In my humble opinion, tanning drops are the greatest innovation to come out of the self-tanning category in decades. Impossible to mess up, these serum-like formulas are designed to be mixed in with your moisturizer of choice, and can be applied daily to maintain a consistent tan, or applied occasionally to make your skin look a little less pale on days when you feel like you need it. Most self-tanning drops are buildable, meaning you can use just a drop or two for a subtle glow, or several more for a deeper bronze finish. The best face tanning drops are infused with good-for-skin ingredients, like glycerin, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid, to hydrate and pamper your skin as they work their magic. If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, look for formulas that are fragrance-free and/or noncomedogenic.
How To Use Tanning Drops
Every bottle of tanning drops will come with its own set of instructions, but there are some general rules and tips that can help you to get the best results every time:
- It’s always best to start with clean, dry skin that’s recently been exfoliated (the experts recommend exfoliating 24 hours prior to tanning, which will create a smoother surface for the self-tanner and prevent any patchy color from developing).
- Mix your tanning drops in with your favorite face moisturizer.
- The more drops you add, the darker your tan will develop (because of this, you’ll always want to start off using fewer drops until you’re familiar with how the color develops).
- Apply your moisturizer mixture evenly to your face, paying special attention to blending it in at your hairline, down your neck, and even on your ears.
- Wash your hands after so that you don’t end up with stained palms or fingertips.
- It’s best to apply your tanning drops in the morning to avoid staining your pillowcase, but keep in mind it will take several hours for your tan to develop.
- Don’t forget to wear sunscreen — a faux glow doesn’t give you any added protection from the sun, so you’ll still want to apply SPF daily.
Shop The Best Face Tanning Drops
In a hurry? Here are the best face tanning drops:
- Editor’s Pick: Lux Unfiltered N°12 Bronzing Face Drops
- Best Face Tanning Drops Under $10: L‘Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Facial Drops
- Best Face Tanning Drops For A Custom Glow: Tanologist Self Tan Drops
- Best Mini Face Tanning Drops For Travel: Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tanning Drops
- Honorable Mention: Isle Of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops
1. Editor's Pick
Elite Daily beauty editor Adeline Duff swears by these tanning drops from Lux Unfiltered. “It’s the only self-tanner I’ve found that gives my super-pale skin a faux glow that still looks completely natural,” she says. “A couple of drops mixed in with my daily moisturizer is perfect for preventing me from looking washed out in the winter, but when I want to amp things up a bit, I’ll use anywhere from five to seven drops, and somehow, my tan never looks fake or orange. I’ve also tried using these drops solo — as in, without moisturizer — and I’ve still never experienced any streaks. Best of all? My tan is still there in the morning after I’ve washed my face at night.”
Lux Unfiltered’s N°12 Bronzing Face Drops are also a great option for sensitive skin, since the fragrance-free formula is made without common irritants and potential allergens. Instead, it’s formulated with moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, and antioxidant-rich botanicals like coconut water, passion fruit oil, and pomegranate extract. The drops are truly as light as water, and mix in with any moisturizer beautifully. Plus, there’s barely any discernible scent.
Available Shades 1 Other Beneficial Ingredients: Glycerin, Apple Fruit Extract, Coconut Water, Passion Fruit Seed Oil, Pomegranate Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E Size: 1 oz. Fragrance-Free: Yes Cruelty-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: “I was already a major fan of the No. 32 tanning lotion and was hoping Sivan [the founder of Lux Unfiltered] would come up with something equally as great for the face. No surprise, she managed to do that too. It is the perfect amount of color to give yourself a natural glow, and won’t clog your pores which is a major benefit. The product is easy to use, not heavy feeling, and doesn’t have any nasty smells or residues. Highly recommend to anyone who wants to look like they got color without the added sun damage!”
2. Best Face Tanning Drops Under $10
If you’re looking to stay under $15, these L’Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Facial Drops are the way to go. The clear formula is unscented for anyone sensitive to fragrances, and it includes glycerin and hyaluronic acid to add an extra dose of hydration to your skin. The brand recommends combining five to seven drops with your moisturizer if you want a lighter end result, and eight to 10 drops for a darker bronze color.
Available Shades 1 Other Beneficial Ingredients: Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid Size: 1 oz. Fragrance-Free: Yes Cruelty-Free: No
Relevant Review: “I’ve never self-tanned before but I wanted to try these. I absolutely love how it turned out! Super easy to use, just mixed with my daily moisturizer. It did have a funny smell after a while but nothing unbearable. The glow it gave my face is amazing and no orange color. Definitely recommend!”
3. Best Face Tanning Drops For A Custom Glow
Tanologist’s Self Tan Drops come in four shades — light, medium, dark, and extra dark — which makes it easy to achieve a custom glow that suits your natural skin tone. The noncomedogenic formula contains brightening ingredients like vitamin C and juniper oil, as well as vitamin E and glycerin for lightweight hydration.
As with all tanning drops, these can be used on your face and body, and since they’re not too expensive (whereas the $45 Lux Unfiltered drops might feel more precious), it won’t feel unreasonable to mix some into your go-to body lotion for an all-over glow.
Available Shades: 4 Other Beneficial Ingredients: Glycerin, Vitamin E, Panthenol, Vitamin C, Aloe Vera Extract, Goji Berry Extract, Pomegranate Extract, Juniper Fruit Oil Size: 1.01 oz. Fragrance-Free: No Cruelty-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: “Absolutely love these drops! It’s so easy and convenient to be able to put a few drops in your regular moisturizer. I’m a very pale person, and these drops give me a natural golden glow. I also mix a couple [of] drops in my face lotion and haven’t experienced breakouts from it. The bottle lasts me a long time, so definitely worth the money.”
4. Best Mini Face Tanning Drops For Travel
Technically, all of the products on this list are travel-friendly, but the super mini, 0.33-ounce size of these Tan-Luxe tanning drops means they hardly take up any space at all in your cosmetics bag, so they’re perfect for light packers. The brand says that you can mix these drops in with your favorite face moisturizer, serum, or oil, and they’ll adapt to your skin tone to create the best color for you. The drops are formulated with vitamin E, aloe vera, and raspberry seed oil to give you additional skin care benefits, and they come in two shades (light/medium and medium/dark). If you’ve been eager to try Tan Luxe’s popular tanning drops for a while, but are skeptical of the $48 price tag, this tiny, travel-size bottle is also a nice way to try them out for cheaper before committing.
Available Shades: 2 Other Beneficial Ingredients: Glycerin, Raspberry Seed Oil, Aloe Leaf Juice, Vitamin E Size: 0.33 oz. Fragrance-Free: No Cruelty-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: “I grew up in the age of smelly self-tanners. What an upgrade! This doesn’t smell like tanner at all (although it is nicely fragranced). You put a few drops in your moisturizer and wake up with a great glow! It is very concentrated, so be careful you don’t use too much at once.”
5. Honorable Mention
Isle Of Paradise’s Self-Tanning Drops are among the most popular tanning drops out there — on Amazon alone, they’ve garnered over 5,000 five-star ratings, and social media influencers have been buzzing about them, too. They come in three different shades (light, medium, and dark) that use color-correcting actives to reduce redness and brighten your overall skin tone, while coconut oil, avocado oil, and chia seed oil work to leave your face feeling silky soft.
While some of the other drops on this list can be applied on their own sans moisturizer, Isle of Paradise reports that their highly concentrated drops must be mixed in with a face (or body) cream.
Available Shades: 3 Other Beneficial Ingredients: Glycerin, Vitamin E, Aloe Vera Extract, Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, Chia Seed Oil, Vitamin C Size: 1.01 oz. Fragrance-Free: No Cruelty-Free: Yes
Relevant Review: “Obsessed! I’ve used many self-tanning products [and] this is by far my favorite! I use once/twice a week and stay having nice color. No bad smell, I haven’t had any streaks yet – just make sure to wash between your fingers well after using! Love this stuff!”
About The Author:
Marissa DeSantis has worked as a beauty writer and editor for nearly 10 years. Her pieces can be found across print and digital publications like Bustle, Evening Standard, Teen Vogue, and InStyle.