As the days grow shorter, I begin to crave that sunny glow more and more. To satisfy this craving, I reach for the best natural self tanners for my sensitive skin! To say my skin is “sensitive” is quite the understatement nowadays. If you are like me, and the simple ingredients cause allergic reactions, then these natural self tanners are for you!
My mother is a skin cancer survivor, so I was taught at a young age about the dangers of UV rays. Furthermore, I have never been to a tanning bed, but it’s not too late to stop if you have! There are great “faux tan” alternatives, but let’s dive into the self-tanners that are great for sensitive skin!
Natural DHA vs. Synthetic DHA
DHA stands for “Dihydroxyacetone” which is the active substance in self-tanning lotions. This substance reacts with the proteins in our skin to form the brown-color we know and love!
With that said, DHA can be man-made from chemicals (synthetic) or derived from beets/cane sugar (natural DHA). Although they both give a healthy glow, synthetic DHA can create harsh chemical affects on skin. As “clean” ingredients continue to grow in popularity, you see more natural DHA or DHA-free self-tanners.
Sounds great for sensitive skin, right?
Well, not so fast.. Continue reading about some of the dangers of DHA ingredients!
Dangers of DHA
Faux self-tanners that use DHA are substantially better than UV exposure, but they still have concerns of their own. After all, DHA is a chemical reaction with your skin, so it is worth taking a closer look!
1. Skin Irritation: Fragrance is a popular ingredient in cosmetics, so self-tanner is no different. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell the chemicals that make up the “fragrance” which can lead to skin irritations. (For more info on harmful chemicals in cosmetics, click here). This is why I have also listed “DHA-free” self-tanners for sensitive skin in this article as well.
2. Increased Free Radicals from UV: According to research studies, DHA-treated skin was found to have more than 180% additional radicals generated during sun exposure compared to untreated skin. This is dangerous because free radicals can accelerate the aging process, so make sure to wear your sunscreen even with self-tanner!
3. Vitamin D levels: Some studies have shown that DHA can limit the body’s ability to produce Vitamin D. Furthermore, you might already be getting less Vitamin D if using self-tanner instead of sunshine.
Natural Self-Tanners for Sensitive Skin
Now on to the fun products!
The below self-tanners are categorized: natural DHA and DHA-free. This way you can choose which product is best for you! For each of the products, you can learn about the pros and cons, price ranges and key ingredients. In all, these are great self-tanners for sensitive skin!
Natural DHA Self-Tanners for Sensitive Skin1. St. Tropez Tanning Mousse: $32
St. Tropez is probably one of my top favorite brands if not the #1 spot! At $32, it is on the pricey side, but a little bit goes a long way!
Pros: I was really happy to discover that St. Tropez does in fact use natural DHA in their products. It makes sense that they use natural DHA because it was one of the few mainstream products that didn’t cause allergic reactions. Some more positives include: fairly streak free and a dark-colored mousse color. It’s a pet peeve when the lotion is white because it goes on invisible, so you can’t see completed areas. The formula also lasts and fades quite nicely.
Cons: There are definitely more pros than cons for this product! Some of the cons would include: hard to control color depth, slight green hue, and a self-tanner smell. What I mean by color depth is the sense that you can’t “build color”. You either get dark or really dark depending on how much you apply. Definitely a “just came back from the Caribbean” type look if you are not careful. Lastly, this product does have a self-tanner smell, but after a shower it is barely noticeable.
This brand is great for self-tanners, but also other beauty products as well. It has been a go-to brand for me throughout my clean beauty journey. It clocks in slightly lower in price than St. Tropez which is also a win-win.
Pros: I love that one of my favorite beauty brands also makes a self-tanner. It is a one-stop shop for all my essentials which can’t be beat! It gives a natural glow which allows you to build the color. No artificial dyes or fragrances and the color won’t transfer to your clothes!
Cons: As mentioned above, my pet peeve is white formula and this one is unfortunately a white lotion formula. However, it does give a gradual, healthy glow much like a Jergens. Since the color is on the lighter side, I do have to reapply more often if I want to keep the glow!
I came across Coola products recently, and I fell in love! They have a great focus on SPF and organic ingredients that I really appreciate. It is no surprising then that their self-tanner would hit the mark as well. With the natural DHA derived from sugar beets, this is a no-brainer for best self-tanners for sensitive skin.
Pros: Raving reviews and satisfaction is always a winning combination when it comes to self-tanners. 97% of women agreed that it dried quickly and 93% said it left them with a natural tan. The formula is also free of parfum and synthetic ingredients.
Cons: I will continue to call it out, but this is another white lotion formula. Therefore, it does take a bit to rub in, which could cause some areas to go over more than once. It also has a higher price point when there are less expensive options.
When I first heard about “tan waters”, I said “wait.. what?” Sounds like an oxymoron, but they have been popping up over the last few years. They are great if you just want some color on your face, but not your whole body!
Pros: I love the idea that you can target the area where you want the healthy glow. When you are covered up in the winter months, it is nice to only put self-tanner on your face and not whole body. It saves time and product! The product also allows for buildable color creating a more natural look.
Cons: Since water is obviously clear, it does make a bit challenging to see where you are applying. However, it can be easier to apply with a cotton pad for more consistency. Although you don’t have to spread it allover, make sure that you don’t leave any lines around your chin or neck.
This formula is similar to St. Tropez in that it gives a great, dark healthy glow! The mousse foam allows for it to easily glide over skin and quickly absorb into skin. This product is also 100% natural DHA and paragon free.
Pros: Although gradual color can be nice, it is a great option if you want dark color quickly. I love that the formula is toxin, silicone and cruelty free. It also comes in 3 shades if you are looking for a darker, richer tan. It also has a mango and guava scent that helps mask any self-tanner scent.
Cons: For some people, no gradual color could be a con as well. I didn’t see if it was listed as non-comedogenic which means it could clog pores. Overall, there is very little cons with this product and got 4.7/5 star review!
Suntegrity is a unique, natural self-tanner brand that was started by a woman who lost her mother to melanoma. She was able to use her experience to spread knowledge about the importance of sunscreen, but without the toxic ingredients. This is another Jergens-esque colorless lotion, but provides a great buildable color.
Pros: This self-tanner has a coconut smell and doubles as an everyday lotion. Since this product has great moisturizing properties, it helps the color fade better. It is also a pretty large bottle, so you get your money’s worth!
Cons: Not too many cons, other than it’s colorless lotion and does take some time to build color if you want a deeper tan!
Tan Luxe’s self-tanner is different than the rest as it is more of a serum than a lotion. To apply, you mix it with your favorite lotion or cream which allows you to control the concentration of tan.
Pros: This one makes the list because it is another alternative to apply tan to only targeted areas. Serums like this make it easy to only apply to face and neck if you need a subtle glow. The Tan Luxe also comes in Light/Medium and Medium/Dark allowing differences in color depth.
Cons: I am a little hesitant to add tanning products that I can’t see when applying, but this one really does the trick! It would take some reapplying to get a color depth that you like since it will be diluted in moisturizer.
Last but not least, I had to add one last self-tanner to the mousse! This mousse has a color guide technology which allows for streak free application. a great option for a medium level tan!
Pros: The formula is lightweight and dries fast that avoids stickiness. With over 100+ reviews, and it stands at 5 stars! Uses natural ingredients to provide nourished and enriched skin!
Cons: Although it does contain natural-DHA, it only has about 12% which I know some of the products I list above have 100%. Wearing a self-tanner mitt is helpful when applying mousse formulas as well!
DHA-Free Self Tanners For Sensitive skin
Tips to Apply Natural Self-Tanners
Tip #2: Put lotion on specific areas to prevent color buildup (i.e. in between toes and fingers, palms, fingernails, etc.) The lotion will act as a barrier, and prevent the tanner building up in unwanted areas!