As a self-confessed fake tan addict, I have tried every formula around. From those under £3 that you’d slather on before a uni night out to the expert-approved lotions used backstage at fashion week, I’m fairly confident in saying that there’s not a fake tan formula currently on the market that I have not tried. Which means you’re in luck, because if you’re on the hunt for the best fake tan, I can help.
Whether you’re notoriously bad at doing your pre-tan prep and want a seamless formula that requires little skill to apply, or you’re in need of an ultra-natural glow, I’ve tried hundreds of fake tans and whittled down the best of the best. Let’s glow…
Which is the best fake tan?
First things first, finding the best fake tan for your skin starts with the formula. Are you a mousse kinda girl? Do you love a lotion? Maybe a tanning mist is best? Each different texture has its own advantages but really, the preference is up to you.
Which type of fake tan is best for me?
Fake tan mousse
Mousse fake tans are easy to apply, thanks to their air-whipped texture. They glide smoothly onto the skin and usually come with a base colour, making it easy to see if you’ve missed any white patches. Mousse formulas often dry super speedily too, making them a great option if you want to apply and go.
Fake tan lotion
Fake tan lotions are fab if you’ve got drier skin. While mousse formulas are great, they can be slightly drying on the skin, whereas lotion formulas are often packed with skin-nourishing ingredients, such as aloe vera and hyaluronic acid. Some lotions come with a base colour to help ensure you get an even finish, whereas others are clear on application – making them trickier to apply, but at least they won’t wreck your sheets if you sleep in them!
Fake tan mist
If you’re after a pro-level application, mists are the way to go. When applied with a mitt (spritz first and then buff in), fake tan mists give a flawless, even application – as if you’d been for a professional spray tan. Mists can also be great for ensuring you’ve covered those pesky hard-to-reach areas, like your back.
What’s the best way to apply fake tan?
I know, I know, you’ve heard it a million times before but it’s true. The key to a flawless fake tan lies in the application. But it doesn’t have to be an arduous task. Follow my fool proof guide and you’ll be golden…
Before tanning, make sure you give your skin a good scrub in the shower. The best way to do this is by using exfoliating gloves, as many scrub products contain oils that will leave a residue on your skin post-shower and result in a blotchy tan, Superdrug Spaa Coarse Exfoliating Body Gloves, £3.49, are great). Focus on your knees, elbows, ankles and wrists – these drier areas are often where tan clings to.
Psst: if you’re going to shave your legs, try to do this at least 12 hours before applying your tan, as the product can settle in freshly shaved hair follicles, creating the dreaded dotted legs effect.
2. Moisturise key areas only
When you’re fake tanning, skip the body moisturiser. Apply only to your hands, feet, knees and elbows to create a barrier between these dry areas and your skin. Applying moisturiser anywhere else will dilute the tan and create potential for streaks.
3. Always use a mitt
Tanning 101: always, always, always use a mitt. They’re the easiest way to apply tan and ensure you don’t get orange hands. Start at your feet and apply the product upwards in sweeping motions, then use circular motions to ensure everything is buffed nicely into the skin. Try Bondi Sands Self Tan Application Mitt, £6.
4. Invest in a brush
For a seriously flawless finish, I like to use a brush to apply tan to trickier areas, like my hands, feet and face. You can use a kabuki brush for this such as this one by Coco & Eve, or simply a clean foundation or fluffy blusher brush like this E.l.f. one. Use a stippling motion to really work the formula into these areas (if you’re feeling brave, you can even apply more and try contouring!) and don’t forget your ears – a key spot people always miss.
The best fake tans, hall of fame style:
Now you’re ready to getting tanning – here’s our edit of the best fake tans, there’s something here for everyone from the novice to the pro.
Best fake tan for a golden glow
This Self Tan Luxe Whipped Crème Mousse really is the best I’ve tried for a deep, golden glow. It’s enriched with hydrating hyaluronic acid, rosehip oil and vitamin E – helping to not only ensure a flawless application, but a long-lasting finish. Plus, it’s touch-dry within seconds and has a subtle scent that’s in no way ‘fake tanny.’ Adore.
Best fake tan for building up a natural look
This clever gradual tan lotion is a winner for those who want a buildable tan and natural-looking glow all year round. It doesn’t have a base colour, meaning you can apply it and get dressed without the risk of transfer. The hydrating formula will develop over eight hours, leaving you glowing and golden. Simply apply like you would anybody moisturiser and get ready to glow.
Best fake tan for lightweight, natural glow
Available in three shades (light, medium and dark) this face tanning mist is brilliant for a natural glow that leaves you looking suitably sunkissed. Its clear formula is lightweight, quick-drying and contains skin-friendly antioxidants. I like to apply it with a kabuki or foundation brush and watch the colour develop over 4-8 hours. You can even apply it under foundation as the final step in your morning skincare routine. Genius!
Best fake tan for customising your shade
If customisable tan is your kinda thing, then you’ll love these self-tanning drops. Simply mix them into your favourite body moisturiser and you’ve got yourself a gradual fake tan. You can build up the intensity depending on how golden you want to go – just add more drops for a deeper colour payoff. Plus, they’re super skin friendly, so you can use them on your face without the risk of breaking out.
Best fake tan for salon-worthy spray at home
Try using Tanologist Self Tan Water together with the brand’s genius Atomiser Spray Bottle £9.99. The Febreze-like applicator bottle allows you to apply the tan in steady sweeping motions, creating a continuous, ultra-fine mist that expertly blends into the skin with ease. It also makes tanning your back a breeze.
Best fake tan for beginners
If you’re a fake tan novice and concerned about trying out a new formula, this Aussie brand is best for a subtle glow. The mousse formula means it’s seriously foolproof to apply, and the light/medium shade is ideal if you have a fair complexion and want to look naturally sunkissed. It also has a great range for darker skin tones too, with ‘dark’ and ‘ultra dark’ options that also have zero orange undertones. Plus, the formula is enriched with aloe vera and vitamin E, giving a smooth, hydrated finish.
Now you’ve nailed the art of the perfect fake tan, read on for our guide to how to remove fake tan. Whether you want to start from scratch, or just tidy up some streaky areas, we’ve got you covered with the best self-tan removal products.