4 Best Cruelty Free Self Tanners I’ve Ever Tried

In a college speech class, we were told to give a speech about a topic we “feel passionate about.”

My classmates chose topics like global warming and politics.

Naturally, I chose self tanners.

I made a very detailed Powerpoint, complete with product recommendations of the best self tanners, according to me.

Unlike many who loathe public speaking and can’t wait until it’s over, the professor actually had to cut me off and let me know that we were out of time.

Make no mistake; I’m not saying that a great self tanner will replace a great professional spray tan. Once you find your girl/guy, you’ll know what I mean. I only DIY it when I have to, but I have had to lately and here’s what I’ve learned along the way.

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Self Tanner Considerations

When choosing the best self tanner for you, there are several factors that may determine which one you end up purchasing.

FORMULA Mousse, lotion, spray, drops. These have different dry times and feel on the skin.
GUIDE COLOR Bronze or clear
DEVELOPMENT TIME 1 hour – 8 hours before you can shower.

So here’s the plan. I’m going to tell you about several self tanners I like, that I’ve had good results with and what makes them great options. I am only recommending self tanners that I feel confident about you buying. No maybes, no sortas, no kindas.

Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops

Thus far, these self tanning drops have been the most successful for me. I think this is the only self tanning product I’ve used to the literal last drop and there’s a few reasons why.

Because these are concentrate drops, they are the easiest to integrate into your daily routine. You add 1-12 drops into your skincare or body moisturizers.

There is no guide color, and because it’s clear, I can apply Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops without having to sit on my brown fleece spray tan blanket or avoid certain chairs and surfaces.

I have dry skin so being able to moisturize and tan simultaneously is great. It’s a bummer that with most tanning mousses and foams, you aren’t supposed to apply ANY moisturizer prior to. This can lead to the tanner clinging to dry patches and looking scaly and weird.

I apply in sections, starting with my body butter in my palm. Then, I add enough drops for the section of the body I am doing. I do about 12 drops per leg, 6 drops on the lower leg, 6 drops for the top. Then, I do about 6 drops per arm, 4 drops for chest, etc. I use about 3 drops for my face.

If you want more information, make sure to read my original review post of this product HERE.

Choose if

  • You have dry skin
  • You don’t want to worry about color getting on sheets, couches, clothes
  • You want something that can be used for your body and face
  • You’d like to customize and control your color depth level

Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam Dark

Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam $24

I first heard about Bondi Sands from one of my makeup clients, a bride who did her own tan for her wedding. I was sold. It was the first time I couldn’t tell someone had done their own self tanning.


It’s a good thing I love coconut because Bondi Sands products have a pretty strong coconutty scent. Beyond that, like every self tanner that works, as it develops, I do smell the typical scent but not strongly.


I find these types of foams easiest to apply, especially with a mitt. This spreads easily, quickly and evenly.

Guide Color

Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam in Dark is an olive-toned bronze guide color that is quite dark and noticeable.

Dry Time

This dried quickly and left no tacky feeling. It was dry enough to dress in about 10 minutes.

Development Time

They say to leave on for at least 6 hours so I usually just do it at night and rinse in the morning.


Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam in Dark gave a medium, believable tan on my yellow/olive undertone skin.


Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam wore about average time, with no strange patches or streaks.

Choose Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam if

  • You prefer something lightweight
  • You want something that is quick and easy to apply

Bondi Sands Aero Aerated Self Tanning Foam

Bondi Sands Aero Self Tanning Foam, $29


Like the Self Tanning Foam, the Aero foam smells like coconuts too, but a tad stronger even. I don’t mind it, but if you don’t like that scent, you’re outta luck here. I didn’t notice any more self tanner development smell than usual.


This is an aerated foam, hence the name Aero. Because of this, it comes out like a poop emoji. It’s so lightweight that it can fall off the mitt pretty easily. I know because it happened to me several times and got onto my white ceramic tile, so be careful!

Guide Color

Compared to the Self Tanning Foam, Bondi Sands Aero has a slightly darker and even more olive guide color. It washes off but just know you’ll be pretty damn dark at first. There’s an Ultra Dark formula of this too but I personally wouldn’t dare.

Dry Time

This dries the quickest of all of the self tanners in this post. There is no feeling left on the skin at all.

Development Time

Like the foam above, Bondi Sands recommends wear it for at least 6 hours.


Bondi Sands Aero produces a golden tan that looks very comparable to a real one on my skin tone. I actually applied this twice before having headshot photos taken and it looks perfect in the resulting shots.


Kind of on purpose, kind of not, I did a piss poor job maintaining my tan. I didn’t moisturize it everyday and I was lazy. Well, you wouldn’t have known. It faded really nice and evenly, no patches. I think this wore just slightly better than the Bondi Sands Foam.

Choose Bondi Sands Aero Foam if

  • You want your tanner to feel as lightweight as possible
  • You want super quick drying
  • You can’t be bothered to moisturize daily


doesn’t have the usual tropical scent, but rather a cherry almond scent that I find unexpectedly nice.

Guide Color

has a red-toned bronze guide color that is noticeably more red than most. On my very yellow/olive skin, it looked a bit odd at first.

Dry Time

dries extremely fast and doesn’t feel one bit sticky. I have dry skin and almost felt that it dried a little too fast, so work quickly.

Development Time

This is where is unique. You can wash this off after just 2 hours. You will, of course, get deeper color by leaving it on longer of course. I like the 2 hour express aspect for when you’re short on time. The last time I used it, I left it on 5 hours and my legs looked nice.


The red undertone of the guide color does rinse away and the resulting color after development is very believable and nice. I do still feel it leans a tad red though.


When compared to others, is a hint drying to me and I did get a little scaliness on a few parts. Other than that, it wears well.

Choose if

  • You want to be able to shower off after 2 hours
  • You don’t want to sleep in your self tanner
  • You can’t stand the feeling of anything on your skin

Self Tanner Tools

Use a mitt for sure. The Bondi Sands mitt is the best one I’ve tried so far.

Browsing Amazon, this set looks super handy, especially for getting your back. Bondi Sands also makes this tool for tanning your back that I’d like to try out next.

Use a large makeup brush for detail areas like hands, feet and face. This brush set would be a good size and shape.

Wear Tips

  • When you have dry patches, self tanner stick more to those parts, creating an uneven tan. Before applying your self tanner, exfoliate in the shower but not with an oily scrub that could leave a residue. I suggest using exfoliating gloves instead.
  • Moisturizing daily will make your tan last longer. I like body butters and body oils.
  • When showering, use a natural bar soap. I like .

Avoid a Mess

  • If applying self tanner in your bathroom, and you have light colored tile, be careful! If you get some on the tile, wipe it up right away so it doesn’t stain.
  • When using a tanner with a color guard, lay a dark colored towel or blanket on the couch to prevent any staining.
  • When using fluffy aerated foams like the Bondi Sands Aero, if you have too much or too tall of a foam pile on the mitt, it can fall off. I made this mistake several times.


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