The Best Self Tanners for Fair Skin

March 6, 2024

Best Self Tanner for Fair Pale Skin I wit & whimsy

I’m not one that always feels the need to be tan and after my skin cancer diagnosis in 2019 I won’t ever seek out a tan by Mother Nature again. I had stopped using self tanner for a while because of the upkeep involved but then decided to revisit the category to find ones that really worked for my fair skin. 

As I packed up for a trip to California this week I once again pulled out my favorites to begin using on my pale, winterized skin so gave this post a refresh to share my favorites with you all. 

I’ve tried plenty of self tanners over the years but when you have really fair, pale skin as a starting point it can be tough to find one that works without the hassle or the mishaps. (And boy have I had my fair share of mishaps!!) And let’s be real – we all know tanning beds are not worth the skin cancer risk and often spray tans feel like too much hassle. 

Best Self Tanner For Fair Skin

I’m thrilled to share that I’ve finally found self tanners that work great on my fair skin tone for both face and body and the favorites that I’m sharing in this post and reviewing are Tan Luxe The Gradual Illuminating Gradual Tan Lotion and Tan Luxe The Face Illuminating Self Tan Drops. Self tanner for pale skin is such a hard endeavor because sunless tan products often go too strong and look too harsh or unnatural. I was searching for streak free, smooth application products I wouldn’t hate using that really provided a natural looking golden glow.

Both the Tan Luxe The Gradual Illuminating Gradual Tan Lotion and Tan Luxe The Face Illuminating Self Tan Drops offer natural looking tans with a natural glow that won’t have you battling streaks or needing to do color correcting. They are as close to a faux perfect tan as I have ever come.

I’m answering all your common questions about self tanners below and also some before and after photos.

Tan Luxe The Gradual for Fair Skin I wit & whimsy

Tan Luxe The Gradual for Fair Skin I wit & whimsy

For the purpose of the above photos – I took a before photo and then took my After 1 Coat photo after the product had been on for approximately 6 hours. Then I applied a second coat a few hours before I went to bed and took the After 2 Coats photo when I woke up in the morning. You can see the gradual, subtle and natural tan and the much improved coloration from my Before photo.

Now onto answering what I anticipate are the most commonly asked questions about self tanners.

What is Tan Luxe The Gradual and how do you apply it?

This formula is part tanning oil and part tanning lotion making it relatively foolproof to apply and I like that it is a hydrating self tan. It’s super lightweight so it glides over skin easily and also dries quickly as a result. It truly is so easy to apply!

Skin is left feeling hydrated and hours later you’ll have a gradual, natural glow. When applying Tan Luxe The Gradual, work in a circular motion going section by section. I personally start with my legs and then work my way up by body. I use about a nickel to a quarter size of product depending on the size of the section I am working on (stomach gets less; legs get more).

You should be able to easily tell if you need a bit more product. Use more sparingly around your ankles, heels, knees and elbows. You can use a tanning application mitt to apply if you’d prefer but I haven’t found it to be necessary. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after use. 

Think of the Tan Luxe The Gradual as your body lotion throughout summer and anytime you want an easy fake tan!

What is Tan Luxe The Face and how do you apply it?

This product transforms your favorite moisturizer, serum or face oil into a self tanner. I personally add two drops into my favorite moisturizer, apply to my face and shortly thereafter my skin looks more glow-y and sun-kissed as though I’d had lunch out on a sunny terrace. This product is pretty foolproof unlike many other face self tanning products and for this I am extremely grateful.

The formula is forgiving enough and buildable (add an extra drop if you want more color, cut back if you want to exercise caution). I first bought this after hearing so many good things on Instagram and it did not disappoint. When applying Tan Luxe The Face add anywhere from 1-4 drops depending on your desired level of color to your daily moisturizer, serum or face oil. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after use.

I preferred these drops to the Isle of Paradise Tanning Drops I’ve seen a lot of people on social media talk about.

How should I prep my skin before I apply the self tanner?

Firstly, always do a patch test to ensure coloration will suit your skin and to avoid any reactions. Personally before I self tan, I always do dry brushing of my body to remove dead skin cells and rough patches before I hop in the shower to shave. Then I let my body fully dry after the shower and remove all jewelry before I go to apply Tan Luxe The Gradual. If only using a drop or two of Tan Luxe The Face I generally don’t prep my skin with any extra steps.

Is more than one coat required?

For me, I usually will do two rounds of Tan Luxe The Gradual if it is the start of summer and I’m beginning my tan from scratch. Later in the summer as I do touch ups only one coat is required. When using Tan Luxe The Face at the onset of summer or during the rest of the year I really only tend to use 1-2 drops in my moisturizer. Since I use bronzer daily I never want to go too heavy on a facial self tanning product, personally.

Any watch outs for after applying?

Let yourself air dry completely before you apply clothes. I find the Tan Luxe The Gradual dries so well which is one of the reasons I love it. I feel dry after 3-5 minutes of air drying.

Of course you’ll also want to avoid getting wet or sweaty in the hours after you apply your lotion and also avoid any exfoliating products (including loofahs) that’ll remove your tan in the days that follow. Be sure to also avoid any cleansers that may strip your skin and keep your skin extra hydrated by moisturizing daily.

And always, always wash your hands well. Keep an eye out for areas where the lotion can “pool” such as elbow creases, behind your knees or under your breasts. I also avoid anything white (clothing/sheets/furniture) initially after applying and I don’t recommend having your laptop on your lap because the heat can affect the color development and create strange lines I’ve found.

Does Tan Luxe transfer color?

It does if you get wet or sweat in white clothing. I got color on a white bathing suit in Nantucket last year the day after applying as I was in the ocean. I washed my bathing suit when I got home and the color came out relatively easily. But I personally wouldn’t jump into bed with white sheets on shortly after applying this either if you’re worried about transfer. Instead apply and wait a few hours before you head to bed.

Does Tan Luxe have a smell?

It does but I don’t hate it or loathe it like I have some other self tanners.

How long does Tan Luxe last?

I find that the products last a few days. Again you can always touch up as needed but I’d assume at least three days of wear and up to seven days if you maintain your tan really well. I do find that shaving my legs removes most of the color so plan accordingly.

Do you have any tips for mishaps?

If I have any darker patches I simply wet a muslin cloth and rub to remove the excess product. Generally works like a charm! These cloths are my favorite for removing oil cleansers, too. They gently exfoliate and are easily washable.

Any recommendations for drugstore self tanners for fair skin?

Before I found and fell in love with the Tan Luxe products, I used to swear by Jergens Natural Glow.  I went through many a tube in college and after college! Then a few years ago their in-shower self tanning moisturizer became my favorite and is pretty foolproof. You will have to work up your color with several rounds of use however so it is a bit more of a time commitment.

Is Tan Luxe vegan? Cruelty Free?

Tan Luxe is 100% vegan and cruelty free. 

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Next on my list is to try The Butter by Tan Luxe as I’ve heard it is also great for fair skin and gives more color payoff in just one use vs. buildable color with The Gradual. I’ve also seen people rave about the Tan Luxe Tan Water – have any of you tried it? If you prefer a tanning mousse formula, Tan Luxe also has a Hydra Mousse product I’ve yet to try.

Years ago I used to use St. Tropez tanning products but haven’t revisited the line since I’ve been happy with Tan Luxe. And I’ve also heard good things about Vita Liberata which I may test out given the good price point. If you guys have tried anything you’ve liked from either brand please do let me know in the Comments below!


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