The best fake tans for a year-round glow, plus tips on how to properly apply and remove it
We scoured the web to find the best fake tans and have paired our picks with some useful info, tips and tricks to help you apply and remove your tan like a pro.
Nothing feels better than that post-holiday glow, but cooler weather, concerns around sun exposure, and the importance of SPF sun creams can prevent our sun-drenched dreams from being a year-round reality. Luckily there’s always fake tan. At-home self-tanners are a sun-safe and cost-effective solution to help beauty lovers get their glow on.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, fake tan can be a risky business. We’ve all heard of (and lived through) the nightmare of streaky legs, ruined bed sheets, and smelling like a pack of digestives, all in pursuit of a perfect tan, but trust me, there is a better way. Finding the right fake tan for you is essential in achieving a natural result, as is proper removal and application with a tanning mitt, and we’re here to help.
The Recommended scoured the web to find the best fake tans for every need and have paired our picks with some useful tips and tricks to help you apply and remove your tan like a pro (you’re welcome).
The best fake tans at a glance:
- Best gradual tan: Garnier Summer Body Gradual Self Tan Moisturiser
- Best tanning mousse: St Tropez Classic Self Tan
- Best express tan: St Tropez Express Bronzing Mousse
- Best for pale skin: Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk
- Best cruelty-free fake tan: Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam
- Best affordable tan: St Moriz Professional Instant Tanning Mousse
- Best tanning drops: Isle of Paradise Fake Tan Drops
- Best tanning water: Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Water
- Best face tan: Collistar Self Tanning Face Magic Drops
- Best tanning mist: Garnier Ambre Solaire Natural Bronzer Self Tan Mist
The 10 best fake tans of 2022
Best gradual tan: Garnier Summer Body Gradual Self Tan Moisturiser
This gradual self-tan moisturiser has become an industry favourite and allows you to subtly build your tan to your desired shade.
This gradual self-tan moisturiser is available in both light and dark formulas and works to deliver 24-hour moisture while adding a subtle, buildable glow. The lightweight formula absorbs quickly into the skin and applies easily for even application.
Best tanning mousse: St Tropez Classic Self Tan
A trusted classic
The St Tropez Classic Self Tanning Mousse has earned cult-classic status and promises up to ten days of streak-free colour.
This classic tanning mousse develops over 4-8 hours and is available in a range of shades to suit every skin tone. This lightweight, jojoba oil-infused formula has won multiple awards thanks to its non-sticky feel, even fade, and lack of biscuity smell.
Best express tan: St Tropez Express Bronzing Mousse
For fast results
If you’re short on time, The St Tropez Express Bronzing Mousse delivers an even tan in between 1 and 3 hours, depending on the desired shade.
This express tan is 100% clean and vegan-friendly and has won three Hall of Fame awards. This express tanning mouse features a light foam formula that absorbs quickly and evenly into the skin for a natural-looking tan.
Best for pale skin: Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk
This gradual tanning milk helps add a buildable natural glow, perfect for paler skin tones.
This tanning milk is enriched with vitamin E, aloe vera, and cocoa butter that work to hydrate the skin while leaving a subtle cocoa scent. This product absorbs quickly into the skin for fuss-free application and builds an eve glow in 1-3 uses.
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Best cruelty-free fake tan: Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam
This bronzing foam is made with a vegan, cruelty-free, natural formula that has zero nasties for a healthy, even glow.
The Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam features a fast drying- lightweight formula and develops in just 2 hours. This self-tanner is infused with amino acids, botanicals, and raw virgin coconut to hydrate the skin while blurring imperfections.
Best affordable tan: St Moriz Professional Instant Tanning Mousse
Value for money
This instant tanning mousse is super affordable and offers an even, natural-looking tan.
The St Moritz Professional Instant Tanning Mousse uses a unique blend of tanning actives to create a natural-looking tan in 4-6 hours. This lightweight formula is enriched with aloe vera and vitamin E that works to hydrate and nourish the skin.
Best tanning drops: Isle of Paradise Fake Tan Drops
These tanning drops can be added to your favourite moisturiser or body cream to create a custom glow.
These self-tanning drops are made with a colour-correcting formula, using green pigments to correct red tones and deliver a natural bronze. Cruelty-free and vegan-friendly, these tanning drops are enriched with a blend of 7 superfoods that work to brighten and nourish the skin as well as provide anti-ageing benefits.
Best tanning water: Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Water
This cruelty-free, vegan formula works to correct red tones and deliver a natural tan with a lightweight, gentle formula.
This self-tan-infused water mist is formulated with grapefruit, chia seed, and avocado oils and works to nourish and hydrate the skin. This product has no guide colour, so it won't block your pores or transfer onto your bed sheets, and it features a refreshing cucumber and eucalyptus scent.
Best face tan: Collistar Self Tanning Face Magic Drops
To nourish and brighten
These face tanning drops develop in less than an hour for a natural-looking, long-lasting bronze glow.
These tanning drops are formulated with vitamin E and a derivative of biotech maize that works to deeply hydrate the skin and minimise signs of ageing. This silky formula absorbs quickly into the skin and is delicate for easy and pleasant application.
Best tanning mist: Garnier Ambre Solaire Natural Bronzer Self Tan Mist
This ultra-fine mist is made with a plant-based formula and works to deliver an even, long-lasting tan.
The Garnier Ambre Solare Tanning Mist is infused with nourishing apricot oil for a hydrating tan and absorbs quickly, leaving no streak and no need to rub in. This tanning mist is buildable, allowing you to adjust your shade to suit your skin tone and desired results.
How to apply fake tan
Now you’ve found your perfect tan, here are eight steps for applying fake tan to get the best results.
- Exfoliate: It is important to exfoliate the skin before tanning to remove any dead and dry skin that the tan may cling to. We want to avoid the patchy look, so it’s best to exfoliate 24 hours before for optimal results.
- Remove hair 24 hours before tanning: If you choose to remove body hair, it's best to do this 24 hours before applying a fake tan. Tan can stick to loosened pores, leading to darker spots and an uneven finish.
- Avoid deodorant and perfume: It is best to avoid using deodorant and perfumed products before applying tan as they can leave a layer on the skin and stop your tan from absorbing properly. Some can also cause self-tanners to turn green, which is not the best look if you ask us.
- Moisturise just before tanning: Having hydrated, even skin is essential just before tanning as it will allow for the most even and natural-looking application.
- Use a tanning mitt and/or buffing brush: Using a tanning mitt will allow you to buff the tan into your skin evenly and avoid streaks. Using a blending brush for your face, wrists, ankles, and other hard-to-reach areas can also allow for a more seamless application.
- Wash your hands straight away: Make sure to wash your hands after applying fake tans to avoid patchy build-up and streaky palms.
- Wash off tan with cool water: When your tan has developed, wash it off with cool water and avoid soaps and scrubs that may disturb the result.
- Maintain your tan: Exfoliating every 2-3 days and using a body moisturiser after showering can help you to both prolong your tan and ensure an even fade - no one loves the patchy stage.
How to remove fake tan
- Exfoliate: Exfoliating the skin with a mitt or physical scrub will help you to evenly remove your tan and avoid patchiness. Pay attention to stubborn areas like the wrists and ankles.
- Use oil-based products: Baby oil is a great way to remove tan as oil-based products help to break down the DHA tanning agent used in many products. Add baby oil to a bath or your shower gel to remove tan, and make sure to moisturise afterwards.
The different types of fake tan
- Mousse: Tanning mousse is what you might think of as the classic tanning product. Mousses are lightweight and buff into the skin easily. They are a tried and tested favourite in the industry.
- Gradual tan: Gradual tanning lotions and moisturisers allow you to subtly build a tan over a few applications. This way, you can adjust your shade to your liking and hydrate your skin at the same time. Gradual tans are great if you want a more subtle glow.
- Tanning drops: Tanning drops can be added to your current skincare products in varying quantities depending on your desired result. This allows you to combine skincare benefits with self-tanning and create a custom shade suited to you that you can maintain as a part of your skincare routine.
- Tanning water: Tanning waters are super lightweight and gentle on the skin and absorb quickly for natural-looking results. Water won't clump or streak and also has added hydrating benefits.
- Tanning mist: Tanning mists help to leave an even finish, even in stubborn areas and typically dry quickly for easy application with minimal blending required.
Want to read more beauty product round-ups? Check out our Cosmetics page for a full list of recommendations, including our list of the best mascaras and the best foundations recommended by professional make-up artists – and check out our guide to the best value beauty advent calendars of 2022.
Isobel Nutbrown is a Staff Writer at The Recommended and works with leading industry experts to help readers make informed decisions and shop smarter online.