Deciding on the Best Clean Self Tanner for Your Skin

Gone are the days when we went out and enjoyed the sun and thought about how tan we could get. Wanting to get that golden glow so our white summer clothing would look even better on. Now we are constantly thinking about how often we need to reapply our sunscreen, wear SPF clothing, and make sure we have a hat on so that we don’t get too much sun exposure. Amazing how the mindset can shift with age and knowledge. If only there had been clean self tanner when we were younger. Just think of the money we would save now on dermatology visits and trips to the aesthetician to control our dark spots as we age.

Some of us use self-tanners year-round because we just don’t like the pasty white look of our skin. Others start thinking about it as the weather warms up and we are no longer in layers of clothing. Whatever kind of self tanner you are, there is one for you. Now so many of us are embracing clean beauty products and with that has come clean self tanners. Today I hope to help you find the best one for your skin and your tanning goals.

The Clean Beauty Movement has been around for a few years now. Clean beauty means that a product is safe, non-toxic, and has transparent labeling of ingredients. The FDA is a great place to look if you have questions about clean and organic labeling regulations here in the United States.

woman sitting on a bed wearing pajamas and holding two bottles of Whish products, favorite clean self tanner

So, Which Clean Self Tanner is For Your Skin?

I talk quite a bit about sun safety and keeping our skin looking its best. We want to be out and about during the warmer months and not look ghostly so self tanner is such a great option. It has come a long way in the past several years. However, there are some other things that we can do to keep our skin looking great while enjoying the great outdoors. You may want to check out these posts as well.

What to Consider When Buying a Clean Self Tanner

If you search for clean self tanners all sorts of products start coming up. How do you decide which one is right for you? There are different ingredients, shades, and price points. So here are some things to think about before you purchase.

Type of Clean Self Tanner

Tanners come in many different forms. The most common are:

  • Drops
  • Lotions
  • Mousse/Tanning Water

There are pros and cons to each of these types of applications.

  • Drops can be mixed with your choice of moisturizer.
  • Lotions tend to take longer to soak in and can be tricky to see where you have applied them. However, they tend to be more moisturizing.
  • Mousse or tanning waters usually come out of the bottle with some color to them. This makes it a little easier to see where you are applying. The other plus is that they dry a little quicker. One thing to think about is that they are not as hydrating as most lotions.


Do you ever wonder how this lotion magically tans your skin? It is the ingredient dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Most self tanners will have this in the ingredient list. The percentage of DHA in the self tanner determines the depth of the color. The higher the percentage, the darker the color once the tanner is absorbed into your skin.

DHA does have a smell to it. You will notice that some self tanners smell more than others. It just depends upon the other ingredients the brand uses to mask the smell of the DHA.

Ingredients to Smile About in Your Tanner Choice

Another thing that you might want to look for in your choice of self tanner is moisturizer. Gotta love it when your self tanner also acts as skin care. Who doesn’t want soft and tan skin in the warm months? Many times you will see different types of nourishing oils such as coconut oil, argan oil, or jojoba in clean self tanners.

How to Apply Your Clean Self Tanner

Now that you have figured out which clean self tanner is the best choice for your skin. How do you get the best results so that you don’t have an uneven or streaky tan? I have learned by trial and error that it is best to put self tanner on at night and let it really do its thing and then wash it off in the morning. Another bonus for this method is that you don’t wear that self tanner smell all day. So here are the tips for getting the best golden glow out of your self tanner.

Shower and exfoliate

Using a sugar scrub like this works great. I love the tropical scent as I’m getting my glow on. Sometimes I will combine the sugar scrub with an exfoliating mitt and this back scrubber. The back scrubber has a different fabrication on each side depending upon how much exfoliation needs to be done.

Dry off good before application

You want to make sure that your skin is totally dry. You might even want to use a blow dryer on the coolest setting to make sure and speed up the process a little.

Apply your Clean Self Tanner of Choice

Apply your self tanner in sections on your body. Make sure you take your time and blend it in well. We don’t want a blotchy or streaky glow. Many brands will recommend a mitt like this so that you don’t get it on your hands. Honestly, I usually order a couple at a time just so that I have one that feels clean and doesn’t have too much leftover product on it.

You will want to be extra careful around your elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles so that you don’t get too much product. Check yourself well before the final handwashing and drying. If you think you have too much tanner in these areas that tend to absorb it, then gently wipe them with a washcloth.

Wash Your Hands

You will want to do a lot of hand washing while applying your self tanners if you are not using a mitt. You don’t want to have hands that have more of a golden glow than the rest of you.

Drying Time

You will want to wait a good 10-15 minutes before putting your PJs on. A helpful thing to do is to get that hair dryer out again and put it on a cool setting. Never hurts to be too dry. In the morning you will want to shower and put on a good moisturizer to make your tan look its best.

My Favorite Clean Self Tanners and Some Others to Try

Isle of Paradise drops

Isle of Paradise Drops are a great option for me when I am ready to get rid of my pasty white skin at the end of winter. These drops are great to mix in with your favorite moisturizer like a CeraVe to give you just a hint of color. If you don’t like the “self tanner” smell then these are the option for you.

I have heard many people speak very highly about their self tanning water. Supposedly it goes very easily and you can blend it in with this brush that they make. Now, this brush is something I think would come in handy for all of your self tanning sessions.

Vita Liberata

Vita Liberata is a brand known for its organic and natural tanning products. The gradual tanning lotion does just that, it tans you gradually without the smell of a traditional self tanner. I find it to be very moisturizing. It does take 4 to 8 hours to develop so it is good to use at night and then shower it off in the morning. You can use it a couple of days in a row to get the tan you desire. They also make their formula in a tanning mousse if you prefer that versus a lotion.

They also have a good Body Blur. It is a wash-off body makeup that gives you a flawless finish. It comes in five colors so you can find one that looks great with your skin tone. This is great for special occasions when you want to have red carpet-worthy skin.


woman holding two bottles of Whish products, her favorite clean self tanner

Whish is an all natural body and skincare company. They solve skincare issues with unique ingredients found in nature. Whish is a female-founded brand. Their products are Leaping Bunny certified and made in the USA.

The Whish Self Tanner is my go-to when I want to look like I have been on vacation for a week and had lots of fun in the sun (safely, of course). The formula has coconut milk and verbena in it so your skin is very hydrated and has a nice glow to it. They also make a fabulous CC Body Cream. It has a little shimmer and a little bronzer to it. Thus, your skin looks and feels wonderful. I like to use this cream in the summer when I am doing photo shoots. Makes my skin look great in photos.

Chocolate Sun

woman holding out a bottle of chocolate sun, a favorite clean self tanner

Chocolate Sun is another female-founded clean beauty company. Yes, this company was started by two California girls out of their love of the sun and all things natural. And yes, their all-natural tanning lotion smells like chocolate when you are putting it on your body. I like the medium Chocolate Sun. It gives my skin the look that I have been out in the sun, but not sunning if you know what I mean. They do make the same formula in light and dark.


As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by my little corner of the internet. I hope you found this helpful for getting a clean glow on overnight. That overnight sun-kissed glow is one of my favorite evening rituals during the warmer months. Please drop a comment below if you have feedback about any of these brands or other clean self tanners. I would love to know what works well for you.

Also, I love staying in touch with my readers. My weekly newsletter goes out every Wednesday and Sunday morning so you can catch up on the latest with me and what is on Serious About Styling. You can sign up for it here.

Updated March 2024.

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  1. Jodie Filogomo says:

    I haven’t tried any of these. I was using self tanners about 10 years ago and finally gave them up.

    1. They have come a long way in the last ten years. The smell and the color. It’s nice to have so many “clean” options to choose from now too.

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