The best fake tans to try this summer

Hello, holiday glow

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By Elle Turner on

If you're not a sun-worshipper or are universally pale no matter how much sun you see, your best bet for a bit of glow is fake tan. They've come on leaps and bounds since the stinky, streaky, Bisto-coloured monstrosities of old, with instant, buildable and overnight options all making their way on to the market. More sophisticated than their predecessors, these don't turn your bedsheets orange, are less likely to stripe and have excellent staying power to keep you looking sunkissed for longer. Here's the best of the bunch to try this summer.

Best for rookies: Sienna X 1hr Self-Tan Tinted Mist

An aerosol spray that evenly distributes a lightweight layer of tan across your body. The guide colour is a lovely light bronze, so you can see where you're applying it; the tan then develops depending on how long you leave it on for (one hour for light, two hours for medium and three hours for dark). It's best applied standing in the shower cubicle, or even outdoors (if you have a big hedge to hide behind) to avoid spray-painting your walls. Using a mitt, blend it in circular motions across your body to make sure that it's even.


Best for barely there: James Read Sleep Mask Tan Body

Massage this on like a moisturiser before bed (bonus: it's hydrating). Go to sleep. Wake up with an ever-so-subtle "Did you catch the sun this weekend?" tan. And, because it's designed to be used before bed, your white sheets will still be intact when you wake up in the morning.


Best for a gradual glow: St Tropez Pre-Shower Mousse

Chuck this on just before you get in the shower, leave it on for a minute while you wait for the water to warm up, then wash it off. Apply over several days to build up a gradual, really natural-looking tan. And because you're applying it over time, there's less need to worry about patches – if you miss a bit one day, chances are you'll catch it the next. For a deeper tan or quicker results, just leave it on for longer before rinsing.


Best for speed: Fake Bake 5 minute Mousse Fake Tan

Being a mousse, you need to work fast to apply this where you want it before it dries; reason being, once it's dry, it won't move. Not on to your bed sheets and not on to your clothes, making it ideal if you need to head straight out. Named 5 Minute Mousse because that's the time it takes to dry (there's no development time needed – you can just rinse off next time you shower), it's a very speedy solution. It does take a bit of rubbing in to make sure it looks even but, once done, it gives an immediate, very natural-looking tan. 


Best for whip on/wash off: BOD Bake Instant Blur

The ideal non-committal alternative to fake tan, this is more like a silky body make-up that you can blend across the areas you want to bronze. The honey colour will help to even out any discolouration (bruises, scuffs, veins, redness etc) and can be built up from natural to the colour you like. It doesn't leave legs orange and Tangoed and, because it's water- and sweat-resistant, it won't streak or shift until you shower it off.


Best for tan pros: Vita Liberata Invisi Foaming Tan Water

Best in the hands of pros, this clear tanning water means cream carpets are safe. It also means that you can't really see where you're putting it. Our editorial assistant, Emily Baker, recommends blind faith: "You've just got to trust that this is going to work – pump two or three blobs of foam on to a mitt and rub away." The liquid consistency makes it very easy to blend and less prone to patchiness than other tans (which helps when the formula is clear). The result is a deep but believable colour that looks like you've spent a couple of weeks away somewhere tropical and fabulous. Well worth the risk, we reckon.



Our love for everything from Isle of Paradise is well documented. Even so, it's worth mentioning again that this stuff is glorious. The self-tan drops in particular are an excellent way of tailoring the amount of tan you want to your exact specifications. Choose from light, medium or dark and use the pipette to squeeze a couple of drops into your existing moisturiser for both face and body, then apply as you usually would. More drops mean a deeper tan in your chosen shade. So good is its ability to even out skintones that the majority of Poolers using it have been going sans foundation. A sprinkling into your skincare every day or so will keep you nicely topped up. Just remember to wash your hands thoroughly after!


Best for blitzing patches: Bondi Sands self-Tan Eraser

If you didn't heed the above hand-washing advice, or have been over-vigorous with tanning dry patches (elbows, knees et al), you'll be needing some Bondi Sands Self-Tan Eraser to help ease the staining. The bottle tells you to put it on, wait and then wash it off but our deputy fashion and beauty editor, Hannah Banks-Walker, found it to be extra effective when applied in the bath. It may take a couple of applications and some mild elbow grease, but it can be relied upon to remove unsightly brown splodges expediently.


For our top tips on foolproof tan application click here


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