You probably associate fake tan with the splotchy legs, uneven marks and Sunny Delight orange of your teen years. And does anyone else remember waking up smelling of biscuits, with unappealing streaks all over your bed sheets?
UPDATE: We've added a low cost cult-favourite to the list in the form of the ever-faithful St. Moriz. Available in medium or dark shades, this developing tan darkens over 4-6 hours and offers a streak-free finish - just be sure to shake the bottle well before use! It competes with the best when paired with a quality applicator mitt and, for the cost of a couple of coffees, you can't really go wrong. We rate the mousse variety, however, the range offers slowly building moisturisers for a natural glow, alongside lotions and mists for added variety.
We've also added Coola to the list - a streak-free, fast-drying oil mist that comes in a pretty sleek bottle. It's a mist, meaning there's no mitt required, and alongside vitamin C and chamomile extract, the formula includes a transfer-free tanning agent meaning your white tees stay white. What more could you want?
But just as you’ve grown up, so has fake tan. There are now hundreds of affordable, high-quality products. You’re pretty unlikely to end up looking like those Facebook pictures you’d rather forget from 2006.
Here’s our pick of the best buys. Upvote your favourite.
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Best fake tan
1. TAN-LUXE The Gradual Illuminating Tan Lotion Light
If you’re nervous about whacking on the self tan and ending up a delightful shade of orange, it might be worth starting your foray with a gradual tanner. This means you’ll be able to build up colour slowly, giving yourself a more natural tan and better controlling exactly how you look.
And you could do a lot worse than this TAN-LUXE Gradual Illuminating Lotion in "light". The colour develops in one hour, and a moisturising recipe makes your skin look dewy and fresh.
2. Isle of Paradise Glow Clear Self-Tanning Mousse Medium
If you’re using a tanning lotion to work in tandem with an existing tan, this Isle of Paradise mousse might be just the ticket.
It uses natural tanning actives like avocado and coconut oil to boost your tan and reduce redness at the same time – meaning your sunburn will end up looking more gorgeous than ghastly. It also uses a colour correcting formula, meaning your tan will match your complexion.
3. TAN-LUXE Sleep Oil Miracle Tanning Oil
If, like us, you’re impatient about watching your tan develop, this overnight oil could be the one for you. Just pop it on, get into bed and wait for morning.
A blend of Raspberry Seed, Kendi, Argan, Marula, Jojoba and Apricot is mixed with Vitamins B5, C and E to moisturise your skin and give you a gorgeous glow by morning. TAN-LUXE says the oil can “rejuvenate, stimulate and hydrate” your skin – which sounds pretty good to us.
4. St Moriz
St. Moriz - where do we begin? Tiny price, big effect. One of the low cost options on the market, St. Moriz has been a cult favourite for as long as we care to remember. The foam, our go-to option as you can see it as your applying despite being a developing option, is available in two different shades - medium and dark. It's a wash off option, meaning you leave it to develop for 4-6 hours after application before showering, and the results - with the help of a quality mitt - are flawless. Top marks from us.
5. Coola - Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist
Coola is a streak-free, fast-drying oil mist that creates a pretty floorless looking tan - even when the sun is nowhere to be seen. It comes in a sleek brown bottle and its spray-on nature means no mitt required! At £49 it's a little pricier than some of the other offerings, however, it's a product that definitely does the job.Complete with argan oil, vitamin C and chamomile extract, Coola also includes a transfer-free tanning agent meaning it's pretty damn hard to ruin that white top. Bonus!
6. He-Shi Express Liquid Tan 150ml
This vegan, cruelty-free tan is ideal for someone who doesn’t want to be waiting around after applying their tan. Due to its light texture, He-Shi says this tan can dry in as little as 5 minutes (which sounds good to us).
This paraben and alcohol-free tan can also be used all over your body, so you don’t have to go out and buy another product just for your face. Simply apply with a mitt in a circular motion, and then watch over the next 6-8 hours as your tan develops.
7. Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam Dark
Another popular brand, Bondi Sands has dominated shelves for years.
Its formula has one big benefit – it dries in mere seconds, meaning you won’t be hanging around waiting to leave the house. Aloe vera also soothes your skin, banishing those dry winter legs for good.
Like St. Tropez, application is easy. Just take a tanning mitt and sweep the formula onto exfoliated, unmoisturised skin.
8. Cocoa Brown 1 Hour Tan Dark Mousse
Our pick of the best if you want a really intense tan, this Cocoa Brown dark mousse develops in just an hour and gives you a gloriously rich colour.
If you want some variety, they’ve got that covered too. Wash it off after an hour or keep on overnight for a deeper colour.
9. St. Tropez Classic Bronzing Mousse
If you’ve heard of any fake tanner, it’s probably St. Tropez. One of the more iconic brands on the market, St. Tropez has made tanning products since the mid 90s. Its expertise shows.
This mousse, its classic formula, is classic for a reason. Lightweight and easy to apply (simply exfoliate 24 hours before application), the formula promises a days-long, streak-free tan. All you need is an applicator mitt and you’re ready to go.
10. Vita Phenomenal 2 - 3 Week Tan Lotion
A slightly pricier option, this Vita 3 week tanning lotion is worth it – and lives up to its name. Apply your tan every week no more. As you might have guessed, this one lasts for up to three weeks. Cucumber, ginkgo biloba, raspberry, and tocopheryl acetate sooth skin and stimulate blood flow, so your legs will be left looking their best.
11. Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Antipollution Sunshine Drops
If you already use a serum in your skincare routine, these sunshine drops are perfect. Just add a few drops to your oil or cream and you’ll end up with a gorgeous bronze.
Cocoa extract, latinum peptides and Vitamin F also work on fine lines and wrinkles.