If you’re intimidated by full-on fake tans, same. The shade intensity, the commitment, the potential for splotches and streaks and accidental Oompa Loompa cosplay — it’s all just a bit much, especially for pale beginners (like me). A more approachable option: The best gradual self-tanners featured here, which impart a subtler, buildable, more natural-looking bronze than your typical fake tanners do. They’re also deeply moisturizing, courtesy of ingredients like shea butter, aloe, glycerin, and plant-derived oils, so you can apply them just as you would your usual body lotion.
For best results, though, you should still follow proper self-tan protocols: Shower, exfoliate with a body scrub (focusing especially on dry spots, like your knees, elbows, and ankles), and thoroughly dry off. Then, smooth on your self-tanner in circular motions to ensure even application. You can use mitts to avoid staining your hands, but since the color concentration with these products isn’t super intense, you should be fine if you wash your hands immediately. Your tan will develop over one to three applications, and the color usually sticks around for a few days. You can use these self-tanners on your face, too, as long as you know you’re not sensitive or allergic to any of the ingredients.