The Best Gradual Tanners For A Sun-Safe Golden Glow

Shop from our edit of the best gradual tan to achieve a natural glow

by Chloe Burcham |

Want to nail a natural, believable bronze? Look no further than our round-up of the best gradual tan to recently hit the market. Far more forgiving than many one-off fake tans, gradual tan slowly builds up colour each time you use it. This way you can start off with less and gradually apply more to build up intensity without a streak in sight. The result? A sun-kissed golden glow.

Now that the sun isn't quite as bright, we wouldn't blame you for wanting to get bronzed. But reaching for a bottle of the fake stuff is always key. Jules Von Hep, tanning expert and founder of Isle of Paradise says, 'Having a tan is like having an injection of confidence. Limbs look leaner and a sun-kissed glow makes everyone look healthier. Tanning can be daunting for novices, but there is no need to be reluctant with a gradual tan.'

Want to discover the best gradual tan for your skin? Keep scrolling for all the tanning tips, application hacks and our edit of favourite fake tans below.

What Is Gradual Tan?

Somewhere between a moisturiser and fake tan, gradual tanning products are designed to create a soft, natural glow that can be built up every day. Fake tan, in comparison, creates instant results that are often more noticeable than a gradual tan.

How Long Does Gradual Tan Take To Develop?

According to tanning pro and founder of her eponymous range Amanda Harrington, the gradual tan will take two to three days to develop for a sun-kissed finish. 'The beauty of gradual tan is its ability to be topped up every few days to keep up a consistent colour.'

How Should You Apply Gradual Tan?

'Always exfoliate and moisturise before tanning, but not right before – give your moisturiser time to sink into the skin before applying your tan, otherwise, it will just sit on the surface.'

'Apply a heavy-duty moisturiser or a little Vaseline on areas like the inside of your arms, elbows, knees and ankles that are susceptible to a build-up of colour and are usually the problem spots for at-home tanning.'

And finally, don’t forget to use a mitt to apply your gradual tanner or wash your hands well after application – nothing says ‘This colour’s from a bottle!’ like tell-tale orange palms…

Does Gradual Tan Wash Off?

There’s no need to worry about your golden glow disappearing after a shower or dip in the pool, as long as you’ve left it on at least 4-8 hours before. We recommend applying after a shower so the product has a good amount of time to sink in and work its magic before you wash again. If you’re on holiday and in and out of the pool or sea it is probably best to apply in the evening or before bedtime. To keep up a solid tan you can use your gradual tanning moisturiser on a daily basis.

Does Gradual Tan Go Patchy?

Because gradual tanner contains DHA (the tanning agent) it can rub off and stain clothes or sheets. However, thanks to the lower concentration in gradual tanner versus classic fake tan, the stains and patches are less severe.

'To avoid patches and stains use a mitt during application and let the gradual tan sink into the skin fully before putting on clothes or getting into bed - this should only take 10 minutes or so,' advises Heptonstall.

Can You Use Gradual Tan On Your Face?

Gradual tanners can be used all over including your face, however, you might want to consider using a gradual tanner designed specifically for the face. These tend to come with added skincare benefits tailored specifically for the skin on our face like hyaluronic acid and vitamins.

Can You Tan Through Gradual Tan?

Yes, you can. Gradual tanners have no SPF protection (unless otherwise specified) which means your skin is fully exposed to the sun. It is, therefore, crucial to wear a full spectrum SPF suncream on top of the gradual tanner if you're planning on going outside.

Can You Use Gradual Tan When Pregnant?

There is no evidence to suggest DHA is unsafe for pregnant women. However, it is worth noting that sometimes during pregnancy some women find that their skin can become more sensitive as a result of hormones. It’s therefore a good idea to patch test any gradual tanner you plan to use a few days before.

SHOP: Our favourite best gradual tanners:


Best Gradual Tan 2022

Best Gradual Tan - uTan
1 of 10
CREDIT: All Beauty

Summary: This clever gradual tanner is enriched with 1% salicylic acid - meaning it gently exfoliates your skin while keeping on top of your tan. Perfect for ingrown hairs, blemishes and dry areas of skin.

Details: Within 6 hours of application, skin will be renewed, glowing and bump free.

Best Gradual Tan - Dove
2 of 10

Summary: A lightweight tanning mousse that hydrates and moisturises while it adds a gradual glow.

Details: Stacey Solomon's go-to, this easy-to-use mousse blends in seamlessly for a believable natural tan. 'It's so easy to apply and because it's gradual it doesn't go patchy and streaky you can keep building it up, it also smells really nice.' Stacey wrote on instagram.

Best Gradual Tan - Isle of Paradise
3 of 10

Summary: If this is your first foray into faux tan territory, give this easy-to-use, skin-savvy formula a go.

Details: Packed with chia seed, avocado and coconut oils - it nourishes skin while developing into a natural tan. 100% vegan and organic, it takes four to six hours to develop into a radiant tan.

Best Gradual Tan - Dior
4 of 10
CREDIT: Selfridges

Summary: A Luxurious gradual tan that deeply moisturises skin and can be built up for a more intense finish.

Details: The jelly texture is really easy to blend in for an even layer. Plus, sweet almond oil moisturises the skin (and smells a-mazing).

Best Gradual Tan - St Tropez
5 of 10

Summary: You can skip moisturiser altogether when your gradual tanner has this many skincare benefits:

Details: Featuring an innovative moisture locking system, this lotion keeps skin hydrated for up to 72 hours while delivering a radiant tan.

Best Gradual Tan - Sisley
6 of 10

Summary: For a real skin treat, try this rich self-tan cream that smells sensational, sinks in speedily and develops into a golden (not orange) even tan.

Details: Blended with soothing macadamia oil and hydrating actives this cream improves moisture retention over time.

Best Gradual Tan - This Works
7 of 10
CREDIT: thisworks

Summary: For a subtle bronzing boost, give This Works Perfect Legs Gradual Tan a whirl. It can be used all over the body and applied day (they recommend five times a week) to build it up.

Details: Formulated with vitamin C and E, this gradual tan will moisturise and brighten skin over time while naturally-derived DHU creates that golden glow.

Best Gradual Tan - Tan-Luxe
8 of 10

Summary: Not technically a gradual tanner, this super glow body serum from Tan-Luxe is too good to miss out on.

Details: Packed with hydrating Hyaluronic Acid and antioxidant-rich superfoods, skin looks and feels softer as well as boasting a golden glow.

Best Gradual Tan - Clinique
9 of 10
CREDIT: Amazon

Summary: A tinted body lotion that develops in just a few hours and dries quickly so you don't have to worry about your sheets or clothes.

Details: Ideal for sensitive skins, this gradual tan is completely fragrance free, oil free and has a lightweight, silky texture that blends in seamlessly for a streak-free finish.

Best Gradual Tan - Bondi Sands
10 of 10

Summary: This skincare-tanning hybrid contains ingredients to boast about, including

hyaluronic acid, brightening vitamin C and vitamin E to nourish.
Details: Bondi Sands' Pure range is fragrance-free

(no biscuit smell), and made with 100% recyclable packaging.

READ MORE: The Very Best Self-Tanners For Your Face, Whatever Your Skin Type

READ MORE: For A Believable Fake Tan That Works On Pale Skin, Shop From Our Edit Below

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