Self tan drops are our favourite way to give our face a glow-up. These are our top-rated and an expert guide on how to use them
When it comes to creating a gorgeous, natural-looking at-home glow , we are spoilt for options. From gels, creams, mousses and even mists - every consistency has been considered, but if you're looking for a product that you can easily incorporate into your skincare regime it's all about the best self tanning drops.
"Self tanning drops are a great option for people who want to have a consistent glow or are new to tanning, because they are so easy to use," says celebrity tanner, James Read. "You simply add a few drops into your regular face cream or serum and apply as normal. Self tanning drops are the best way to create a bespoke glow because you are in control of the colour you're creating. I recommend two to four drops for a light glow, but if you want a deeper tan six to eight."
And it's thanks to the customisable nature of self tanning drops that means there's no danger of having to fix a tanning mistake after a DHA (the tanning ingredient) disaster, because the colour pay off is far more natural and subtle.
Best self-tanning drops: what are they?
Self tanning drops allow you to fake tan your face gradually, building up a healthy flush of colour that makes you look refreshed in the morning, as if you'd already put your base on. “We are seeing more people foregoing makeup and using low-level DHA products as their base, and then adding lighter layers of make-up over the top,” says British red carpet tanning expert and founder of the eponymous tan line Amanda Harrington.
Self-tanning drops are a concentrated form of self-tanner, and you get to decide the dosage depending on how deep of a glow you want. They can take the form of tinted drops that deliver instant colour as you wait for your tan to develop, to translucent liquids that gradually build up a glow when added direct to skin or moisturiser and to drops with added skincare benefits such as hydrating hyaluronic acid. You can blend and build according to the depth of glow you want.
Best self tanning drops: how to use them
Most brands advise using between two to four directly onto the skin and anywhere up to 12 drops (although beware) when you’re mixing it into your moisturiser or foundation.
We asked Skinny Tan’s resident tanning expert Claire Lambert to share her tips for using self-tan drops.
- “If it’s your first time using face drops, mix them in with your daily serum or moisturiser rather than putting them directly onto your face. They may be highly concentrated and can result in a very deep tan.”
- Exfoliate. “Most sunless tanners use DHA (dihydroxyacetone) which is the active ingredient that darkens the top layer of your skin,” says Lambert. “If you use too much self-tanner it can stick to the dead skin cells, which can make you look orange or unnaturally dark,” she says.
Add gentle exfoliation into your skincare routine: think of a mild acid toner with lactic or mandelic acid such as
- , or a powder exfoliator featuring enzymes. We love
- . “Plus, the better the condition your skin is in (think well-moisturised and comfortable-feeling), the longer your tan will last,” Lambert notes. *Adds exfoliator to cart.*
- Avoid oil-based moisturisers. “They form a barrier and stop your self-tan from taking,” says Lambert, instead opt for something that isn’t too thick and is oil-free such as
Farmacy Daily Greens Gel Moisturiser £36
- . Make sure to rub it in properly too, or you can end up looking patchy or streaky. Not the vibe you want.
- Match your foundation to your tan. “Tan drops are a great way to customise your foundation,” says Lambert, instead of buying a new foundation when you go on holiday, just pop a few self-tan drops into your usual foundation and it will match up with your deepening skin tone.
Read on for our reviews of the best self-tanning drops to add to your skincare routine for the easiest glow up.
Best self tanning drops for colour correcting: Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops, £13.37
Getting a golden glow is one thing, but these clever drops also work on colour correcting your skin at the same time. ‘What does that mean?’, we hear you cry. It means that you choose one of the three shades that will not only make your skin tan, but target any other underlying tones you have in your skin. For example, if your skin has a lot of redness in it the medium - green tone - will cancel it out. The peach version brightens the skin and the purple tone adds more depth to your tan, creating a darker colour. Genius.
Best self-tanning drops for instant glow: Whind Ourika Sun Instant Glow Tanning Water, £32
In a world where we expect results instantly if waiting a few hours for your colour to develop seems far too long, then these self tanning drops are what you need. They contain a natural DHA, which is more subtle than the lab version - so don't expect a deep tan - which will develop in a few hours, however it has a gorgeous bronze tint which gives skin an instant glow. It also contains hyaluronic acid and glycerin, so feels super hydrating on the skin too.
Best self tanning drops for an extra dark tan: Tanologist Face + Body Drops Extra Dark, £18.99
If having a deep, dark tan is your self tanning aesthetic, these intense self tanning drops will be right up your street. They contain a higher percentage of tanning agents to create a darker colour, but work in exactly the same way. And of course, if you want the darkest colour possible, then add in upto 12 drops into your moisturiser.
Best easy to use self tanning drops: Typology Progressive Self-Tanning Serum, £34.50
While self tanning drops are all really easy to use; if you’re looking for tanning drops that you don’t even have to mix with something else, we’ve found it. Not only will this serum look gorgeous in your bathroom (we’re swooning over the recyclable glass bottle) but the natural tanning agents have already been combined with hydrating skin ingredients such as Buriti Oil so you can apply a few drops directly onto the skin. Ease made even easier.
Best self tanning drops for face and body: Amanda Harrington Tonal Tan Drops, £26
Why should self tanning drops be limited to the face? These drops have been designed by red carpet tanning artist Harrington to work just as brilliantly up top as on the rest of the body. There are three guide-colour shades to choose from so you can create an instant glowing tan that also develops over time and that works with your natural skin tone: natural rose compliments fairer skins, natural honey looks great on medium skin tones with a golden undertone and natural olive is the perfect match for darker skin tones. You can use them alone or add a few drops into your favourite face or body cream. We love them for topping up an existing tan too. You have got every bronzing base covered with these. They sold out on launch a few weeks ago, but a restock is coming mid-June and you can sign up for a notifiation.
Best self tanning drops for deeper skin tones: Bondi Sands Pure Tanning Drops, £11.24
Aesthetician Alicia Lartey calls these her “secret weapon for achieving a deep, customisable tan that compliments her skin tone.” The skin educator is a big advocate of talking tan for all skin tones and rates the colour pay off in this formula for being buildable. "It means people with darker skin can opt for "just adding a glow or use the drops to colour correct patches of skin,” she says. The formula is more concentrated than many other self-tan drops so some up trumps for creating a deeper glow, and they address concerns such as dryness and discolouration with skincare ingredients including hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C and E. Oh, and it’s fragrance-free, making it a good option for sensitive skin.
Best self tanning drops for on the go: James Read Click and Glow Tan Drops , £12.78
When James Read's self tanning face drops launched on QVC they sold almost £500,000 worth in just 12 minutes. Now he's launched these Click and Glow Tan Drops. The gradual tan has a gel texture that develops in about five hours, but what's smart about them is the applicator. Unlike most of the other tan drops on the market, these aren't housed in glass and come as a pen-like dispenser, so you press the end to release the golden drops; perfect for travel. They also boast skin-boosting ingredients like vitamin c and hyaluronic acid so they're great for topping up your tan while you travel and keeping your skin in check too.
Best self tanning drops for dry skin St. Tropez Tan Tonic Drops, £30
If you’re familiar with the traditional gradual tanner, you’ll know that it can often leave your skin feeling parched. Not the case with these hydrating drops from Kate Moss’s go-to at-home tanning brand St Tropez. Packed with hydrating hyaluronic acid, you mix this in with your moisturiser (we recommend using it at night) to hydrate skin and give you a lovely streak-free glow. For fair skin, the recommended dosage goes like this - two drops for a light glow, four for medium and six for a deeper bronze. We like it when brands get specific!
Best self tanning drops for hydration: Tan-Luxe Super Glow Hyaluronic Self-Tan Serum, £36
Containing what some consider the gold standard of skin hydrators, hyaluronic acid, this draws moisture into your skin (off-setting the drying effects of tanning agent DHA) and it truly does feel as good for my skin as expensive skincare-only serums. A few drops every few days keeps me looking healthy and, crucially, streak-free. It also smells faintly of raspberry thanks to the raspberry seed oil, which nourishes but is also a great antioxidant for your skin. There’s loads of other good for your skin stuff in there too such as blueberry extract, avocado oil and coconut oil: it really is a superfood serum with tanning benefits.
Best organic self tanning drops: Cha Votz Age Defy+ Liquid Gold Tanning Drops, £35
The founder of Green People Cha Votz gave her name to GP's age well range, under which you'll find these 85 per cent organic drops (incidentally, very high for a tanning product). They are fragrance-free and really well tolerated if you have sensitive skin. Green tea and seaweed provide powerful antioxidants to help protect skin from ageing aggressors such as pollution. GTG’s editorial director Victoria Woodhall uses three drops for a natural glow, and ups the ante when she wants a deeper shade of bronze.
Best self tanning drops for oily skin: Skinny Tan Notox Face Tanning Drops, £11.33
These drops boast some of the skincare ingredients that we've seen in other drops, aloe vera for example. But they also contain guarana extract, an ingredient that is high in caffeine and known to constrict the blood vessels in your skin - hello brighter, tighter faces. Very light in texture, these smart tanners are easily mixed into your moisturiser, they build up a gradual glow without leaving any greasy residue.
Get more gloss: This is why you need to wear an SPF everyday, even indoors