Despite how great a beach vacation glow looks, the fact remains that baking in the sun is nowhere near good for your skin in the long run. With that knowledge widely accepted, the good news is that the beauty industry has dialed up efforts to develop sunless tanning methods that give you glowing, goddess-like results, without all the risk. And the best thing about the latest generation of self-tan products? They don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, thanks to drugstore brands’ affordable iterations. If you’re looking for streak-free, fresh-from-the-tropics color, these are the best cheap self-tanners to try.
Summer's definitely the season of showing off a bit more skin, and nothing complements a slinky dress or denim cutoff shorts quite like a natural-looking dose of sun-kissed color. And sure, you could shell out for a professional to airbrush bronze pigment across your body or pay big bucks for the top-rated luxury self-tanners at Sephora — but why not pick up a lower-priced product that promises the same results during your next trip to the drugstore?
As it turns out budget-friendly skin-bronzers are easier to come by than ever before, and some of the highest rated drugstore buys will run you under $15 at checkout (a fraction of the cost compared to higher-end self-tanning products or, you know, the potential for life-threatening damage that sunbathing can cause). And based on their glowing reviews, there's no reason why you shouldn't try these cheaper alternatives this season.
Ulta's under-$15 offerings include highly rated options from brands like L'Oréal and St. Moriz, both of which boast nearly-five-star ratings on their popular products. L'Oréal's Sublime Glow Daily Moisturizer, $11.99, offers an easy-to-use lotion formula that replaces your daily lotion a few days a week to develop naturally golden color, while St. Moriz's Instant Self-Tanning Mousse, currently on sale for $10.39, is loved for its quick-dry, no-transfer formula that fades evenly (no blotches in sight).
And over at Walgreens you can get your hands on Jergens popular Natural Glow Instant Sun Sunless Tanning Mousse, $13.49, which has a 4.3 star rating and reviews that rave about the mousse's long-lasting results and light, barely noticeable scent. And for those who prefer a no-fuss application process, snag L'Oreal Paris' Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Towelettes next time you're at Target — the $8.99 six-pack of tanning wipes are so easy to use that self-tan streaks become a thing of the past.
With shorter hemlines making their way back into your closet, all signs point to skin-baring days ahead. So keep scrolling to stock up on some new sunless tanner to add to your stash (with prices this good, you'll have money left over for your summer vacation fund).
Use this 4.5 star-rated moisturizer every day in place of a lotion to gradually build pretty, natural-looking color. Fans of the product love that it goes on exactly like a lotion, so it's practically fool-proof.
This self-tanner has over 400 5-star reviews — and is currently on sale — so snag it now. Shoppers love that it dries quickly and fades naturally, so you don't have to worry about it transferring onto clothes or looking blotchy after a few showers.
Even self-tanning novices love this product, which applies easily with a tanning mitt and produces natural, believable color without any streaks or uneven spots. Plus, right now it's on sale for $10.39.
These convenient towelettes have their high rating thanks to how easy it is to swipe across skin to develop natural color, and their quick-dry formula so you can move on with your life quicker after tanning.
This 4.3-star rated tanning lotion also has a special anti-orange formula, so you can be sure your tan looks natural.
Fans of this water to mousse formula rave about how easy it is to get natural, no-streak color — and the fact that it doesn't give off that telltale self-tanner scent is a big bonus, too. It's got nearly 950 reviews and 4.2 stars.
This tanner is loved for the deep, luxurious looking color it helps you develop — and for the fact that most reviewers say nobody can ever tell it's fake.
Users give this mousse 4.3 stars for its quick-drying formula and lack of a strong self-tanner aroma. They also love that the tan doesn't transfer to clothes after drying, and lasts at least three or four days before touchups are needed.