Which Self-Tanners Are Best for Sensitive Skin?

If you have sensitive skin but are longing for that glowing, sun-kissed, bronze skin, it might seem as though you do not have too many options. Indeed, for some people with sensitive skin, self-tanning has not brought the best results given that some products contain ingredients that may cause adverse skin reactions.

Luckily, today’s self-tanners are generally safe to use, are easy to apply and give you a natural glow. Also, the good news for those with sensitive skin is that brands are producing self-tanners using naturally-extracted DHA (Dihydroxyacetone), therefore reducing the risk of flare-ups.

DHA is the color agent that causes tanning. It is found in all wash-off tanning products but some people may be sensitive to this color agent. To be sure, conduct a test with a patch behind the ear - 24 hours before tanning, if it is your first time using a product containing DHA.

If you are having trouble finding the right self-tanner for sensitive skin, we’ve researched five of the best products that will help you achieve an enviable sun-kissed look.

Before delving into the products, there are a couple of things to watch out for when buying a self-tanner for your sensitive skin. The key thing to remember is that you need to not only use the best products, but also take good care of your skin to avoid skin reactions.

Choose the Right Base Color

For a natural-looking finish, you need a base color to match your skin tone with the right tan. To choose a base color, consider the tone of your skin—whether it is neutral, warm or cool.

Your jewelry may give you a hint of the right base for your skin. For example, if you usually wear gold jewelry, a violet base is a good bet while an ash base would be suitable if you generally wear silver jewelry.

A green base is great for all skin tones and especially those with a neutral tone. The same goes for ash base which can work for any skin tone and especially for those who are fair skinned. If you have a warm skin tone, a violet base is suitable.

Product Formulation

Whether you should choose an oil-based self-tanner, a cream one, a spray type or a mousse depends on how deep you want the color to be and your preferred moisture level.

If you have dry skin, you might want to go for an oil-based or cream self-tanner. Mousse offers a deeper tan color but it is not as moisturizing.

Skin Preparation

It is crucial to prepare your skin before applying a self-tanner. The first step in skin preparation is exfoliation; this is especially important if you have sensitive skin. Failure to exfoliate will result in patches and streaks and what’s worse is your tan will flake off in a matter of days.

How you apply the tan also matters. Tanning experts recommend using a tanning mitt and only applying a small amount of product for starters. You can increase the amount of product as needed. If using a mousse, apply in long, steady motions and use circular motions to apply tanning lotions.

Product Recommendation:

best gradual self tanner "Beauty By Earth"

This gradual self tanning lotion is a buildable product and suited for sensitive skin. The first application will give you a light tan, reapplying it again the following day will gradually darken the skin to desired color.

This gradual tanner uses only high quality, nourishing, natural and simple ingredients like organic coconut oil, organic shea butter and Japanese green tea.

  • streak-free
  • all natural
  • cruelty-free

After Care

If you want your tan to last longer than a few days, your best bet is to moisturize thoroughly immediately after applying the self-tanner and then daily thereafter. For those with skin sensitivities, it is important to ensure that your skin is always hydrated. Also, for best results, apply a gradual tanning lotion to maintain your tan for longer.

Top 5 Self-Tanners for Sensitive Skin

There are excellent products for those with skin conditions such as eczema and dryness. Some recommended self-tanners that are gentle to the skin include:

Sienna X Gradual Self Tan Lotion 200ml
If you have sensitive skin, avoid products containing ingredients such as alcohol and parabens as these increase the risk of inflammation and allergic reactions. The Sienna X range of tans is a perfect choice—the tanners do not contain products that could potentially aggravate your skin. Instead, the tans are packed with soothing ingredients such as Aloe Vera and vitamin E. The Sienna X Self Tan Tinted lotion will get you a streak-free, natural glow within just one hour of application.

This tanning lotion is packed with moisturizing, skin-friendly ingredients including Aloe Vera, Avocado Extract, anti-aging Q10 and moisturizing vitamin E. It is also infused with accelerators to allow quick and effective tanning. There are different strengths to choose from so you can opt for a lighter color that is less dehydrating.

St. Tropez Self Tan Express Mousse, Fast Acting Fake Tan, Develops in 1-3 Hours, Streak-Free Finish, Vegan, Natural & Cruelty Free, 6.7 Fl Oz
Some people with sensitive skin may be allergic to DHA. The St. Tropez range of wash-off tans is a great choice as the products do not contain DHA. The St. Tropez Naturals tan easily melts into the skin to give a healthy glow.

This tanner contains VEGETAN, an active ingredient that is naturally derived and approved by ECOCERT (an organic certification organization). The nourishing lotion is enriched with mango seed oil and avocado butter for that long-lasting, dewy tan. With the St. Tropez Naturals tanner, a little goes a long way and this is a plus for anyone with sensitive skin who does not want to slather on too much product. This tanner is not a wash-off and therefore it may feel a little bit stickier than others in the same range but fortunately, the tan stays put for much longer. If your skin feels a bit rough and dry, St. Tropez Natural could be the tanner for you.

Vichy Capital Idéal Soleil Moisturizing Self Tanner Milk, Sunless Tanning Lotion for Face & Body, Paraben Free, 3.38 Fl Oz
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Vichy Capital Idéal Soleil Moisturizing Self Tanner Milk, Sunless Tanning Lotion for Face & Body, Paraben Free, 3.38 Fl Oz
The Vichy brand is renowned for its water-based, hypoallergenic and skin-friendly products. The Vichy Capital Soleil Self Tan is no exception.

This hydrating cream is packed with anti-oxidation and anti-aging vitamin E. According to Vichy Laboratories, this tanner, like their other products, has been tested on sensitive skin under the supervision of clinical dermatologists. The Vichy Capital Self Tan gradually tans the skin and keeps the skin moisturized for up to 8 hours. The result is a healthy-looking streak-free, non-greasy skin texture.

Sisley Self Tanning Hydrating Body Skin Care 150ml/5oz
Dry skin types will particularly benefit from the Sisley Self-Tanning solution. This hydrating lotion contains ingredients that boost blood circulation and help the skin to retain water. Some notable luxurious and soothing ingredients include vegetal glycerine, vitamin E, stevia leaf and sunflower oil all of which work to keep the skin hydrated.

This product, however, contains the color agents erythrulose and DHA. While some people may be allergic to these agents, DHA and erythrulose give the skin a long-lasting luminous radiance. The Sisley self-tan stays put for much longer, which is a good thing for those with dry skin as you only need a few applications to maintain a healthy-looking flawless tan.


Experts recommend that you first treat your skin problem and wait at least two weeks before applying a gentle tanning product. You should also adopt a strict skin care routine that includes using a gentle exfoliator and a moisturizer containing soothing ingredients such as Aloe Vera to keep your skin soft and supple.