There's no doubt about it: A professional spray tan is the ultimate in fake tans, but they can also be pricey and time-consuming. Self-tanners in spray formula can give you the look of a professional tan in the privacy of your home. Experts say they take longer to dry and have a greater learning curve when it comes to applying them properly, but once you get the hang of it, spray self-tanners offer a smooth, even color appearance. However, if you prefer something more subtle, or don't want to have to deal with figuring out how to use a spray tanner, see our discussion of the Best Self-Tanners elsewhere in this report. There, we recommend easy-to-apply lotions, gels, foams and towelettes. If you just want a bit of a glow, we recommend heading over to our discussion of the Best Self-Tanners for the Face.
The one spray tan we see that gets the most raves is L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Pro Perfect (Est. $8 per 4.6 oz.). Professional testers say it results in a very natural-looking tan with very few reports of any odd, orange or green undertones. Users agree, saying they love the professional spray tan vibe it gives them.
There's a learning curve to getting perfect results, but most say that once you've mastered the technique, using L'Oreal Sublime Bronze is quick and easy. It also dries more quickly than most spray tanners, users add. That said, to get best results, at least initially, you may want to involve a friend. Those who use the buddy system report more satisfaction with this spray tanner than those who try to go it alone. Regardless, the Pro Perfect's wide, 360 degree spray nozzle earns universal kudos.
L'Oreal Sublime Bronze supplies an instant tan, but it also darkens in a few hours. You can reapply multiple coats for even more color, but most users caution against more than two coats, saying it can cake or flake if you lay it on too thick. The color lasts a good amount of time -- several days at least - although it may lighten after a shower or two. As with all self-tanners, reviews on the perceived pleasant -- or not so pleasant -- scent are mixed.
Victoria's Secret Instant Bronzing Tinted Body Spray (Est. $15 for 3.72 oz.) is another spray tanner that's popular with experts. Reviewers say it works quickly and that, unlike most self-tanners, it's temporary -- you can wash it off when you're done with your tan. Users who say they are uncomfortable leaving tanners on their skin due to sensitivity issues love that they can use this and wash it away before bedtime. Many note that it seems to smooth their complexion, almost like a foundation rather than a self-tanner. The texture is reported as very silky and smooth, not sticky, and it does not tend to rub off on clothing in spite of its temporary nature.
For a highly affordable spray tanner, experts and users say to look no further than Banana Boat Summer Color Self-Tanning Mist Airbrush (Est. $10 for 5 oz.). It gets reviews that rival those of department store spray tanners, earning raves for its gentle, non-drying, alcohol-free formula. Users say it's very easy to apply and dries quickly enough that they can apply it in the morning before getting dressed for work. The color is reported as very natural and one application gives a lovely, healthy glow that most say is sufficient for an everyday tint. A few say it's difficult to use -- a complaint we see about virtually all spray-type self-tanners, which definitely have a bit of a learning curve, especially when you're trying to spray harder-to-reach areas.
Body Drench Instant Self-tanning Spray (Est. $10 for 6 oz.) is another high-value, drugstore spray tanner that gets great reviews. Users say it gives a natural glow that can be adjusted with additional coats of spray. Some say they have used it for many years and that it has had no negative effects on their skin even after numerous applications. This spray tan formula gets fewer reviews for that ubiquitous "self-tanner smell" than any other we saw.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best reviewed self-tanners: Whether you want a gradual tan or need to brighten up your look before the sun goes down, these are the top lotions, gels, sprays and powders for the face and body.
Best Self-Tanners: Super easy to apply, lotion, gel, foam and towelette self-tanners will give you a beautiful glow in an instant or over a few days. They come in a range of shades, too, for every skin type.
Best self-tanners for the face: Adding a hint of color to your complexion will brighten everyone's day. These are the best self-tanners and bronzers for your face and décolleté.
Buying Guide: There is a bewildering array of self-tanning products. Check out our recommendations and suggestion for what to look for when shopping for the best self-tanner for your skin type.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user reviews and recommendations we used to find the best self-tanners. They are ranked in order of credibility and usefulness.