What’s the best fake tan for sun-kissed skin?

woman on beach tan
Gilly Ferguson,-Contributing Editor

The world’s best self-tanners (and more) – all loved by experts

Zero-streak, long-lasting, whiff-free – and easy-to-use – the best self-tanners give sublime sun-kissed skin, with zero fuss whatsoever. The (even) better fake tans come loaded with skin-soaking, dewy-inducing ingredients that take care of your skin while you tan. 

Muddled between your gelée, lotion, drops or mousse? Not sure if you’re an instant or overnight type? Buckle up for our definitive guide to all things fake tan…

Best tanning boosters

Giving all the glow of a gradual self tan + the convenience of your favourite moisturiser, boosters are The Dream for busy types who love to tan, but hate faff. Tanning drops let you call the shots – simpy add to your favourite moisturiser and massage in as usual – while after-sun tan extenders work to soothe and hydrate skin with low-dosage self-tan DHAs to supercharge sun-kissed skin. 

Best overnight self-tanners

The OG of fake tans, slept-in formulas give a deliciously deep, great golden glow – while you snooze. After eight(ish) hours of development time, you wake up looking like you’ve spent two weeks in the Caribbean, rested and radiant.

Vita Liberata Head VIP Tanner Clara Anderson says: ‘Overnight tanners put me in the best mood! Just apply, fall asleep and rinse off during your morning shower.’ Not sure whether to go lotion or mousse? ‘A lotion has a richer consistency that’s best for dry, dehydrated skin. A mousse is light and fluffy, so it’s easy to apply and will glide nicely over skin.' 

beach tan image

Best express tans

Not keen on sleeping in self-tan? Express it! Sure, they require more effort in a short space of time (applying and washing off one to three hours later) but they’re ideal for busy and/or spontaneous types looking for a deeper, quicker sunless tan that won’t compromise your sheets. Apply, time, rinse and you’re ready!

Best gradual tans

Like a booster, but without the need for a separate moisturiser, a gradual tan fits seamlessly into your morning routine. ‘Always apply with a mitt to protect your palms for the most flawless finish. As there’s no guide colour in a gradual tan, apply in circular movements around each part of the body. Build up your tan over as many days as needed,’ says Clara. 'Wait until your skin is dry to the touch before getting dressed.'

Best face tanners

Massaged onto a well cleansed and exfoliated face, the best fake tans for the face are super-flawless, super-customisable and super-easy to use. St Tropez’s ultra-fine Face Mist settles beautifully into the skin – simply blend in with a brush for a pro-level tan – while Tan-Luxe’s Serum is loaded with (hydrating) Hyaluronic Acid and broad-spectrum SPF, genius. 

Best instant tan

For spontaneously sunny days and last-minute plans, there are instant tans – your fast track to gorgeous, healthy-looking, sun-kissed skin in three minutes flat. Clara recommends using a mitt, even for wash-off versions: ‘Even tinted moisturisers can stain your hands and leave telltale signs around your nails. And wash it off in the evening before bed.’

tanning pale skin image

Best self-tanners for pale skin

Choose fair/medium formulas with dihydroxyacetone (DHA, which reacts with skin to temporarily darken the appearance of your skin). The trick? Moisturise. ‘With pale skin, less is usually more,’ says Clara. ‘Moisturise drier areas – knees, ankles, elbows, wrists. Apply product, preferably with a mitt, then dilute the dry areas again with moisturiser for a natural-looking tan.’

Best self-tan bolt-ons

The secret to applying self tan like a pro? Here’s what the experts keep in their kit for a blotch-free bronze…

How to remove self-tan

Accidentally had a Ross from Friends ‘I’m an eight!’ tan?! Happens to the best of us. St Tropez Tanning Expert Michaella Bolder reveals how to improve or remove your fake tan:

Preparation is key! Always exfoliate a few hours before you apply a new layer of self-tan and ensure you avoid any oil-based shower gels. 

Powder power. Love the gym? Don't love sweating your self-tan off? Use a large fluffy brush to apply talc post-tan and pre-workout to prevent tan from transferring onto your clothes.

Treat your hands and feet.  Our hands and feet are some of the driest parts on our body and should be treated differently. For hands, make a claw with the hand and mist St Tropez Purity Face Mist over the area, or glide over these areas using the residual product left on the mitt. 

Remove like a pro. If all else fails, removal can be the best solution and doesn’t need to be a hassle. St Tropez Tan Remover is quick and easy to use. 

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