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Achieving a healthy, bronzy glow is one of the first things that truly get you in the summer spirit, but staying in the sun for hours is one of the quickest ways to risk developing skin cancer, and tanning beds aren’t any safer.

The UV rays that you get exposed to when sitting in the sun or in a tanning bed cause cell damage to your outermost skin layer, causing your skin cells to produce more melanin to protect themselves, which results in the tan that you end up getting.

Since the very first tanning session, skin damage starts to build up even when using SPF. Fair skin is the most easily affected by this damage, as it can get sunburnt and quickly dry out.

Thankfully, self-tanners have evolved in past years with several formulas that cater to every skin concern. Read on to learn about our top picks for the best self-tanners for fair skin!

At a Glance:

The 5 Best Fair-Skin Self Tanners in 2021

1. St Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse - Best Overall

The St Tropez bronzing mousse is a lightweight water-to-foam self-tanner that has an easy, streak-free application. It’s quick-drying with no transfer, so you could apply it before bed without worrying about stained sheets.


This mousse has an ultra-hydrating formula that develops into a long-lasting, glowing bronze over 4 to 8 hours. It’s tropically scented with no self-tan smell, so no need to worry about smelling like pure chemicals. It’s also vegan-friendly, paraben-and-sulfate-free, and made with naturally-derived tanning agents.


It lasts up to 10 days and fades without leaving patches. Besides, it can also act as a moisturizer, as it’s clinically proven to be moisturizing for up to 24 hours. Its clean, non-blotchy formula and smooth application make it the best overall pick for a natural, healthy glow.


  • No need to rinse off
  • Streak-free application
  • Hydrating


  • Lack of guide color could make the application process harder

2. Tan-Luxe The Body - Best Drops

The Body is a tailor-made illuminating self-tanner with a formula uniquely developed to fit your skin. You can mix these drops with your moisturizer, serum, or oil to give yourself a radiant glow that takes 4 to 6 hours to fully develop.

It’s enriched with skin-boosting ingredients such as vitamin E, aloe vera, and moisturizing raspberry seed oil for healthy, plump skin. It also helps firm the skin with a caffeine-rich cellutone complex.

With no typical self-tan smell, these drops have a pH balance of 4.5. It’s also streak-free, 100% vegan, and made with naturally derived DHA, which ensures a safe, non-toxic tanner with no sulfates, synthetic dyes, or other harmful chemicals.


No need to worry about over-tanning, as you can start by adding 2 drops to your usual moisturizer and work your way up from there. You can add up to 12 drops for a fully bronzed look, or stop at the glow that works best for you.


It has 2 shades, a Medium/Dark shade for darker tones and a Light/Medium shade for pink undertones that burn easily. The latter is best for fair skin, as it’ll help even the skin tone and reduce redness.


  • pH balanced
  • Even, custom tanning
  • Firms and tones the skin


  • Can be expensive relative to other self-tanners

3. Tan-Luxe The Gradual Illuminating Tanning Lotion - Best Gradual

Perfect for pale skin, The Gradual offers a balanced mixture between a tanning oil and a lotion that leaves your skin with a hydrated glow. It has a quick-drying formula that isn’t blotchy, rather has a lightweight, easy application.

It takes 1 to 2 hours after application to start noticing a gradually appearing bronze, and fully develops in 2 to 4 hours, lasting for up to 2 days. You can apply it on both your face and body, with no streaks guaranteed. It has an odorless fragrance that spares you the smell of chemicals.

Cellutone complex technology means that as you use this self-tanner, it’ll help reduce the appearance of cellulite. Similar to The Body, this tanning lotion is made with a super-hydrating formula with raspberry seed oil, vitamin E, and aloe vera.

One complaint that some users have had about this gradual is that it can be too mild. Some people prefer the natural, even look, but for those that might find this too subtle, we recommend applying it with a few drops of tanning water for a deeper color.


  • Odorless fragrance
  • Reduces the appearance of cellulite
  • Super hydrating formula


  • Beginners can find it challenging to use due to its thin formula
  • Can be too mild for some people

4. Jergens Natural Glow In-shower Lotion - Best Budget

The Jergens Wet Skin moisturizer is made to be used in the shower with no wait-time for a quick, fast-drying application. There’s also no need for rinsing; just apply it on wet skin, then pat it dry, and you’re good to go.

It gradually builds the desired glow with each application, so it gives you control over the outcome. You don’t have to worry about leaving streaks or color transfers, as this lotion is made with polymer technology that allows it to stick to non-dry skin without rubbing off on your clothes, towels, or bed sheets.

You can start by applying it daily until you reach your ideal glow. Afterward, you can limit its application to once every few days to maintain your natural-looking, even tone.

This self-tanner is considered our best budget pick, thanks to the fact that it’s relatively cheaper than other self-tanners that you’d usually find. It’s paraben-free and cruelty-free with a fresh scent, unlike usual in-shower self-tanners.


  • Easy, fast application
  • Cheaper than similar products
  • Fades evenly


  • Some users complained that it leaves a residue on the skin that doesn’t get completely dry

5. Sublime Bronze Water Mousse by L’Oreal Paris - Best Application

Unlike the rest of the self-tanners previously mentioned, the Water Mousse from the Sublime Bronze range by L’Oreal Paris has a tropical, coconut fragrance thanks to a formula that’s enriched with coconut water and hydrating vitamin E.

It glides smoothly on the skin thanks to its lightweight consistency that gives a natural, streak-free sunkissed glow. It’s our list’s self-tanner with the cleanest application that leaves no stains.

It fully develops over 4 to 8 hours, but you can apply it and get going once it dries (which takes about 2 hours), as it has a zero-transfer formula that ensures your white sheets, clothes and towels will preserve their color.

We do recommend properly moisturizing before applying it, especially on dry areas such as elbows, knees, and ankles, as it tends to look patchy and unnatural on dry areas.


  • Clean, smooth application
  • Fresh, tropical scent


  • It takes longer than usual to fully dry
  • It looks unnatural on dry areas

How to Pick a Self Tanner for Fair Skin

Now that we’ve gone through our top 5 picks for self-tanners for fair skin, below, we’ve gathered some tips on what to look for when buying a self tanner.


Picking a self-tanner with the right formula for your skin tone is the most crucial part of your process. What works for pale skin may not work for olive skin.

If you have fair skin, it’s better to start out by using a gradual. This type of self-tanner allows you to build up a natural-looking tone that fits your desired taste. 

Mixing tanning drops with your moisturizer is also a great way to achieve a natural glow that looks great on fair skin.

If you’re looking for something with more color, you can use a developing self-tanner. This one’s also great for lighter skin tones as you get to leave it on until you reach the desired tone, then you rinse it off.


Some people are more sensitive to the smell of self-tanners than others. Some self-tanners have a typical “chemical” smell that drives most consumers away, but recently there have been more and more products coming out that don’t include this smell. Some self-tanners are even completely odorless.

Application Process

Application varies from one self-tanner to another. Some might need only their hands for a smooth, even application, while a tanning mitt might be required for others. Make sure that you know well the proper application process for the tanner that you use.

For people with fair skin, a simple application mistake will show up more clearly. So, it’s best to start out with a self-tanner that has a guide color. A guide color helps let you know which areas of your body are covered in the fake tan and prevents you from applying too many layers.

Bottom Line

Self-tanners provide a safe alternative to other tanning methods that could cause some severe and irreversible damage. Still, they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

You can use our guide for picking a self tanner for fair skin to narrow down your options to 1 or 2 choices that provide what you need.

Pair your new self-tanner with proper sun protection for a healthy glow that lasts you all summer long.


I hope this article was helpful for you.  If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out to me directly - [email protected]


Grant Kantsios

Sunless tanning business & marketing coach

Hey everyone!  My name is Grant and I've been in the sunless tanning industry for over 9 years.  I started in the industry working for Sjolie Sunless, one of the largest companies in the sunless tanning industry.  Since then, I've had a passion for helping sunless tanning business owners through my work at happytans, with the happytans podcast and website builder. In addition, I created Sunless Evolution with world-renowned spray tan artist Jimmy Coco, who sprays A-list celebrities like the Kardashians and Ashley Graham.

Disclosure: Some of these are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. I do have experience with each of the products or services listed below so I feel fully comfortable recommending them. Please do not spend any money on the products unless you feel you need them to achieve your goals. It turns out a lot of the things I use are free so you should be able to do the same.

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