Whether you're hitting the coast or just popping to the shop sans-tights (brave) - give yourself a sunless tan with the Grazia edit of the best fake tans on the market.
Long-synonymous with streaks, stains and dodgy orange tones, it can be tricky to know where to start when it comes to choosing the best self tanner for you; but luckily, the new breed of smart fake tans are more innovative and easier to use than ever before. So whether you're after a flawless tan for pale skin or a self tanner that will dry in less time than it takes to prepare a pot of tea, we have you covered.
'It’s not just about glowing skin – having a golden glow on the outside also gives me confidence on the inside. I feel like I can take on the world with a tan!' says Ashley Graham, St. Tropez's new global brand ambassador.
We've rounded up the best fake tans of 2021, all tried and tested so you don't have to. Found the right fake tan for you? Make sure you read our self-tanning guide (and learn how to remove your fake tan) before you grab your tanning mitt.
SHOP: Our Self-Tanning Favourites
Summary: A nourishing tanning water featuring a blend of naturally derived tanning actives, hyaluronic acid and Vitamin D to prevent dryness.Product detail: massage 6-12 drops into the skin daily, sit back, relax, and watch your tan develop in 4-8 hours. Sunshine in a bottle.
Summary: Packed with hyaluronic acid, this lightweight formula plumps and hydrates skin whilst delivering a natural, golden glow that's completely steak-free. Product detail: Once exfoliated and moisturised, glide on the product with a mitt ensuring skin in covered.
Summary: We could go on and on about how brilliant this self-tan is. But, all you really need to know is that it lends skin an even, deep, believable tan that will have everyone asking, 'where have you been?' Product detail: This foam tan is best used after exfoliating the morning or evening before applying. It lasts for up to a week, with a fast development time of four-six hours.
Summary: Full of hydrating and rejuvenating ingredients to give you the perfect glow. It is easy to apply and buildable which allows you to use until you're feeling bronzed. Product detail: Apply the lotion evenly onto smooth, dry skin in circular motions. Ensure all skin is covered and wait until it is dry. The lotion can be used as often as needed to get your tan topped up.
Summary: A-list tanning expert, Amanda Harrington, has bottled her secret with this facial tanning mist. The idea is to use the brush, spritz it with tan, then buff it in for the most even tan yet. Product detail: After moisturising, apply the face mist onto a brush and dap off any excess. Lightly brush the product across the cheekbones, up to the forehead, whilst buffing into the hair line. Apply a small amount in circular motions to the neck and décolletage.
Summary: Cult tanning brand Isle of Paradise's Ultra Dark Mousse is your go-to if you want intense, deep results within 10 minutes. Although you'll have a dark tan, this eco-friendly product can leave you with a light conscience as it's cruelty-free, vegan, organic and – just to top it off – smells like coconut, rather than biscuits.Product detail: Exfoliate 24 hours before tanning. When applying moisturise dry areas before application. Pump the product onto a mitt, apply to the skin using broad strokes. Leave feet and hands until last and lightly sweep over them.
Summary: If you're in a rush, this quick-drying formula is the one. It develops into a deep tan (their darkest formula yet) with dual action tanning actives.Product detail: Apply product liberally to mitt, and use long sweeping motions on the skin. The remaining product on the mitt can be used for face, elbows and knees. Re-apply after 30 minutes for deeper tan and wait at least six hours before washing off.
Summary: A hydrating facial oil and fake tan all in one. Apply a few drops before bed and wake-up to a healthy, believable, bronzed glow. Product detail: This product combats problem areas whilst giving your face a tanned glow. To use, apply three to six drops directly onto the skin, in the evening, and gently massage into the skin.
Summary: The enriching jojoba oil extract in Nip + Fab's new oil will keep your skin super soft while providing a radiant, bronzed tint to suit every skin tone.Product detail: Shake before use and simply apply to the areas that you want to highlight and give a bronzed glow.
Summary: With no need to rinse off and a speedy dry time of 2 minutes, you can spritz, blend and go, for maximum efficiency. There's even a free tanning mitt. Product detail: Lightweight water-to-foam tanning product, applied in upward circular motion until areas of the skin is covered. Wait until dry to get dressed and leave to develop for six to eight hours.
Summary: Clarins' best-selling self-tanner provides a gradual, radiant, natural-looking tan.Product detail: Mix 4-6 drops in with your favourite moisturiser to tailor-make your tan.
Summary: Bali Body's best-selling mousse is 100% vegan, natural and provides that Bali radiance without the air fare.Product detail: After the tan has been applied, leave the product to develop for the length of time for your desired look. Wash after one hour for a light tan, four hours for medium tan and eight hour for the deepest tan.
Summary: By using organic botanical soaked cloths (that are also 100% biodegradable) Vita Liberata has rolled a skin treatment and golden tan solution all into one. And with ingredients to rival an acai bowl recipe, you'll not only be ready for a holiday in Bali but your skin will smell practically good enough to eat.Product detail: Use the first tanning cloth to apply onto your face, working your way down your neck, décolletage and arms. Use a second tanning cloth to tan your legs and stomach. The tan will start to develop after four to eight hours.
Summary: You can possess that unattainable (until now) and luminous glow to rival Charlotte's A-List client list. The light-reflecting pigments give skin a lovely finish, while hidden caffeine extracts reduce any signs of puffiness.Product detail: Using the roll-on applicator, apply the product down the centre of your arms and legs to the areas where the light hits the skin for a glowing finish.
Summary: The Aussies have tanning down to a T, as proven by Bondi Sands' Liquid Gold. Packed with Argan Oil, this foam guarantees not only a rich tan, but a gleaming, luxurious sheen to the skin, too.Product detail: No need for showering after application, simply apply the product generously in long sweeping motions across the body and using the excess for face, elbow and knees. Wait for the skin to be touch dry.
Summary: The permanently grey skies of Scotland have made it a surprising hub for tanning expertise. UTAN has collaborated with fellow Scot and YouTube sensation Jamie Genevieve to create Skin Idol – a tan and body makeup hybrid. Using blurring and blemish-perfecting technology, it's basically a flawless Instagram filter for your legs.Product detail: For use on your face, mix with foundation on moisturiser to get your makeup to match your skin tone after tanning.
Summary: St Tropez's latest tanning offering, in partnership with mega-babe golden goddess Ashley Graham.Product detail: This super smooth foaming mousse feels creamy and nourishing on the skin, leaving you with a deep, rich tan developing over eight-hours.
Summary: From the founders of the infamous Coco & Eve hair mask, Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing foam is streak-free, stress-free and biscuit-y smell-free. Product detail: Available in three olive-based shades, choose 'Medium' for lighter skin with pink undertones, 'Dark' for medium tones looking a post-holiday radiance and 'Ultra Dark' for deeper skin craving an added glow boost.
How to use a self tanner
First up, if you need to shave or wax make sure you do it 24-48 hours before applying your fake tan. Otherwise, you might damage the colour.
Start by using a gentle exfoliating product and a washcloth or sponge to remove any dead cells from the skin, then dry off thoroughly. Next, Jules Von Hep, co-founder and creative director of cult brand Isle of Paradise has a sneaky tip for avoiding those unmistakeable orange hands and feet: 'Ensure you moisturise the hands and feet PRIOR to tan application, and hang a towel on the back of your door and rub your wrists together - this removes those pesky tell-tale tan lines!'
Now for tan-time. Apply the self tanner section by section, starting with your legs and working your way up, using a mitt to buff the product into your skin in circular motions, remembering to be careful around joint areas like ankles, knees and wrists.
After application, allow the tan to dry for at least 15 minutes, avoiding contact with anything (or anyone) before allowing it to develop for seven or eight hours (we advise leaving it on overnight, wearing baggy PJs) before showering.
How does fake tan work?
Most fake tans contain Dihydroxyacetone, more commonly referred to as DHA. This natural carbohydrate reacts with oxygen in the air and amino acids in the skin and gradually darkens.
How to fake tan your face
The face can be tricky to fake tan, mainly because it's so easy to go wrong. So, go slow. Remember it's better to apply more later than apply too much at once. Start with the areas where the tan develops the quickest (nose, forehead, chin and the centre of your cheeks) and work your way out. Top tip: apply Vaseline to your eyebrows before tanning to avoid darkening them.
How to fake tan your back
Aside from asking your house mate, sister or significant other for a helping hand, there are two methods we use to apply fake tan to our backs. The first is opting for a spray product - this generally allows you to achieve 360 coverage. For the second option, you'll need a mitt, a long armed loofa and an elastic band. Can you see where this is going? Tie the mitt to the end of the loofa with your elastic band and there you have it - a third arm to tan those difficult to reach areas.
How to remove fake tan
To gradually and evenly remove fake tan, wash with a light exfoliator and sponge. This will avoid patchiness. For a quick fix, there are many home removal tips that you can try including mixing lemon juice with baking soda or spending 20 minutes in a bath containing half a cup of baby oil. Several brands have also launched fake tan remover.