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The Best Sunless Tanners for Pale Skin

Best Sunless Tanners for Pale Skin

I have super fair skin. I can spend a really long time outside and only gain a few freckles for my trouble. Hours and hours of tanning in my teens never got me the tan I was after, so I stopped trying in my early 20s. I’ve tried sunless tanners over the years, but it was really only the last few years that I’ve found sunless tanners for pale skin that didn’t turn me a bit (or more than a bit) orange.

A few tips for choosing the correct color sunless tanner:

1. The color designation on the bottle does not refer to your skin color, instead if refers to the intensity of change you’ll see with that product.
2. Most pale skin seems to respond less to sunless tanners than darker skin tone. Using a light to medium sunless tanner can have a pretty dramatic result on friends, but on me I just smell like sunless tanner. I go for medium/dark shades instead. I avoid the ultra and extra dark formulations as those tend to turn orange on me.

Don’t forget to check out my post on easy steps to the best sunless tan!

Great Self Tanners for Fair Skin

My Favorite Sunless Tanners for Pale Skin

Note I am not generally a big fan of traditional sunless tanner lotions. They feel heavy on my skin and are harder to spread evenly. Instead I go for foams and oils and in shower formulations. I like to use express formulations that I can apply every now and then, with a few applications of a gradual sunless tanner in between to help keep up the tan.

1. Bondi Sands Liquid Gold: This dry oil dries in just a few minutes and doesn’t need to be washed off. Just apply right out of your shower, dry for a few minutes and you can go about your day.

2.Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse: They claim this lasts for 2-3 weeks, though I must exfoliate a bit too much for that length of tan! It does last longer than the others by a few days. More like 10 days and I feel like I need to reapply.

3.St Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse: An express foam, but you can customize the color depth by leaving it on up to three hours. I wash it off after roughly 2 hours.

4.St Tropez In-Shower Gradual Tan: You can check out my St Tropez In-Shower Gradual Tan review. I love that this is so easy to use, just a few minutes at the end of my shower. I buy the medium color now, but it is one of my favorite ways to keep my tan going in between reapplication of my main sunless tanner.

5.Kate Somerville Somerville 360° Tanning Towelettes: I like these towelettes for travel, they’re easy to use to help increase my tan on areas like my legs. I need 2 towelettes to do my entire body.

6.St Tropez Gradual Tan Pre Shower Mousse: I’m kind of in love with this sunless tanner, expect a full review soon! This is a gradual tanning foam that gets applied before you get in the shower. You can wait up to 10-15 minutes before showering, though the bottle says just 1 minute. I apply and then hop in the shower a few minutes later (I just wait for the shower to warm up), and I wash it off in the shower. It takes a few days to see a result, but I definitely do see results!

7.Clarins Self Tanning Milky-Lotion for Face & Body: I don’t usually use sunless tanner on my face, but when I do it’s this one from Clarins.

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About Me

I’m a doctor, a mommy and a bit of a beauty addict. If you let me, I can take 2 hours to get ready in the morning. Really. I'm on a quest for faster beauty that works!

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  1. 4.9.18
    ChynnaBlue said:

    I am very fair and I also really like the Josie Maran Tanning Oil. It’s easy to apply and didn’t give me any streaking, which I experienced in many other self-tanners. I will add, however, I’ve only used it on my legs and have not tried to put it on my own back.

    • 4.9.18
      15mins said:

      Thanks for the rec!

  2. 4.10.19
    STLEffie said:

    Super! Can’t wait to try these! Quick question-I followed your advise for pregnancy safe skincare to the letter, do you have any reservations about sunless tanner while nursing?

    • 4.10.19
      15mins said:

      Not while nursing, but definitely avoid while pregnant

      • 5.21.19
        Meagan said:

        So avoid all self tanners while pregnant? I found a few options online that say “its safe” but hoping you can review!

        1. Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Sunless Tanning Lotion with Organic and Natural Ingredients for Body and face, 7.5 oz

        Water, Organic Aloe Vera Leaf Juice, Organic Shea Butter, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Organic Coconut Seed Oil, Dihydroxyacetone (DHA), Glycerin (Vegetable), Organic Japanese Green Tea Leaf Extract, Organic Pomegranate Extract, Organic Witch Hazel Extract, Organic Cranberry Fruit Extract, Organic Jojoba Seed Oil, Organic Argan Oil, Potassium Sorbate

        2. Miami Gorgeous Self Tanning Mousse – LaPlaya Glow Instant Self Tanner

        Ingredients: Aqua (water), Dihydroxyacetone, Cocaminedopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Olive Oil, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Nut Oil, Simmondsia Chinesis (Jojoba) Oil, Sambucus Nigra (Elder Flower Extract), Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B6, PEG-10 Sunflower Glycerides, Citric Acid, Phenoxyrthanol, Ethylhexycerinn, Blue 2, Red 17, Yellow 4, Yellow 3, Parfum (Fragrance)

        • 5.22.19
          15mins said:

          Yes, in the US we recommend avoiding all sunless tanners while pregnant. They DHA and erythrulose active ingredients are both absorbed into the body and are implicated in cases of liver failure. Please refer to my posts on pregnancy skincare ingredients to avoid where there’s more discussion on this. The UK doesn’t advise to avoid sunless tanners for example, but they are commonly avoided in the US. As well, my pregnancy skincare FAQ addresses a bit that companies will sometimes say things are safe, but I am more conservative.

  3. 5.27.19
    Jennifer said:

    Do you know of safe self tanners while nursing? Brands like Chocolate Sun are organic but that doesn’t always mean safe for breastfeeding. Thank you!!

    • 5.27.19
      15mins said:

      Off hand I don’t know. Note that in the US we recommend avoiding sunless tanners while pregnant, and it’s a bit up in the air if that should be considered during nursing as they are absorbed and have been implicated in cases of liver failure.

  4. 5.30.19
    Oly said:

    Hi, would this tanner be safe during pregnancy?

    BEAUTY BY EARTH Self Tanner

    Water, Organic Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Organic Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Dihydroxyacetone (Sugar Cane Derived), Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Glycerin (Vegetable), Organic Camellia Oleifera (Japanese Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Organic Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Organic Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Organic Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Fruit Extract, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Organic Argania Spinosa Kernel (Argan) Oil, Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Pulp Extract, Vanilla Tahitensis (Vanilla) Fruit Extract

  5. 3.27.24
    Kathryn Ford Fountain said:

    Hi there! What are your thoughts on Spray tans while pregnant- is there a chemical we need to avoid? Thank you!

    • 3.28.24
      Christine said:

      All sunless tanners should be avoided in pregnancy, the 2 possible active ingredients are highly absorbed and aren’t considered safe by most physicians.