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 bronze 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 BusbeeStyle.com 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 ratings, 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 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 Illuminating 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 BusbeeStyle.com 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 BusbeeStyle.com 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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