The best fake tan for a glow that lasts all summer long

For those times when you can't make it to the beach

As the warmer weather slowly creeps in, we’re plucking up the courage to show a little skin off, whether that’s with shorter sleeves or the odd flash of ankle. And so our minds have turned to the best fake tan.

But the world of self-tanning can seem like a minefield if you don’t know what you’re doing, and while the best bronzer helps with a hint of colour, sometimes it just doesn’t cut the mustard. You need to get your hands on the best fake tan. Don’t panic – if you follow our foolproof fake tan tips, you’ll have an enviable golden glow in no time.

Types of fake tan

Instant tans come with the benefit of immediate results – there’ll be a guide colour, meaning you can see where you have and haven’t already bronzed up. This is very handy if you’re a novice and new to the whole tanning world. If you’re a seasoned expert and fake tan is second nature to you, then you’ll feel comfortable with a mousse tans that are quick-drying formulas, so don’t give you much time to work with.

Then there are gradual tan moisturisers, which as it says on the bottle gradually give you a boost of colour. Use daily and you can control how dark you go. The at-home spray-on tans fix you up in a matter of seconds, just remember to use a mitt! Or, if you’re pushed for time and want to easily integrate fake tanning into your daily routine, look to an in-shower tan à-la San Tropez.

The darkest fake tans will contain around 18 per cent DHA (dihydroxyacetone), which is the ingredient that gives you that tan. So, if you’re fairer skinned it’s better to aim for levels that are between two and five per cent, so that you don’t look like you’ve overdone it.

If you want a deeper shade, layer up these formulas. Trust us, you’ll get more of a golden glow by doing this than you will by simply reaching for a darker fake tan.

The world of fake tan is ever-evolving, and exciting brands, like James Read’s eponymous label, are constantly changing the way we tan. His Sleep Mask Tan, a genius product that (as you might have guessed) tans your skin while you sleep and is a firm favourite of Team Marie Claire’s, now comes in a retinol version. 

New-gen tanning products come with some pretty revolutionary benefits, like customising your own shade. More and more brands now offer tanning drops, which you can add to your face or body moisturiser, that mean you are in complete control of how much tanning agent you apply to your skin. This makes it easier than ever to develop a formula that compliments your own natural colouring, so you don’t end up like an extra on TOWIE.

The art of fake doesn’t just lie in the application – it’s also super important that you know how to remove fake tan properly. There’s NOTHING worse than a patchy fake tan job, so it’s important to know when and how to get rid. Also, if it all goes Pete Tong, then you have a easy way out. And whatever you do, don’t throw your used tanning mitt in the washing machine when you’re done. Even if you wash your mitt on its own, the next load of washing you do will come out the wrong colour. Just buy a new one.

The best fake tan for face

Elemis Total Glow Bronzing Face Moisturiser, £30, Beauty Expert

best fake tan

Fake tanning your face isn’t the same process as your body. The skin on your face requires a completely different formula as it’s far more delicate and sensitive, so you want a specialised tan with no harsh ingredients. There’s a whole host of specially developed fake tans for the face, but we tend to like skincare brands that do tinted products, like Elemis Total Glow Bronzing Face Moisturiser. Alternatively, go for a good bronzer to fake it instead.

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The best fake tan for pale skin

St Tropez Self Tan Purity Body Mousse, £31 Look Fantastic

best fake tan st tropez


St Tropez Self Tan Purity Body Mousse transforms into a mousse as soon as it comes into contact with your skin, it’s really hydrating and gives a really natural colour to the skin – nothing too drastic here.

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The best gradual tan

Omorovicza Glam Glow, £35, Cult Beauty

best fake tan Omorovicza

Gradual tan is the popular choice for lots of people as you can pop it on in the morning, like your normal body moisturiser, but throughout the day you get glowier. You can’t go wrong with this Omorovicza one – the skincare brand sticks to its origins of looking after skin, so whilst you tan you’re also helping improve tone and suppleness.

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Best tanning moisturiser

Ameliorate Transforming Body Lotion with a Hint of Colour, £19.50, Cult Beauty

best fake tan

This tinted lotion by Ameliorate adds an instant hint of colour; simply swap out your daily body lotion and you’ll be glowing all the day long.

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Can’t get away for some winter sun?

Consider this your one-way ticket to having a summer glow, all year round, with our complete list of the best fake tans.

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