For those times when you can't make it to the beach
With the summer on the very distant horizon, our minds are very much on the best fake tan, so we can at least pretend we’ve seen the sun recently.
That said, the world of self-tanning can seem like a minefield if you don’t know what you’re doing. While the best bronzer helps with a hint of colour, sometimes it just doesn’t cut the mustard and 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. Keep reading for how to apply the best fake tan, plus the Marie Claire-approved products to shop now.
How to apply fake tan
‘The trick to a truly flawless glow is all in the prep,’ says Jules Von Hep, celebrity tanner and founder of Isle of Paradise. ‘Shave or wax at least 24 hours prior to application and ensure skin is exfoliated with a dry brush or scrub. This means your skin will have an even surface, so the final result will be even AND, more importantly, it will fade evenly like a natural tan would.
‘Remove any make-up and deodorant prior to application, but don’t use a cleansing oil to remove make-up, as this will act as a barrier to the tan.’
Jules also recommends using some form of prep spray to give your fake tan the best possible canvas, and to apply an aloe vera moistuirser to your hands, elbows, knees, feet and heels, plus your hairline and eyebrows if you’re fair-haired.
‘Always apply your tan in sweeping motions over the body, never circular,’ he continues. ‘This ensures that product is distributed evenly for the most natural, even looking tan. When it comes to tanning the back, you CAN do this alone! Just turn your mitt backwards and apply product directly onto skin, sweeping from side to side.
‘With all tans, apply two coats to the body and one to face. Starting at the ankles and working your way up means that the tan will be dry enough to apply a second coat after a couple of minutes. Just start again from the ankles for the second layer.
‘Use what is left on the mitt to apply to hands and feet, and remember to wipe in between your fingers and over finger nails with a damp cloth after application.
‘Lastly (and my favourite trick of all) – hang a towel onto the back of your door and rub your wrists together [on it]. This removes those pesky, tell-tale tan lines.’
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.
Dark fake tans will contain around 18 per cent DHA (dihydroxyacetone), which is the ingredient that gives you that sunkissed glow. 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
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 this Elemis Bronzing Face Moisturiser.
The best fake tan for pale skin
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.
The best gradual tan
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 while you tan you’re also helping improve tone and suppleness.
Best tanning moisturiser
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.
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.
Isle of Paradise stands out from the rest. Not only was it created by tanning Wunder-Kind Jules Von Hep (who has done so many celebrities tans, it's a wonder he has any time to brush his teeth), but it's also got clever colour correcting technology in it, meaning you'll never look like you've been Tangoed.
James Read is one of those brands that you can wholeheartedly rely on. They only do tanning products, and they do them bloody well. This Instant Bronzing Mist is really fast drying, has this super handy 360 degree nozzle (which helps you get to those hard to reach places), develops in 6-8 hours, but still has a guide colour so you can bronze and go. Plus it has nourishing ingredients that hydrate the skin. We love it.
Lightly scented with essential oils, this 89% organic fake tan is derived from sugar so you can bet your guilt-free glow is going to look natural. And, its quick-drying and non-greasy formula means it’s easy to use, too – and is suitable for all types of skin, including those who are prone to eczema or psoriasis.
In addition to DHA there's a decent dose of argan oil so it really feels like you're treating your skin when you're applying this oil. There's a slight whiff of coconut which is very welcome and definitely favourable to the burnt biscuit smell of some DHA products.
We love this tinted liquid. It's easy to see where you've already applied your tan so you won't fall into the trap of over-tanning any part of your body. It's light, liquid formula makes it so easy to blend into the skin. We suggest applying it with a mitt so it doesn't run all over your hands. -
This product caused such a commotion when it launched early this year. Not only is it the world's first oil-based self tanner, so super duper hydrating and kind to skin, but it also has an amazing roller-ball applicator, which makes for very easy at-home tanning.
If you're impatient (nothing wrong with that by the way) then this is the ideal self tanner for you. You pop this on at night (allow to dry before jumping into bed) and wake up to warm glow. You have to wash it off in the shower in the morning, but use until you get the colour you're after. It absorbs at super-speed and hydrates your skin overnight.
You've probably spotted this brand all over Instagram. It ticks all the boxes – simple pink packaging and hot ladies in their photo shoots. Luckily, its formulas are pretty good too. This is essentially a really decent body moisturiser, with anti-oxidants and vitamin E, but it has the handy addition of a really stunning caramel colour that suits everyone.