Fair skin is beautiful skin—but so is tan skin that offers a sun-kissed glow. And just because you are born with a porcelain complexion does not mean you want to sport it on all occasions. If you have pale skin and you are wanting to change that for a special occasion, or just in general, you need to buy the best self-tanner for fair or pale skin.
- Why Self-Tanners?
- How Do Self-Tanners Work?
- What to Consider When Purchasing a Self-Tanner for Fair or Pale Skin
- Best Self-Tanner for Fair or Pale Skin Comparison Chart
- #1 Skinny Tan Gradual Tanner
- #2 Cocoa Brown 1-Hour-Tan Mousse
- #3 Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self-Tanning Face Oil
- #4 Xen-Tan Transform Luxe Gradual Daily Tanner
- #5 Sun Bum Natural Browning Lotion
- #6 Rimmel London Sun Shimmer Self Tan Mousse – Medium Matte
- #7 Saint Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse
- #8 Fake Bake Fair Lotion
- #9 Australian Gold SPF 30 Spray Gel with Bronzer
- #10 Jergens Natural Glow + Firming Moisturizer, Fair to Medium Skin Tones
- Accessories for Self-Tanning Fair Skin
- Final Words
Some people can spread out on a blanket in the sun and within a few hours have a stunning tan. But if you have pale skin, that is not likely to be the case. In fact, most people with pale or fair skin find themselves unable to tan at all. Instead, they turn, red, their skin peels, and left in its place is just more pale skin.
If this describes you, you have skin type I, or possibly skin type II if your skin slightly tans after burning. In either case, tanning under the sun or UV lights at a tanning salon is not safe for you. Instead, you need to use self-tanners.
Now, even if you do find that you are able to tan, you may prefer self-tanning. Sun damage to the skin can cause premature aging as well as skin cancer. If you want a beautiful glow that is healthy and safe, no matter your natural ability to tan, self-tanners are a good choice for you.
How Do Self-Tanners Work?
Self-tanners, also known as fake bakes and sunless tanners, are creams, lotions, serums, or sprays that are applied to the surface of the skin. The exact manner in which a sunless tanner works will depend on its formula. Most use DHA, which reacts with dead skin cells to cause them to darken, creating a tanned look. This darkened color will generally last for about three days, so if you want to maintain the look, you need to apply self-tanner every other day to every three days.
The Pitfalls of Self-Tanners—And How to Avoid Them
When you use self-tanner the right way, the results are beautiful. When you use it the wrong way, the results are atrocious. We have all seen the results of a bad self-tanner application: orange skin, odd streaks, too pale and too dark patches of skin, and more. This can make you feel hesitant to use self-tanners.
However, what you need to keep in mind is that you have also seen the results of good self-tanner application—you just may not know it because when self-tanner is applied correctly, you cannot tell it is there. While there are good products and bad product, truly terrible results generally come down to user error. So, if you want that beautiful glow, you really just need to know how to properly apply the lotion so as to avoid the common pitfalls.
Proper Application of Self-Tanners
- Prepare the skin by exfoliating it. This is done to remove the dead skin cells that are on the top of your skin. While the skin cells you reveal will also be dead, this removal ensures that the cells are all even rather than patchy, which can lead to discolored patches when you apply self-tanner. You should use a gentle exfoliant, such as a light scrub or even just as wash cloth. Pay close attention to the elbows, knees, and ankles as skin is thickest there.
- Give your skin sufficient time to dry before you attempt to apply the self-tanner. If your skin is even slightly wet, the self-tanner will run, creating unsightly streaks that will last for several days before they fade away. Consider doing a simple chore after exfoliating to ensure you have given your skin enough time to dry.
- Apply the self-tanner in small sections, such as one arm or one leg, making it easy to concentrate on getting complete coverage and giving you time to massage it in before it dries. Use a circular motion to massage it into the skin so the color is even.
- Blend the self-tanner at the wrists and ankles, lightly extending it in these areas to achieve a more natural look. Dilute it over joints where the skin is thin and tends to absorb the self-tanner faster.
- Take extra care with your hands, possibly washing them before applying the self-tanner to them, preventing them from becoming darker than the rest of your skin.
- Allow your skin the time it needs to dry after applying the lotion. 10 minutes is the minimum amount of time to wait, but we recommend 30 minutes whenever possible. Do not wear tight clothing, exercise, or put yourself into a hot environment for at least three hours after application to avoid sweating and streaking the finish.
In addition to correct application, health skin will get the best results when using a self-tanner. To keep your skin healthy, keep these tips in mind:
- Stay hydrated by drinking 8 glasses of water per day.
- Apply moisturizer to your skin twice a day.
- Monitor your humidity levels at home and use a humidifier if needed.
- Apply sunscreen every day to reduce or eliminate sun damage.
- Focus on eating foods that are rich in antioxidants.
- Eat a balanced diet.
- Use natural skin products when possible.
- Never go to bed with makeup on.
- Eat less sugar.
- Consume more healthy fats.
- Get 8 hours of sleep a night.
- Work to reduce stress in your life.
- Exercise regularly.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Self-Tanner for Fair or Pale Skin
When purchasing a self-tanner for fair or pale skin, you have to consider all the things everyone must keep in mind when buying them, plus some special features that are particularly important to those with pale skin. While that might sound a bit daunting, the truth is that most sunless tanners are actually designed for those with pale skin since they are the main market for these products. To help you navigate your search for the best self-tanner, keep the following in mind.
Each self-tanner is designed to help you achieve a specific level of tan. If you have pale skin, it can be tempting to go as dark as possible so you can enjoy a significant change. However, doing so is more likely to turn you orange than make your bronze. Look for those that offer a light tan or a sun-kissed look; if you want to try to go darker later on, you can do so after you have been using these not-so-intense products for a while.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that those of us with pale skin also tend to have sensitive skin. This means that any skin product you use needs to be formulated not to irritate delicate skin—including your sunless tanner. If you are lucky enough to have pale skin without sensitivities, then you are less restricted in your search. If you are not, look for those that advertise their ability to work with sensitive skin.
Formula of Self-Tanner
There are many different kinds of self-tanning formulas on the market. Each has its pros and its cons. Perhaps the most common are self-tanning moisturizers. These create a light color that builds slowly over time, making them great for those with pale skin. Then there are tanning towelettes, which you wipe on to create a slight glow. These are also good for pale skin but better for on-the-go use rather than regular application. Then there are self-tanning lotions and creams, which tend to create more concentrated color, making them hit or miss for those with pale skin. Then there are mousses, oils, and gels, which can work for those with pale skin, but are not recommended if you are just getting started. Finally, there are self-tanning sprays, but you will generally need assistance in applying. However, they are also suitable for those with pale skin.
Best Self-Tanner for Fair or Pale Skin Comparison Chart
|#1 Skinny Tan Gradual Tanner||Light to medium, gradual build||Designed for all skin types||Self-tanning moisturizer|
|#2 Cocoa Brown 1-Hour-Tan Mousse||Light to dark, varies with application||Designed for all skin types||Self-tanning mousse|
|#3 Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self-Tanning Face Oil||Light to medium, gradual build||Designed for all skin types||Self-tanning oil|
|#4 Xen-Tan Transform Luxe Gradual Daily Tanner||Light to dark, gradual build||Designed for all skin types||Self-tanning lotion|
|#5 Sun Bum Natural Browning Lotion||Light to dark, gradual build||Designed for all skin types||Self-tanning lotion|
|#6 Rimmel London Sun Shimmer Self Tan Mousse - Medium Matte||Light to medium, gradual build||Designed for all skin types||Self-tanning mousse|
|#7 Saint Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse||Light to dark, gradual build||Designed for all skin types||Self-tanning mousse|
|#8 Fake Bake Fair Lotion||Light to medium, gradual build||Designed specifically for fair, sensitive skin||Self-tanning lotion|
|#9 Australian Gold SPF 30 Spray Gel with Bronzer||Light to medium, gradual build||Designed for all skin types||Self-tanning gel|
|#10 Jergens Natural Glow + Firming Moisturizer, Fair to Medium Skin Tones||Light to medium, gradual build||Designed specifically for fair to medium skin tones and sensitive skin||Self-tanning moisturizer|
#1 Skinny Tan Gradual Tanner
When it comes to tanning pale skin, gradual is best. First, it makes the process appear more natural to those around you. Second, it allows you to avoid that fake orange look. This option from Skinny Tan is specifically designed to gradually darken the skin, allowing you to apply it every day until you achieve the color you want, then apply it every 2-3 days to maintain that level of color. It is great for all types of fair skin, including fair skin with freckles.
This is also a good option for those who are self-tanning for the first time. Unlike many other self-tanners, this one offers a streak-proof formula, which means you get even results even if you are not an expert at applying it. In addition to the color it imparts, it offers other benefits, including skin tightening and cellulite reduction.
For those who are concerned about the environment, the fact that it is free from chemicals and parabens, and is even vegan and never tested on animals will be a big plus. It smells great and leaves you looking and feeling great. Finally, it comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so there is no risk in giving it a try.
#2 Cocoa Brown 1-Hour-Tan Mousse
Mousse self-tanners tend to be a bit more difficult to apply, so if you choose this option from Cocoa Brown, you need to make sure you are prepared. Consider practicing with it in a spot that is not often visible so you can perfect your technique. Once you do, you will be amazed by the results.
This particular self-tanner gives you a lot of control over pigmentation. All you need to do to adjust the pigmentation is decide how long you will wait between application and showering. For a light tan, you leave it for one hour. For a medium tan, leave it for two. For the darkest tan you can achieve with this product, leave it for three.
Unlike many other self-tanners on the market, this one has a lot of staying power. Where most will last 2-3 days before they start to significantly fade, this formula is designed to last up to 5 days. This makes it a great option for those who do not have time multiple days a week to apply self-tanner.
#3 Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self-Tanning Face Oil
For many people with fair skin, tanning the entire body is not a high priority. Rather, they just want to add some color to their face so they look a little healthier and brighter. If this is the case for you, you should try this self-tanning face oil from Josie Maran, which we think is the best self-tanner for fair-skinned faces.
Since this is an oil, you might expect it to leave your face shinny and, well, oily. Thankfully, this is not the case. The formula is designed to offer a semi-matte finish, helping your skin glow, but not shine. In addition to darkening your pigment, it also works to hydrate and repair the skin through the use of coconut water and aloe juice. A single application lasts 24 hours, allowing you to skip the bronzer and keep the glow.
Because it needs to fully dry before applying makeup, it is recommended that you apply it at night before bed. Keep in mind that this may result in some transfer onto your pillow, so you may want to purchase a special pillowcase. However, the results are certainly worth the effort.
#4 Xen-Tan Transform Luxe Gradual Daily Tanner
Much like the first-choice option from Skinny Tan, this offering from Xen-Tan is a gradual self-tanner making it a great sunless tanner for fair skin. You apply it once a day, every day, until you reach the color you want. From there, you maintain the color by applying it every 2-3 days. Results come quickly, being visible in just a few hours, leaving you with a beautiful glow.
While many self-tanners have a chemical smell, this one does not. Instead, it offers a light vanilla scent. For many devotees of this self-tanner, the smell is one of its biggest pros.
The main complaint that users have is that it can cause dark spots on knees, elbows, and ankles. As such, you may need to purchase blending cream as well. However, when you combine price with results, the extra purchase is well worth it.
#5 Sun Bum Natural Browning Lotion
While Sun Bum is not a household name in the US, it is well-known in other countries. This lotion is ideal for those who are not wanting to go through all the self-tanning preparation steps as it exfoliates, moisturizes, and tans skin all at once. As an added bonus, this particular option comes with bonus towelettes that allow you to touch up your tan on the go.
Now, the big difference between this lotion and others on this list is that it is designed to be used in addition to sun exposure. In other words, if you have skin-type I, this is not for you. However, if you have skin-type II, this is still an excellent choice. You do not need to spend much time in the sun for this to work, so do not feel pressured to spend all day soaking up rays. In fact, be certain you do not do that.
This is also another all-natural option, allowing you to feel good about how you are treating your body and the environment when you use it. It is designed to protect and hydrate the skin. Overall, it is a great purchase for those looking to combine self-tanning and time in the sun.
#6 Rimmel London Sun Shimmer Self Tan Mousse – Medium Matte
This option from Rimmel London is formulated for all skin types. However, it is only meant to achieve a medium-level tan, which makes it great for those with pale and fair skin. If you are someone who finds most self-tanners turn you orange, try this one on for size.
Once again, this is a mousse, and that means application can be tricky. Practice on less-seen areas to get your technique down. Once you do, you will find that it leaves you looking like perfection.
Development takes about an hour, though you can deepen the tan by layering it or leaving it on longer before showering. It also has incredible staying power, lasting for up to 7 days. As long as you apply it once a week, you will achieve and maintain excellent results.
#7 Saint Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse
Once again, we have a mousse, but this one from Saint Tropez is specifically meant for those with experience applying mousse self-tanners. Why is that? Because it dries in just 60 seconds. Now, for a novice, that might be a downside, but if you are an expert self-tanner, that is some of the best news you can receive.
Initial results can be seen about an hour after application, with the full results visible within 4-8 hours, depending on how your skin receives it. It uses an all-natural form of DHA, making it incredibly safe to use. Once you know how to use it, it will allow you to achieve streak-free results.
This particular self-tanning lotion is a favorite of pale and fair-skinned users as it delivers a natural-looking tan even on the palest of individuals. If your skin is so pale, it is nearly translucent and you burn in the sun within mere minutes, you can achieve a sun-kissed look with this option.
#8 Fake Bake Fair Lotion
Now, you might feel hesitant to use self-tanners that, while we believe they are great on fair skin, are not explicitly designed for fair-skinned people. If that is the case, try this Fake Bake Fair Lotion. Unlike most of the items on this list, this formula is tested on and made for fair skin. This means that it avoids all the usual pitfalls of tanning fair skin, achieving beautiful results.
If you reach maximum tan and want to go deeper, they do make lotions for darker skin tones. However, most pale-skinned users are more than happy with the results offered by the fair lotion. In addition to the lotion itself, it comes with a glove to make application easy.
If you are worried about a steaky application, do not fret; this lotion is designed to show itself as you apply it, ensuring you can tell how even the application is and if there are any missed spots. The end result is a smooth, even tan that looks natural—only you will know it isn’t.
#9 Australian Gold SPF 30 Spray Gel with Bronzer
If you are just getting started with self-tanning, you might be hesitant to spend a lot of money and would prefer a cheap sunless tanner for fair skin. While there is a lot to be said for more luxurious creams, lotions, oils, and mousses, there is also something to be said for minding your budget when trying something new. If you are wanting to see what self-tanning is like without breaking the bank, start out by using this option from Australian Gold.
Not only will you feel good about it being affordable, but you will also feel good that you are taking care of your skin. Since it comes with SPF 30, you are taking care of two tasks in one: darkening your skin while protecting it from the sun. While it does achieve the best results when used in conjunction with sun bathing, it still bronzes the skin on its own.
The biggest feature users love, besides the price, is the smell. It has a summertime beachy smell that is quite enjoyable. However, unlike most other bronzers, this one does not have much lasting power and you will need to apply it every day.
#10 Jergens Natural Glow + Firming Moisturizer, Fair to Medium Skin Tones
Finally, we have this option from Jergens. This formula was one of the first self-tanners to hit it big, ushering in the self-tanning obsession. However, you should not fear that it is outdated; the reason it hit it big is because it does what it does very well.
Designed specifically for fair to medium skin tones, it does not start strong. Instead, you apply it day after day or even layer it on until you get the color you want. Then you maintain it with applications every 2-3 days. However, you need to be diligent in your exfoliating if you want to avoid a streaky look.
In addition to darkening the skin, this formula is also designed to firm it. The result is skin that looks more youthful while also having a healthy glow. If you are looking for a dependable product that you can find at most drugstores as well as online, this is the self-tanner for you.
Accessories for Self-Tanning Fair Skin
While finding the right self-tanner for your pale skin is important, it is only half the equation. Now you need to find the accessories that are right for your product. Below are the primary items you will need for a good at-home tanning experience.
Blending cream is cream that is used in areas where your skin is thicker to avoid dark spots. In most cases, these areas are the elbows, knees, and ankles. You apply the cream as directed by the package, allowing you to blend the color so the color looks natural. For this, you can use specialized creams or any moisturizing cream that you like. For fair skin, we recommend Vanicream.
When it comes to avoiding streaky application, purchasing the right self-tanner and learning to apply it are important. However, using a mitt will do a lot to make application more even while also preventing your hands from getting too dark. Most self-tanning companies make their own, but any will do. We suggest Skinerals Padded Microfiber Applicator.
If you aren’t wanting to use a mitt, you will still need an applicator to get your self-tanner in those harder-to-reach spots. These applicators are essentially long sticks that are designed to conform to the lines of the body, making their use easy on you. We like Skinerals Padded Self-Tanning Back Wand Applicator.
Finally, you know by know that exfoliation is needed for good self-tanner results. However, you do not need to use a special or expensive scrub. Instead, you can use cheap but effective exfoliating gloves. Personally, we recommend the Body & Face Exfoliating Set Premium Pack from Joyssee.
If you have fair or pale skin, you can still enjoy a sun-kissed glow—all you need to do is purchase the best self-tanner for fair or pale skin. We looked at dozens of options on the market and narrowed our options down to the top ten. Now, all you need to do is make your purchase and enjoy the skin you are in.