The scariest part of using a self tanner is the general uncertainty of what will happen when the color develops. Even if you follow all the steps (exfoliate beforehand, wear a tanning mitt, and work in small, circular motions), if you're using the wrong formula, you can end up with a tan that's too dark or streaky.
If a subtle, barely-there glow is your objective, tanning expert Jordan Cook says it's best to use a gradual tanner. "There is such minimal room for error with a gradual tanner," Cook explains. "You're in control of development time, so you can use it for a few days in a row to build a tan, and then stop when you've reached your desired level of darkness. You're not going to get overnight results, but working in incremental layers means you're avoiding a big potential fail."
Ahead, find the best gradual — and natural, and buildable — sunless tanners to grab before bare-legs season is upon us.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.