange with fake tanner no matter what product I have used. Finally came across these self tanning drops and am in love. It looks natural and blends into my sun tanned skin on my neck and chest seamlessly. It also made my skin feel smooth and silky on my face all day without drying out or weird smells," writes an Amazon reviewer.
I saw this one on Instagram recently and it piqued my interest—a swim brand offering self-tanner just sounds too perfect. After reading all the glowing reviews I'm sold. Here's what one reviewer says: "I am totally addicted to this this serum! I mix 1 or 2 drops in with my face lotion and it makes me look like i laid out. I can go makeup free because my face is bronzed and glowy the next day. I don't know what I did before I had this! Highly recommend!"
"This works super well/easily. I can adjust the color I want with the number of drops and mix it into any lotion I want to use. Works on body and face. I never have a problem with it staining my hands as long as I cover the in plain lotion first and wash them right after. Definitely worth it especially for the price," says one Amazon reviewer.