Beauty Reviews Self Tanner Reviews Best Fake Tanner Revealed

Published on June 21st, 2016 | by The Perfume Expert

Self Tanner Reviews | Best Fake Tanner Revealed

Expert reviews the TOP RATED self tanners, revealing the BEST fake tanner on the market!

I’ve done the hard work (and sacrificed an arm or two) to bring you the Top 10 Best Self Tanners you can get! Whether you’re after the longest lasting self tanner, the best face tanner, or the most natural looking self tanner, I’ve sourced it for you!

best self tanner top 10 fake tanners

#10. He-Shi Express Liquid Tan: DHA-FREE Self Tanner

He-Shi Express Liquid Tan self tanner reviews

  • Smell 7/10
  • Ease of Use 6/10
  • Longevity 5/10
  • Dry time 10/10
  • Transfer 9/10
  • Color 5/10
  • Development time: 1 hour (though it says it tans instantly)

For those of you who either like more organic and natural products or those who may have sensitivities to the DHA in most self tanners, than He-Shi is your answer!

It is one of the ONLY self tanners made with all-natural DHA! 

It is also Paraben Free + Alcohol Free and is pH balanced for sensitive skin.

This is the Express Liquid Tan meaning that it dries super quick! It claims to tan your skin instantly, but I found that it needed at least an hour on the skin before showering (which is still good considering most tanners need 4-6 hours).

It’s a slightly watery consistency which makes it super easy to spread around but you definitely have to use a mitt as it would be very messy with hands alone.

The guide color is SUPER dark so you can tell exactly where you are applying, but it is also a bit orange looking. This is a slight problem as you wouldn’t want to leave the house while it’s developing. But the color after being washed off isn’t as orange so don’t worry.

As you can see by the below photo, not only He-Shi provides a strong guide color, Vita Liberata Phenomenal and Xen-Tan Dark Lotion are other self tanners who use a dark guide color.

Self tanner reviews guide color Self Tanner Reviews Swatches Best Fake Tanner

But apart from the dark guide color, the end result is a golden glow (on the warm side) that lasts about 3-4 days. It is a decent self tanner and may not be a top rated self tanner in general but the fact that it is natural and doesn’t use chemically derived DHA allows this product to reach my Top 10 list.

The He-Shi Express Liquid Tan is available at in the USA and at in the UK

#9. Vita Liberata Night Moisture Mask: The Best Self Tanner for Mature Skin

Best Face Tanner Vita Liberata Self Tanning Night Moisture Mask

  • Smell 9/10 (scent-free and no fake tanner smell)
  • Ease of Use 10/10
  • Longevity 2/10
  • Dry time 4/10
  • Transfer 8/10
  • Color 5/10
  • Development time: 8 hours

This is one is of the only self tanners specifically for dry or aging skin, which is often a neglected area.

Those with dry skin know how hard it is to self tan, either because of patchy results, flaking, or worse…drying out your skin even more!

YES…..that’s right…self tanners (like tanning for real) dehydrate your skin and so extra moisture is usually needed when wearing them…ESPECIALLY for those with dry skin to begin with.

But this face tanner has the added moisture already built in!

Worn at night, with zero transfer, this face tanner will have you looking glowing by morning WITHOUT drying you out! Overnight skin rejuvenation and conditioning , and Anti Age actives for smoother, younger-looking skin.

This product not only imparts a natural glow, but is packed with anti-oxidants and anti-aging ingredients

Like the other Vita Liberata Trystal Minerals, this face tanner also provides a very subtle sunkissed glow and may not suit those who like a more obvious tanned look. But I feel that this aspect would suit some who prefer to build their tan and for those who are really pale as the result is subtle enough to not look overdone!

It also makes a great first-time tanner for those who haven’t dipped into the world of fake tans as it’s easy and allows you to build up the right amount of color. For more in-depth info on the BEST Face Tanners for your specific skin type, read my article here:

The Vita Liberata Moisture Mask is available at Sephora in the US and Space NK in the UK

#8. Xen-Tan Dark Lotion: Most Popular Self Tanner

Best Self Tanner for Olive Skin Xen Tan Dark Lotion

  • Smell 6/10
  • Ease of Use 9/10
  • Longevity 7/10
  • Dry time 6/10
  • Transfer 7/10
  • Color 8.5/10
  • Development time: 2 hours

The Xen-Tan Dark Lotion has it’s own cult following, making it THE MOST POPULAR self tanner amongst celebs and beauty experts around the world. And there’s good reason!

This is a lotion and so it glides on effortlessly and smooth. Because it’s a bit thicker of a lotion, it takes a bit longer to dry and is slightly tacky until washed off. But the benefit is that it’s easy to apply and allows you time to properly buff it in to skin.

The guide color also helps you know where to apply but oddly enough the guide color quickly changes to almost a reddish orange while developing. This is a slight problem as you wouldn’t want to leave the house until it developed (4 hours).

But once the guide color is washed off the color is a nice natrual olive toned tan. Zero orange!

Xen-Tan pride themselves on being the only self tanner brand on the market that is for olive-skin! Their tanners include a slight greenish tint instead of orange which helps make it look more natural and less golden. What you’re left with is a perfectly natural olive tan! For more in-depth info on the BEST Self Tanners for Olive Skin, read my article here:

As you can see in the after picture (especially the tops of the legs) how nice and brown the tan result is, more brown than orange.

Xen Tan Dark Lotion Before and After Picture Self Tanner Reviews Swatches Best Fake Tanner

The Xen-Tan Dark Lotion is available at Nordstrom in the US and at Gorgeous Shop in the UK

#7. Xen-Tan Luminous Gold Gel: Best Clear Self Tanner (no guide color)

Self Tanner Reviews Xen Tan Luminous Gold Gel Self Tanner

  • Smell 7/10
  • Ease of Use 9/10
  • Longevity 8/10
  • Dry time 6/10
  • Transfer 9/10
  • Color 6/10
  • Development Time: 6 hours (about 2 hours longer than they say)

This product is unique as it has virtually no guide color!

Why this is a good thing is because it means you can apply and then go about your day without being sequestered to your house for 6 hours because you look like an oompa-loompa while your tanner is developing!

Trust me! Some self tanners have such dark and messy guide colors that you wouldn’t dare get dressed or leave the house until showered off. This makes at-home tanning a very arduous and lengthy process!

But not with the Xen Tan Luminous Gold Gel! It’s clear gel formula means that it not only dries super fast but looks fantastic on while it’s developing thanks to it’s micro-particle gold shimmer! And because it’s clear it won’t transfer on clothes/sheets and the sparkles don’t seem to transfer either.

Even though the gel glides on ok and dries quickly, it is quite sticky and tacky. It takes a while to set in (about 30 min) and even then it stays sticky/tacky until washed off.

So although, it’s the prettiest self tanner I’ve ever used while it’s developing, it isn’t the best feeling self tanner while developing, but that’s ok.

The smell is a decadent strong vanilla tropical baking smell! No hint at the typical fake tan smell!

The color is natural with a slight olive undertone at first so this prevents it from being that obvious orange fake-bake look. The sparkles disappear once washed off and the color develops into a slightly warmer tone than at first.

In fact, this is probably the warmest (most orange) Xen Tan product. So those who prefer a more warm glow will like this.

Also, for a “medium” shade, the color pay off is superb and the longevity was also superb lasting over 10 days!

The Xen Tan Luminous Gold Gel is available at Nordstrom in the US and the GorgeousShop in the UK

# 6. Vita Liberata Trystal Minerals: The Most Fool-Proof Self Tanner

Best Face Tanner Vita Liberata Trystal Minerals Self Tanner

  • Smell 9/10 (scent-free and no fake tanner smell)
  • Ease of Use 10/10
  • Longevity 2/10
  • Dry time 10/10
  • Transfer 7/10
  • Color 6/10
  • Development time: 6 hours

This unique one-of-a-kind product is the first self tanning bronzer!

This is the EASIEST self tanning product you’ll ever use!

It wears over top of your normal moisturizer or even over top of your liquid foundation and applies just like your normal bronzer. You can even use it to add contouring or add definition to your collar bone, cleavage, or shins for leg-lengthening appeal.

The color once applied is a beautiful golden glow that’s buildable and natural looking.

Vita Liberata Trystal Minerals Bronzer Affect Best Bronzer Self Tanner Reviews Best Fake Tanner

As far as the bronzing aspect goes, it’s superb! One of the best bronzers I’ve used. The best part about it is that because it’s mineral based it is ideal for those with oily/combination skin and it’s longevity is outrageous! I had glowing skin from morning till night without any touch-ups! (watch the transfer of this product though as it is like any other makeup and will transfer to clothes/pillow cases)

In terms of a self-tanner it is more of a gradual tanner and provides a very mild self tanning aspect. As you can see by my before and after, it only gives a subtle sunkissed look. However, this is because of how light-handed I was with the bronzer, if you like a more bronzed look you would use more powder which would in turn give more color payoff.

Not only was the color subtle but the longevity also came up short; however, this was not a problem as because it is a bronzer, I used the product almost every day so the color gradually builds.

So although perhaps the color and longevity aren’t as strong as some tanners would like, I include this bronzer in my top 10 list because I feel it is so easy and so multi-functional that it’s definitely worth mentioning! For more in-depth info on the BEST Face Tanners for your specific skin type, read my article here:

The Vita Liberata Trystal Minerals is available on in the US and SpaceNK in the UK

#5. Institut Esthederm Sun Sheen Intense Tan Self Tanning Jelly: Most Innovative Self Tanner

Self Tanner Reviews Institut Esthederm Sun Sheen Intense Tan Self Tanning Body Jelly

  • Smell 8/10
  • Ease of Use 10/10
  • Longevity 5/10
  • Dry time 7/10
  • Transfer 10/10
  • Color 9/10
  • Development time: 2 hours

This smooth gel glides on skin like silk and has a pleasant French skincare-like smell.

It has a hint of guide color but seems to disappear on contact, which is perfect because it allows you to watch where you’re applying but then disappears so you don’t have that tell-tale fake tanner look while it’s drying. In fact, you could apply this, let dry, then dress and go about your day as it develops!

And virtually no guide color also means that it does not transfer on clothes/sheets after dry.

As it’s developing it is not sticky or tacky. It actually gives a similar touch/feel to when you apply a firming lotion, where your skin feels ultra smooth and silky! This must be due to the added beneficial skin conditioners (another added bonus as most self tanners don’t have anything beneficial).

The result is a super natural week-in-the-sun look! Very different from the typical one-dimensional colors that most self tanners produce!

The science behind this self tanner is truly innovative as it allows it to work WITH the skin’s natural melanin production to produce a fake tan that mimics the way your skin would tan naturally in the sun.

It actually imitates the distribution of melanin pigments onto the skin’s surface to create a perfect replica of natural tan!

What also makes it look natural is it’s realistic golden glow. Not fakely orange but it is definitely on the warm side as it has a bit of red-tint to it. This slight red tint makes your skin actually look like it was out in the sun; a faint sunburn like effect almost.

The color pay-off is great and certainly dark enough for me. And I loved that it developed within only 2 hours so no need to go to bed with it on!

In terms of longevity, this performed much better than expected lasting over 10 days of tough wear (meaning I put it through it’s paces with hot baths, the gym, and not moisturizing). You can see the swatch below of the color after 10 days of wear.

Institut Esthederm Sun Sheen Intense Tan Self Tanning Body Jelly after picture self tanner reviews best fake tanner

The Esthederm Self Tanning Jelly is available at  the eSkincareStore in the US/CA and at Space NK in the UK

#4. Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster: Best Self Tanner for Sensitive Skin

Best Face Tanner Clarins Radiance Plus Golden glow Booster

  • Smell 8/10
  • Ease of Use 10/10
  • Longevity 3/10
  • Dry time 6/10
  • Transfer 9/10
  • Color 8/10
  • Development time: 6 hours

The Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster is not a stand alone product, in fact what makes it so revolutionary is that you add it to your regular skincare or liquid foundation!

Because you can add as much or as little as you like, this makes it the most customizable tanner on the market.

Furthermore, because you are adding it to your already tailored skin care routine, it is a perfect match for every skin type as it works WITH your skincare, whether it’s added to your wrinkle creams or your acne creams!

Great for those with sensitive skin, this self tanner uses a natural DHA formula mixed with Aloe Vera to soothe the skin. It’s also Dermalogically Tested.

But it’s ideal for every specific skin type no matter what your issues as it can be added to your existing skincare routine!

Like most face tanners, the color payoff is quite subtle but due to the made-to-measure aspect of it, you can simply add more drops if you want a darker color pay off! (the Clarins Golden Glow Booster also comes in a Body form)

The Clarins Golden Glow Booster is available at Amazon in the Us and at in the UK

#3. Dior Bronze Self-Tanner Natural Glow: Most Realistic Self Tanner

Best Fake Tanner Revealed Dior Bronze Self-Tanner Natural Glow

  • Smell 8/10 (gorgeous initial floral smell which is a plus but faint DHA smell makes it less perfect)
  • Ease of Use 10/10
  • Longevity 3/10
  • Dry time 7/10
  • Transfer 10/10
  • Color 9/10
  • Development time: 4 hours

Another sunless tanner that works with your own body chemistry, is the Dior Bronze Self-Tanner Natural Glow. It uses the Bronze Perfect pH complex, that works with your body’s own PH balance to deliver just the right amount of tan, allowing the tanner to gradually deepen the complexion naturally for even tan that mimics the body’s natural tanning process.

First impressions is the beautiful floral smell on application and when developing. It’s slightly “perfumy” and I personally LOVE IT!

The application is a real dream. This barely tinted gel-lotion glides onto skin and absorbs almost instantly! Skin is left feeling moisturized and smooth to the touch. And it dries within 30 min!

Like the Esthederm tanner, because of the faint guide color and excellent drying time, this means you can get dressed and go out or get into bed rather quickly. Good for those on-the-go or who don’t have time for lengthy tanning rituals.

It takes about four hours to develop and when it does you’ll see the AMAZING color that this tanner produces!

This is one of my TOP RATED self tanners on the list because of it’s absolutely gorgeous color! The BEST shade of perfect olive-toned sun-kissed and luminous tanned skin! And produces the MOST Natural Looking Tan!

The only downfall of this tanner is that it is more of a gradual tanner, meaning you have to apply it 2-3 times a week in order to maintain the color. On me, after the initial development the tanned effect only last 2-3 days. For more in-depth info on the Most Natural Looking Self Tanners, read my article here:

The Dior Bronze Self-Tanner is available on Amazon in the US or at JohnLewis in the UK

#2. Guerlain Terracotta Sunless Tanner: Best Self Tanner for Dry Skin

Best Fake Tanner Guerlain Terracotta Sunless Tinted Self-Tanning Gel

  • Smell 10/10 (gorgeous tropical flowers)
  • Ease of Use 9/10
  • Longevity 3/10
  • Dry time 3/10
  • Transfer 8/10
  • Color 10/10
  • Development time: 4 hours

Do want to look like a sun goddess?

Well, use the Guerlain Terracotta Sunless Tanner and you will certainly look and feel like one!

First of all, the tanner smells like a Hawaiian dream! A lush tropical garden filled with Tiare flowers sweeping you away to an exotic far-off paradise… ahhhh…..sigh….

It is one of the best fragrances I have ever smelled, let alone best smelling self tanner on the market!

This tanner also has a lovely guide color. Probably the nicest most natural guide color I have experienced. It comes out in a luminous light bronze shade that makes you look like a million bucks before it’s even developed!

Not only does the smell make me fall in love, but the texture is like no other. Being one of the only self tanners on the market to use high quality Argan Oil, the Guerlain Terracotta Sunless Tanner is rich with moisturizing nutrients.

This argan-rich formula is one of the most moisturizing self tanners on the market and because of this makes the PERFECT self tanner for those with dry skin.

For those who have dry skin and have tried self tanners before, you know the pit-falls of patchy and flaky results and poor longevity. But NOT with this self tanner!

The downfall of it being so rich and emollient is the long dry time! In fact, this product never really seems to dry as your skin always feels like that “just put moisturizer on” feeling. It’s a similar feeling to applying a dry oil.

The other drawback of this self tanner is the longevity. As sumptuous and gorgeous as it is from the moment you slather it on to the moment is fades out perfectly, the longevity of the tan itself is only 2 days. This means, if you want to maintain the color you need to apply 2-3 times a week. Which doesn’t bother me one bit, as it’s such a treat for the senses to apply!

And the color pay off is as gorgeous as it smells. It really does make you look like a sun goddess. A golden glow with a rich bronze tan color. And like Institut Esthederm, Guerlain includes a slight pink tint to the tanner which gives the illusion like you’ve spent the week poolside showing a golden tan and slightly pinky skin due to sun exposure.

This pink/golden combination creates one of THE MOST REALISTIC FAKE TAN color I have ever experienced!

Unfortunately, I tested this self tanner after the original bunch and so I don’t really have a photo swatch to do it justice.

For more in-depth info on the Most Natural Looking Self Tanners, read my article here:

Guerlain Terracotta Sunless Tanner is available at Nordstrom in the US and at Debenhams in the UK

The Best Fake Tanner Revealed! What is the BEST Self Tanner?…

My heart is torn with this decision, because I personally fell in love with the ultra-realistic color, quality, and gorgeous smell of the Guerlain & Dior self tanners. However, I must take into consideration other factors that would make up the BEST fake tanner, such as ease of application, dry time, and longevity!

With ALL factors taken into consideration, out of the TOP RATED self tanners I have reviewed, the BEST fake tanner award would go to the Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tanner.

The application was a bit tricky because of how fast the mousse dries and guide color was a bit dark, but it’s pros make up for it!

The color is a perfect olive-toned brown (zero orange), absolutely no detectable fake-tan smell, dries in a few minutes, no transfer or staining on sheets/clothes, fades evenly, and the longevity is out-of-this-world!

A sunless tan that lasts WEEKS!!!! Yes please!!!!

The Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tan is available at Sephora in the US and at Space NK in the UK

#1. Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse Medium: Longest Lasting Self Tanner

 Best Self Tanner for Olive Skin Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 week tan

  • Smell 9/10
  • Ease of Use 5/10
  • Longevity 7/10
  • Dry time 8/10
  • Transfer 10/10
  • Color 8/10
  • Development time: 4 hours

This is the LONGEST LASTING self tanner on the market!

No joke, this gorgeous tan lasts up to 3 WEEKS!

But that isn’t the only amazing thing about the Phenomenal 2-3 week Tan. Firstly, it has a dark guide color which makes application SUPER

Self Tanner Reviews Swatches Best Fake Tanner

EASY because you can tell exactly where you’ve applied it and how much you’ve buffed it in.

But the dark guide color comes at a price….it is so dark and strange looking (looks as if you have been in a mud wrestling match) you don’t want to leave the house until it’s developed. (you can see in the below photo just how dark the guide color is while developing)

Another bonus about this self tanner is that it is in a mousse formula which means it dries almost instantly! This makes it perfect for those with oily skin or those who need to apply and dry quickly.

Because of how quick you have to be, this tanner should only be attempted by those who are seasoned pros! But at least it sinks in so well that there is zero transfer and absolutely no sticky/tackiness.

No fake tan smell, nor any other fragrance.

Best Fake Tanner Revealed Vita Liberata

Once washed off it’s still slightly muddy looking but an excellent olive toned tan color. Zero orange!!! A perfect color for those with more olive toned skin or who prefer the more dirty tan look versus the golden glow.

The Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tan is available at Sephora in the US and at Space NK in the UK

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About the Author

The Perfume Expert is an online Perfume Blog, Beauty Blog and Skincare Blog all rolled into one so you can stay looking good, smelling nice and feeling great all in one place! Written by an expert you can trust, I provide you with Perfume reviews, Best Perfumes, Beauty reviews and Makeup trends that are all written with passion and an eye for excellence.

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