10 Under $20: Self-Tanners
Bondi Sands Wash Off Instant Tan
Australians know a thing or two about looking bronzed and beautiful. For commitment-free color, this wash-off formula from the country's number-one self-tanning brand is an ideal option. If you can't decide between the two shades, err on the lighter side, since the dark goes on dark. Be sure to blend well after you spray it on and let it dry thoroughly, but once it's set, it stays put. And unlike other similar options that require vigorous scrubbing to remove, this came right off with just a little soap and warm water (or try our preferred removal method, an exfoliating face wipe).
Hard Candy Glow All the Way
With both instant and long-term effects, you get the best of both worlds in one tube—an immediately noticeable bronze, which gradually turns into a more long-lasting tan. It's shimmery for sure, so we prefer to reserve this one strictly for evening events and specifically for our arms and legs, where glistening skin is always welcome.
NKD Skin Pre-Shower Tan
If your least favorite part about self-tanning is not being able to shower afterward, you'll love this newbie. Slather it on, then wait ten minutes before going about your normal shower routine. The product washes off, while the color develops over the next few hours (but to be safe, it's probably best to avoid using brand-new white towels to dry off).
L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Summer Express Wash-Off Face Bronzer Cream
For those who want something stronger than just basic bronzer but aren't quite ready to apply self-tanner on their face, here's a good choice. You'll get more pigment than a regular cream bronzer, yet the color is temporary and comes off when you wash your face. We did find it a tad too dark for our medium-light complexion (it's only available in one shade), but mixing in a few drops of plain moisturizer lightened it up and made application even smoother.
There's more than one reason this is a longtime favorite of Allure staffers (and a three-time Best of Beauty winner). The cult classic is the gold standard to which we hold all gradual self-tanners, thanks to the completely natural, sun-kissed color that slowly shows up after a few days. Oh, and that there's not even the slightest hint of that gross self-tanner smell.
The blendability of this temporary tanner can't be beat, while the water- and transfer-resistant formula means you don't have to worry about telltale streaking if you get caught in a rainstorm or brush up against someone's white jeans. We did find that it took more than the recommended few minutes before it was totally set, so the longer you can let it dry, the better.
Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Sunless Tanner
Natural brands aren't necessarily known for self-tanners, but this version, which lacks any parabens or artificial colors, is the exception. True to the name, it's superrich, great for spreading on larger parts of the body, but almost a little too thick to get even coverage on some of the trickier spots, like elbows and ankles. Dab on sparingly and be extra vigilant about blending in those areas.