Best Fake Tan | 15+ Top Tanning Products For Body And Face

It goes without saying that – heatwave or no heatwave – the best kind of tan is the kind that comes from a bottle, not from slow-cooking your poor delicate complexion in these apocalyptical climes.

What’s more, today’s best fake tans are seriously good, offering up that post-holiday gleam with none of the usual unwanted caveats. Gone are the days of streaky knees, patchy elbows and smelling like gingerbread, because the top tanning lotions (and mists, and oils) on the shelves are way ahead of all that.

But first, the rules – and there are plenty to heed. Anyone who has hurriedly slapped on a tanning mousse and hoped for the best will tell you that, when it comes to faking that Santorini glow, there are no short-cuts. Only a bad tanner blames their tools, so pay close attention to the pro advice before making your fake-tan selection.

How To Apply Fake Tan Successfully

Prep Your Bod

If you want your self tan to stick around, you need to prep your skin. Yes, this is laborious, but stick Spotify on and grab the body scrub, or you’ll only regret it later. Applying colour over skin that hasn’t been exfoliated means your tan will fade as your dry skin cells shed, which is how you end up with flaky patches.

Scrubbing the surface ensures a smooth, even canvas for your tan to grip on to. ‘I urge all tanning pros at home to exfoliate gently the morning or evening before tanning application – you’ll really notice a difference in the strength of the tan,’ says leading tanning expert James Harknett. Choose one that isn’t loaded with oils (St. Tropez makes a specialist one) to ensure it doesn’t interfere with your tanning product taking hold.

Next, moisturising. Harknett advises holding off on the moisturiser, as it’s likely to cause streaks and blotches. The only areas of your bod you should be moisturising are those that feel excessively dry. ‘Tan can over absorb in these parts of the body so just moisturise delicately on them, especially on the ankle bone,’ he says.

This is a sentiment Jules Von Hep, founder of Isle of Paradise, agrees with. His top tip? ‘Apply a light layer of hand cream to your wrists to help avoid the annoying muddy marks that always accumulate there.’

Get A Mitt

First thing’s first, don’t use your bare hands – even when the Uber is waiting and you told your mates you were on your way 20 minutes ago. A mitt is a must, and a fancy one with a velvety finish (like this one) is the key to an even finish, especially on your back.

When wielding your mitt, be sure to move in sweeping motions, rather than in circles, as this will distribute your product more evenly. And, to avoid any tan creeping into your palms, perhaps pop some latex gloves on beforehand.

Master The Tricky Bits

An even tan on your limbs is easy enough to master, but it’s the finishing touches that are most likely to give away your bottle bronze. To avoid those tell-tale signs of a fake-tan session, apply the product left on your mitt to the backs of your hands and your feet.

Oh, and some sage advice for sandal season? ‘Put a towel on the floor prior to application, as this will prevent the tanning water from absorbing on the soles of your feet,’ says Von Hep.

If you don’t quite have the contortionist skills to tan your own back, try turning your mitt around so the applicator side is on the back of your hand: this will give you greater flexibility. Alternatively, enlist your housemate.

Time Your Shave Correctly

We’ve all been there: you’ve spent a good hour waiting for your fake tan to develop, only to wash it off and notice a speckled rash all over your legs.

‘If you seem to have little brown dots appearing on your legs, particularly on the shins after tanning, then you are shaving too close to your tan application,’ says Harknett.’

Shave at least twenty-four hours before and the pores will then have time to seal over again. Any waxing is best done two days before, as this will also allow any wax residue to be washed away.

Make It Last

Just like when you’ve popped to a salon, once you’ve finished bronzing at home you need to take care of your tan while it develops. This means loose clothes – preferably dark ones – no sweaty workouts, and the dishes will probably have to wait until you’ve rinsed off too (shame).

Speaking of rinsing off – and we’re getting seriously specific now – make sure the temperature of your shower is just right. Water that’s too hot will strip all your hard work away, while cold water will leave you feeling sticky. The best middle ground is a lukewarm temperature.

Now you’re armed with the knowledge, it’s time to choose from our edit of the best tried-and-tested fake tans: there’s one for each and every predilection.

The Best Fake Tans To Try Now

Amanda Harrington


Amanda Harrington is the woman behind every great red-carpet glow, so you can trust her eponymous at-home tanning line to be seriously trustworthy. A new take on the classic mousse, this frothy, ultra-blendable fake tan comes in three shades that, rather than simply offering different intensities of brown, work with your natural undertones to ensure the result looks natural. Those with pale, pinkish skin will love Rose, while Olive is perfect for warmer skin tones. For a truly seamless result, we recommend doing as the pro does, and buffing it in with the specially designed brush.


The body illuminator

Glam Glow

Want a product that does more than just give you sun-kissed skin? Combining a natural tan with Omorovicza’s antioxidant complex, apricot seed and jojoba oils, Glam Glow gives limbs that immediate post-holiday gleam while improving their appearance and texture with every application.


The luxe lotion

Self Tanning Hydrating Body Skin Care

This velvety cream is formulated with skin-nourishing ingredients including sesame extract and macadamia oil and delivers a luminous tan that begins to develop after just two hours, leaving you just enough time to get started on your hair and make-up before a night out.


The face illuminator

Tea To Tan Face And Body

As the name might have given away, this cult bronzing water contains antioxidant tea extracts to brighten your complexion, while the customisable formula allows you to decide exactly how deep you want your tan. Mixed with a subtle shimmer, this face and body spray is a great option to elevate your summer nights and give your skin a boost of glow in the winter.


The pro hack

Self-Tanning Water Refill Pouch

By now you’re probably familiar with Isle Of Paradise’s brilliant body-positive, colour-coded fake tan family. But the real pros know to ditch the traditional bottles and reach instead for this lower-plastic refill pouch, applying it via the frankly genius 360-degree Tan Mister for a result that looks salon-standard, no matter your skill level. Ideal for tanning your own back.


The subtle spritz

Soleil Sun Self-Tanning Water

If you’re in the market for a high-fashion tan that wouldn’t look out of place backstage at PFW, Dior’s self-tanning water is for you. The super-fine mist diffuses evenly for a non-streaky application, ensuring a result that’s more weekend in St. Tropez than summer season on Ibiza.


The can’t-go-wrong option

Self-Tanning Tinted Gel

There’s a reason Clarins has won endless awards for its bronzing products. Apply this lightweight, non-oily gel before you get dressed without worrying about fake tan transfer and let the plant extract-infused formula do its work, while you’re at work.


The dry oil

Coconut Dry Body Tan Oil

James Read’s coconut-scented tanning line smells so much nicer than your usual biscuit-tinged formula. Not only that, but this dry oil spray is a cinch to use: the hydrating texture means you won’t end up with scaly patches, while the clear finish won’t ruin those crisp white bedsheets.


The face drops

Super Glow Hyaluronic Self-Tan Serum

There are plenty of facial tanning drops on the market now, but this is the bottle that started the stampede, and it still hasn’t been matched. The silky formula inside is a skin hydrator first and a fake tanner second: what you get is essentially a hyaluronic-acid serum that happens to bronze your complexion as it plumps and smooths.Apply it every day until you’ve reached your desired level of glow, then pare back to bi-weekly top-ups.


The instant tan

Body Blur

Consider this your special-occasion ally. Part instant tan, part body make-up, Vita Liberata’s silky lotion works to unify your skin tone while adding a radiant veil of colour, masking redness and uneven skin tone the process. We achieved the best results by applying with a large (cream, not powder) make-up brush.


The quick one

1 Hour Express Self Tan

When you don’t have time to faff around, Bali Body’s super-fast mousse is the best bottle to reach for. It’s dark, but doesn’t veer into terracotta territory, and can be rinsed off after just one hour.


The everyday face tanner

Bio Sun Aqua Gelee Autobronz



Cult hero klaxon! This unassuming little bottle is hands-down the best instant face bronzer we’ve tried. It’s a gel serum texture, so sinks into skin instantly, and develops over the course of a few applications into the most natural, skin-enhancing tan. Don’t expect Benidorm ’18 levels of tan, but rather an everyday glow that elicits a lot of ‘you look nice’s’.


The gradual tan

Summer Body Lotion

It’s not new, buzzy or famous on social media, but sometimes the old classics just can’t be beaten. Garnier’s gradual fake tan is the gradual fake tan: it’s lightweight, moisturises properly, and smells genuinely pleasant. For a light but buildable everyday bronze, stop the search here.


The gentle glow

Pure Self Tan Foaming Water

There are plenty of buzzy new tanning formulas out there, but many don’t stand up to their promises. Bondi Sands’ unique ‘foaming water’, however, delivers the glowiest, most believable tan after one quick application. There’s a bit of a knack to getting the best results: use a mitt, and be quick to blend the product, as it dries quicker than most. But trust us: you’ll be left with the most even, radiant tan that never turns orangey and fades on its own accord without those dreaded scaly patches.


The easy mist

Self Tan Purity Vitamins Bronzing Water Body Mist

Ignore all the ‘purity’ spiel on the front of this one: you’re not here for the vitamins it purportedly contains. You’re here because this watery mist applies evenly, dries without stickiness, and develops over the course of a day into a beautifully believable glow. For anyone after a beginners bronze, this is your best choice.

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