Best Gradual Self-Tanning Lotions for Beginners

If you love always having a tan, the good news is that self-tanning products work better than ever before, so you definitely have a lot of products to choose from when you choose to self-tan.
Gradual tanners work just as described, meaning you won’t get the tan you love right away, but rather, slowly over time. But they are easy to use and are very efficient products, provided you follow all of the directions and do just as the manufacturer suggests.
Gradual self-tanning lotions are one of the easiest ways to get a sun-kissed tan, that’s why they are perfect for beginners as well as for experienced tanners.
If you’d like to learn about some of the best gradual self-tanning lotions now on the market, below are a few of them for you to consider.

Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk

Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk - Best Gradual Self-Tanning Lotions for Beginners
Bondi Sands Everyday gradual tanning milk is made with lots of moisturizing and nourishing ingredients so you get the glow you want while keeping your skin hydrated and healthy. It glides on smoothly and usually produces results after just one to three applications. Even better, it offers 24 hours of continuous hydration, keeping your skin smooth and supple around the clock.
Perfect for everyday use, it contains shea butter, vitamin E, and aloe vera to keep your skin looking and feeling fantastic. Just apply the product to clean, dry skin in a circular motion and let it dry before getting dressed.

Pros:

  • You can see results in just one to three applications.
  • Moisturizes the skin for 24 hours after application.
  • Glides on very smooth and easy to apply.
  • Provides amazing results.
  • Suitable for all skin tones.
  • Smells great (cocoa butter).

Cons:

  • Some complaints it didn’t work for them.

St. Tropez Gradual Tan Moisturizer

St. Tropez Gradual Tan Moisturizer - Best Gradual Self-Tanning Lotions for Beginners
St. Tropez Gradual Tan Everyday Body Lotion is a high-quality moisturizer that softens and hydrates the skin while providing a nice, gradual tan. It also comes in two different shades to suit different skin tones and needs, light/medium and medium/dark.
The manufacturer of this product recommends that you use it for one to three hours at a time, which is much shorter than many other brands. Leave it on for an hour for a light tan or three hours for a deep bronze tan.
This gradual self-tanner is easy to apply, doesn’t streak, and doesn’t have that awful smell that so many self-tanning products have. All you do is apply it every day to get and keep the perfect color tan. Use circular motions to apply the product, and always wash your hands thoroughly after each time that you use it.

Pros:

  • You only have to use it for a few hours to see a difference.
  • Doesn’t streak and is easy to apply.
  • Contains aloe vera and glycerin.
  • Comes in a pleasant mood-boosting fragrance.
  • Comes in two shades, Light/Medium, and Medium/Dark.
  • Delivers a subtle, warm, natural-looking skin tone.

Cons:

  • Some complaints about it being thick and heavy.

VITA LIBERATA Advanced Organics Fabulous Self-Tanning Gradual Lotion

VITA LIBERATA Advanced Organics Fabulous Self-Tanning Gradual Lotion
Made with aloe vera, shea butter, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid, this gradual self-tanning lotion soothes and moisturizes the skin while getting it a little darker day after day. It is easy to apply and can be applied with a tanning mitt or with your hands after cleaning and exfoliating the skin.
Vita Liberata self-tanning gradual lotion gives you a very subtle glow and won’t transfer onto your clothing or anything else that you might touch in the process. It is super hydrating and develops into a natural-looking glow.
For the best results, you shouldn’t use any type of moisturizer or moisturizing shower product for 24 hours before applying the product.

Pros:

  • Easy to apply and feels good on the skin.
  • Very hydrating and keeps skin soft.
  • Provides you with a very natural-looking tan.
  • Formulated with certified organic botanicals.
  • Provides 72 hours of hydration.

Cons:

  • Some claim the product just didn’t work.

Tan-Luxe The Gradual Illuminating Tanning Lotion

Tan-Luxe The Gradual Illuminating Tanning Lotion - Best Gradual Self-Tanning Lotions for Beginners
The Gradual Illuminating Tanning Lotion by Tan-Luxe is a lightweight, quick-drying tanning oil and lotion hybrid that uses naturally derived ingredients to soften and hydrate skin for maximum tanning results. It is formulated with raspberry seed oil, aloe vera, and vitamin E; it also contains Cellutone Complex that firms the skin and minimizes the appearance of cellulite.
With this product, you apply a light film of the lotion in an even manner. You use it every day until you get the color you want, then use it less often for maintenance. Apply it just like you would a moisturizer and it usually develops two to four hours after the application.
This gradual tanning lotion works best if you apply it after a good cleaning and exfoliation, and it never produces an “orange” look but instead produces a natural-looking tan every time. It also has a great texture and absorbs quickly.

Pros:

  • Has a great texture and feels good on the skin.
  • Produces a realistic color every time.
  • Easy to apply and fast-acting.
  • Suitable for the face and body.
  • Also reduces the appearance of cellulite.
  • Suitable for beginners.
  • Has a pleasant smell.

Cons:

  • Some claim the product was too runny.

L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Gradual Tan

L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Gradual Tan

Made by one of the best beauty product companies, this bronze gradual tan is easy to apply and looks completely natural once it’s set. This is a new and improved formula that works to instantly illuminate your skin and give it a sun-kissed look that is golden brown in color.

In fact, L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Gradual Tan is such a good product that it looks just like your skin does when it gets a tan naturally. It doesn’t streak or clog on the skin, but instead leaves it looking just like your natural tanned skin.

Pros:

  • Instantly illuminates your skin.
  • Gives your skin a very natural tanned look.
  • New and improved formula that works even better than before.
  • Easy to use, spreads well, and does not cause streaks.

Cons:

  • Some claim the product has a fake tan smell.

Beauty by Earth Self Tanner

Beauty by Earth Self Tanner - Best Gradual Self-Tanning Lotions for Beginners
Made with shea butter and aloe vera, this product gives you a great tan without drying out the skin. No streaking, orange skin, or dark spots, and it works gradually so that no one will notice what’s happening.
Beauty By Earth Self Tanning Lotion is made without harsh chemicals so it works great even if your skin is sensitive or dry. It is vegan and cruelty-free, so you can use it with confidence, and the company even offers a money-back guarantee if you are unhappy with it.

Pros:

  • Made with aloe vera and organic shea butter to moisturize the skin.
  • Works gradually so it looks more natural.
  • Gives a nice gradual glow without streaks or blotches.
  • Vegan and cruelty-free.

Cons:

  • Some complaints about it smelling bad.
  • It takes a while to dry.

ELEMIS Total Glow Bronzing Body Gradual Tan Moisturizer

ELEMIS Total Glow Bronzing Body Gradual Tan Moisturizer

Filled with moisturizers to keep the skin nice and soft, Elemis Total Glow tanning lotion leaves the skin bright and well-hydrated. The tan you get is very subtle and even-looking, and the golden/bronze glow looks so natural no one will ever know it isn’t a “real” tan.

It contains Vegetan, an ingredient derived from wheat, which is why the tan looks so natural. It also absorbs very well into the skin, and it even enhances your complexion so you look like you did when you were young.

Pros:

  • Makes the skin super soft and glowing.
  • Contains ingredients to make your tan look extremely natural.
  • Filled with moisturizers to keep skin hydrated and supple.
  • It dries quickly.

Cons:

  • It takes a few applications to achieve the desired shade.

How to Apply Gradual Tanning Lotion

How to Apply Gradual Tanning Lotion

The best way to use these products is to apply them to clean, dry skin, preferably after a shower and exfoliation. Use a circular motion to apply the product, and you can use a tanning mitt or your hands to apply it.

Most importantly, use the product only as directed, because while some gradual self-tanning products instruct you to shower after a certain amount of time, others want you to leave the product on for much longer. Great results only happen when you follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Please note that while some gradual tanning lotions are suitable for the body and face, others are intended for body use only.

FAQ About Gradual Self-Tanning Lotions

Q: How does a gradual self-tanner work?

A: Gradual self-tanning products work because they contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA) and Erythrulose, both of which react with the amino acids found on the surface of the skin and turn it darker. They are usually found in foam, gel, spray, or cream form and are easy to apply.

Q: Can you use a gradual tan every day?

A: While regular tanners are usually used every two to three days, you can use a gradual tanning product daily until your skin gets to the shade you want it to be. Pay attention to the directions to make sure you don’t get too tan. Once you get to the color you like, you can switch to using the product three to four times per week.

Q: How long should you leave a gradual tan on for?

A: Most brands recommend leaving it on for 6 to 10 hours per day. To make it easy on yourself, you can apply it before bed and sleep with it on your skin.

Q: Do you wash a gradual tan off?

A: After wearing the product for 6 to 10 hours, you’ll need to wash it off by taking a shower, and don’t forget to moisturize afterward.

Q: How do you make a gradual tan work faster?

A: Different gradual self-tanning products work at different speeds, which means some may require six hours or more to get the color you want, and others may produce the same results in two to three hours. To make sure your tanning products work as fast as possible, always research them ahead of time and use the product only as directed.

Conclusion: Best Gradual Self-Tanning Lotions

Gradual self-tanning products are very popular, and with good reason, they are very easy to use and anyone can use them, even beginners and most importantly, the best gradual self-tanning lotions are streak-free and provide natural-looking tans.

If you research the brands and the manufacturers, you can easily find one that is right for you. Use as directed, and choose a gradual self-tanner that has moisturizing ingredients in it because otherwise, these products can dry out your skin and even cause irritation, which is something no one wants.

Judy Rose

Hi, it’s Judy!

I’m a passionate skincare specialist and writer. I have more than 7 years of experience as a beauty, fashion, and lifestyle writer and editor, and I’m extremely passionate about what I do.