Self-tanners are gaining popularity by the day and for good reason! They are a simple, safe, and effective alternative to dangerous UV rays. They allow you to get a beautiful summer glow with little effort or time.
However, there are a few drawbacks, and one of them is the trademark DHA smell.
Sunless tanners often get a bad reputation for having a weird smell. In this guide, I want to cover the absolute best-smelling self-tanners, why self-tanners tend to have an odd smell, and what you can do about it.
So what is the absolute best smelling self-tanner on the market? Good smells are in the nose of the beholder, but coconut or tropical scented self-tanners usually smell the best. One of my favorite self-tanners smells like orange, vanilla, and coconut.
Alright, now let’s get to those best self-tanners, and then afterward we’ll go over why self-tanners have a bad smell and a bunch of other interesting info.
7 Of The Best Smelling Self-Tanners
Before I dive into this list, I want to say that we all have different likes and dislikes when it comes to smells. I did the most in-depth research and smell testing that I could to find options that would suit almost everyone.
Of course, at the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference, but I’m pretty happy with the results on this list. I encourage you to give one of these options a chance.
Be sure to read the review carefully to make sure it is a scent you think you will enjoy and is formulated in a way that will suit your skin tone.
So, I wanted to take that work out for you. I took many hours to write this article, researching tons of products and looking back at the ones I’ve used in the past.
When I created this list I used a variety of criteria, including but not limited to:
- Smell (Good, Bad, No Smell At All)
- Skin Tone And Undertone
- Ease of Application
But enough blabbering, let’s get to those products. Just to clarify though, not all of these self-tanners are fragrance-free, some of them just have a nice aroma that does a good job of covering up the bad DHA smell.
1. St. Tropez Bronzing Face Mist
The St. Tropez tropical scented face mist is so fresh and not fake-smelling at all.
I think it smells like hibiscus tea, which is one of my favorite smells in the world. It is somewhat floral but also fruity (in the best way possible), with a hint of grapefruit.
Since it is such a gentle formula, the DHA smell is barely there. Unless you are a super-smeller, you might not even notice it at all.
It is formulated with hyaluronic acid, which makes it a great addition to your skincare routine as well as getting that lovely bronzed glow.
I don’t recommend simply spraying this onto your face directly from the bottle. Instead, spritz a kabuki brush designed for self-tanner and massage the product onto your face.
2. Tanceuticals Color Correcting Self Tanner
Tanceuticals has the freshest coconut scent of all the self-tanners that I’ve smelled. After a while, you will indeed smell that typical DHA smell, but the smell when you are applying the product is heavenly!
Some cool ingredients that are added to this formula are Mango Butter, Acai Berry, and Vitamin E. These are known as cosmeceuticals that contribute to healthy skin.
I really like Tanceuticals for people with medium to dark warm undertones. If you have fair skin or cool undertones, then this self-tanner has the potential to turn you orange.
If you have medium-dark skin with warm undertones and want the best-smelling self-tanner out there, this one is for you.
3. MineTan Coconut Water Self Tan Foam
If you are seeking that lovely coconut scent but have fair skin or a cool undertone, the MineTan Coconut Water Self Tan Foam is for you!
The smell is a very light coconut aroma. It isn’t overpowering and quite delicate.
I really like this formula because it’s infused with Coconut, Avocado, and Jojoba oils, making it one of the most moisturizing self-tan foams.
If you look at the other formulas offered by MineTan, be aware that not all of them have a nice smell.
For example, the Workout Ready formula is a great sweat-proof option but has a worse smell than the Coconut Water formula.
4. Bahama Tan Organic Self-Tanning Lotion
Bahama Tan is a very high-quality, organic self-tanner that looks and feels great on the skin. Bahama tan uses organic sugar cane to derive their DHA completely naturally.
The lotion also contains organic Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Argan Oil, and Monoi de Tahiti Oil that thoroughly moisturizes your skin and leave is feeling great. These added ingredients also smell fantastic, and thoroughly mask any weird smell that the DHA may leave on your skin.
So what is the scent of this self-tanner? It is actually unscented.
I wanted to make sure to include a few nice smelling yet unscented self-tanners on this list because some scents can be overpowering for some. However, just because it’s unscented doesn’t mean it doesn’t smell nice!
Bahama Tan is completely natural and has no parabens, gluten, toxic chemicals, or fragrances.
The way the lotion is designed makes it incredibly easy to adjust how dark you want it to end up. If you want a darker tone, you can simply layer your self-tan over a few days.
Want a little bit lighter tan? Simply apply your body lotion and then immediately apply the Bahama Tan. The lotion will dilute it and leave you with a lighter tan.
5. FakeBake Flawless Self-Tan Liquid
Alright, next on our list is a classic in the self-tanning world, Fake Bake. This is probably their most popular self-tanner that you can get.
It’s popular for good reason though, Fake Bake makes extremely high-quality products that just work really well.
But does it smell good?
I’ve tried this one before, and actually absolutely loved it. The “Black Coconut” scent is an ambiguous tropical smell, however, I quite liked it, so I had to add it to my list of the best smelling self-tanners.
The nice thing about the scent is that it does a really natural job of covering the DHA smell that you would normally have.
Fake Bake products, including this one, are really known for working well for just about any skin tone. The way they have formulated works with your skin’s natural pigment, so it’ll enhance and darken your skin in a really natural way.
This one does have a guide color, so just be aware of that. This is great if you want to make sure you get really even coverage, but if you plan on leaving it on overnight, you may just stain your clothes or sheets.
I’d also like to mention that this does not have any moisturizer aspect to it, unlike the Bahama Tan above. This is nice because it allows it to dry much quicker, however, you’ll want to be sure you moisturize before and after you apply the self-tanner.
All in all, this is a fantastic product, that won’t leave you with any weird DHA smell, can’t go wrong!
6. Botanic Tree Self Tanner
This self-tanner is marketed as “odorless” and it delivers!
While no fake tan can be completely odorless, the Botanic Tree Self Tanner is my favorite pick for those of us who want a scent-free experience.
My best description of what this self-tanning lotion smells like is natural, which in this case, is a good thing!
So what makes it smell so good? Even though it is unscented, it is jam-packed with fruit and herb extracts, including passionfruit, rosemary, moringa, and vanilla.
The shea butter, jojoba, coconut, and apricot oils soothe and nourish the skin.
7. Miami Gorgeous Organic Self-Tanning Mousse
Let’s talk about this amazing self-tanner from Miami Gorgeous. It is infused with argan oil and coconut oil, as well as other vitamins and natural oils like Elderflower and Jojoba that both smell great and leave your skin feeling fantastic.
It is all organic, including the DHA and blends really well to produce a fantastic tan. Unlike some lower-quality tanners, this one doesn’t leave any weird streaks or orange color, and because it is a mousse, it dries really quickly.
But what about the smell? Well, there isn’t really a smell. While the Botanic Tree Self Tanner has a natural smell, this one is even more scent-free.
It seems like mousses and foams might have less smell overall when compared to lotions, so that might be something to consider when shopping for the best smelling self-tanner.
Alright, now let’s chat about a few other interesting things!
Why Do Self-Tanners Smell?
If you’re been self-tanning for a while like me, you’re probably familiar with the infamous smell they leave behind. Sort of like a charged vanilla bean mixed with coconut oil? It tends to hang around you like a cloud and spoil any clothing you wear for a day or two.
Well, the culprit is an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone, or DHA. DHA is found in the vast majority of self-tanning products because it works extremely well. It’s actually a type of sugar, that can be derived either naturally or synthetically.
When the DHA comes in contact with our skin, it chemically reacts with the amino acids in dead skin cells which darkens them, forming the bronze color we’re used to. It’s perfectly safe in either form but does have a very distinct smell.
Some sunless tanning brands mask this smell with other fragrance and aromas, and some have found a way to not make it smell at all.
How Can I Prevent Fake Tan From Smelling?
Just about every self-tanning product contains DHA, which itself does have kind of a weird smell, so we start from a rough spot. All the tanners I ranked up above either mask it with chemical technology, or cover it with a great scent.
However, there are a few other things we can do to prevent the smell from sticking around or overwhelming us.
- After the self-tanning product has had ample time to fully develop, a good long shower and gentle cleanse should remove just about any remaining smell. Make sure you don’t exfoliate after your tan, as we don’t want to take any of the color with us.
- When you are taking that shower, use a cleanser with a scent that you enjoy to help cover up any remaining smell. Or, when you get out of the shower and are moisturizing (which is super important to keep that tan lasting!), use one with a scent you love.
- Worried about walking around with that classic DHA stench? Be sure to apply your self-tanner before you go to bed, and then just take a quick rinse in the morning. This will give the product ample time to produce a great looking tan before you wash anything off.
All Self-tanners are going to have a bit of a scent, either good or bad. How good or bad it smells really depends on you, and what you enjoy.
Try out some of the self-tanners in the list above if you’re worried about your fake tan turning people off, and let me know in the comments below how it worked for you!