If you want to get your summer glow on before you jet set off on holiday or just to look like you’ve stepped out of the waves on some exotic beach – without the whole skin damage issue – you might often reach for your good old bottle of fake tan. But no one wants to have their bedsheets smeared in golden brown or worse stains along the top of your white outfit (or even more horrific: your wedding dress). So, what are the secrets of the perfect fake tan that’s glowing, natural, transfer-free, lasting, and doesn’t break the bank? Here are our fake tan favourites.
Top tips on how to apply the perfect fake tan
Some people fake and bake so often that they are absolute pros at it (yay!) and some of us can never quite get it right (like me). I never seem to get the exfoliation step just right and always have dark bits of tan clinging to my dry patches for which I seem to have far more than it seems when my skin is milky white.
Here are some quick steps on how to get the perfect fake tan:
- Exfoliate: 24-hours before applying the tan, buff away your dry skin and exfoliate as well as you can. When I got a spray tan for my wedding, the ladies at the salon recommended I follow an exfoliation and moisturising routine for several weeks before tanning. We wrote a post here on body brushing techniques and that might help buff away that excess dry skin and improve circulation too!
- Remove hair: If you’re inclined to remove body hair, in addition to exfoliating, remove any unwanted body hair 24-hours before tanning. If you don’t shave, wax, epilate, or laser in time, the fake tan will sink into any open pores leaving dark little dots on your skin, which isn’t always the look you’re going for. Good news for those who have already removed their body hair with our Tria 4X laser or who are in the process! Yet, Tria doesn’t recommend using their lasers over any skin products like fake tan because residues on the skin can clog the laser’s window and prevent effective treatments.
- Moisturise: Fake tan can cling to any dry areas of skin (I know this one all too well), so ensure that your pre-tanned skin is well hydrated. For a week before tanning, moisturise each day leading up to the tan application. Then, on the day of the tan, two to three hours before tanning, moisturise generously all over – focussing extra attention on areas that are prone to dryness such as elbows, knees, ankles, feet, and hands. We wrote a piece all about how to get moisture into your skin with our glowing skin tips.
- Take a shower: Before tanning, clean your skin and pat it dry. You may want to do this step before you remove hair and moisturise but before exfoliating.
- Skip the smellies: When applying your tan, you want to remove any deodorant or perfume (preferably in the shower), which can create a sticky layer on your skin’s surface, meaning the tan will not work well. Deodorant can also turn some fake tan green so if you don’t want green underarms, skip smelly products whilst your tan is developing.
- Consider a tanning mitt: Many places suggest using a tanning mitt to help create a streak-free flawless and stain-free tan. Many of you who have tried tanning know that there’s nothing worse than having too much fake tan on the palms of your hands, so a mitt can avoid the stained hands. A mitt can help evenly distribute and blend your tan too but some tans have their colour develop after and are safe to be applied with bare hands. If you don’t have a mitt, though, it’s not entirely necessary but be sure to wash your hands quickly and thoroughly after applying your tan.
- Let the tan dry: If you are using a gradual or no-rinse tanner, you can get dressed straight away, but if you’re using a wash-off tan, allow the tan to dry before getting dressed and/or showering. When you do dress, wear something loose and dark as you don’t want the tan to rub against your skin or to be patchy.
- Wash in cold water: Once your tan has developed for four to eight hours, wash your tan off in water that’s slightly cooler than normal. Don’t use any scrubs or soaps with your first wash as these can fade your tan. Rinse your skin until the water runs clear.
- For lasting results: Gently exfoliate and moisturise daily and your tan can last up to ten days.
- When reapplying the tan: Remove all traces of the old tan before applying the new tanner. There are special tan removal mousses and mitts on the market for this purpose or you can wait until it’s all washed off and faded. And repeat these steps!
Fake tan favs
Now you have our top tips on how to apply the tan properly. Without further ado, here are our choices for fake tanning product favourites.
#1 Bali Body, Ultra Dark Self Tanning Mousse (£26.95)
This tan went viral last summer and was almost sold out everywhere (with a 450% surge in popularity). Thankfully, it’s back in stock. On Bali Body’s website over 1,300 people give this tan 4.7 stars out of 5, saying that it really works with most of the low reviews complaining about shipping, the cost, or the application process.
This tan promises a dark fake tan with just one layer of mousse and contains nourishing oils that are good for your skin. You can save money with the bundle (£69.95) which contains the dark tan mousse, face tan water, a tanning mitt, self-tan remover, and an exfoliating mitt.
Here’s one YouTuber’s review. She notes that the tan didn’t transfer to her sheets, it’s hydrating, and it smells floral!
#2 Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam (£25.90)
Gone are the days of smelling faintly like sweet biscuits, this vegan Coco & Eve tan smells like mangos and guava. This formula is lightweight (and claims to be anti-cellulite), can blur pigmentation, and dries in two hours. It leaves your skin firmer, hydrated, and sun-kissed. The application instructions say to remove hair, exfoliate, and apply to dry skin that’s free from moisturisers using a tanning mitt. It has a green-grey base colour that counteracts orange tones so you’re left with golden skin. Plus, on Trustpilot, this product has over 2,000 five star ratings.
Here’s this YouTuber’s review of the product. She notes that it’s hydrating, smells nice (when applying), develops after two hours, blends in seamlessly, and lasts for five days.
#3 St. Tropez Tan x Ashley Graham Limited Edition Ultimate Glow Kit (£38)
American model Ashley Graham is known for her enviable curves and is the Global Brand Ambassador for St. Tropez. This tan product was released last year in 2021. On St Tropez’s website, the product has received 4.81 stars out of 5 from 129 customers. It claims to be instant and long-lasting with a natural and wearable glow that continues to develop each week. It’s vegan, cruelty-free, and enriched with hyaluronic acid, rosehip oil, and vitamin E for added hydration and nourishment. It is touch-dry within seconds and smells pineappley and coconutty (so none of those chemical-smelling self-tan smells in this product). It’s easy to blend and streak-free.
This product was the winner of Marie Claire’s “Best Self Tan for Body” Award and Allure’s Best of Beauty Award for “Best Self Tan” in 2021. St. Tropez has many, many tanning products and there’s an express gel version of the tan if mousse tanning is not your thing.
Here’s a YouTuber’s review of how the product applies and what it’s like the next day.
#4 Isle of Paradise Pro Glow Spray Tan Mister (£10.95) and Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water Refill Pouch Medium (£14.95)
For those who prefer tanning sprays and clear tanners (those that don’t start with a golden guide colour), you can try this Isle of Paradise water spray. This option is the more eco-friendly refill pouch. Plus, the reusable spray tan mister but the product is also available in a plastic single-use bottle and that can also be used with refillable pouches.
The formula is lightweight and easy to use and can be used with or without a mitt. With the spray mister, you can simply spray the tanning liquid like a professional spray tan, but one YouTuber notes that this mist does get everywhere and should really be applied in the shower or in a room with washable surfaces! The spray nozzle creates a continuous stream of mist meaning that it’s a quick and easy way to self-tan if you don’t have lots of time to apply and buff in a product.
Here’s one YouTuber’s review of the mister itself.
Here’s the co-founder of Isle of Paradise, Jules Von Hep, showing us how to apply the water tan effectively. He notes that you can spray the product until your skin looks visibly wet and you can then rub it in and, as a bonus apparently, it can be used as a makeup setting spray that will tan on the go!
#5 Sisley Paris Self Tanning Hydrating Body Skin Care (£94)
If you want to go more upmarket with your self-tanning, French luxury brand Sisley has a self-tanning and hydrating body skincare cream. It hydrates your skin and provides a gradual glow. It is infused with macadamia oil for long-lasting hydration and is suitable for light to dark skin tones. You just apply a thin layer every two to three days and wash your hands afterwards so it’s certainly an easy solution.
Here’s a YouTuber’s review of the facial version of the tanning cream.
5. Charlotte Tilbury Supermodel Body, Body Highlighter (£45)
If you just want more of a bronzey glow without the self-tanner, you can opt for a product like Charlotte Tilbury’s Supermodel Body Body Highlighter which gives you a lovely bronzey glow all over. It catches the light down your limbs for a sun-kissed look. Over 100 women were polled and all said it illuminated and highlighted their arms, legs, and décolletage, making them appear more sculpted. It contains wild pansy extract, rosehip oil, vitamin C and E to brighten and transform your skin, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera extract, caffeine, and allantoin for a lovely skincare combination.
You use this product by twisting the applicator and rolling the applicator down the centre of your arms and legs – or where you’d like it – and blending it in for a radiant glow.
Here’s a demonstration of how to use the product.
Brands are really innovating and listening to consumers. They’re tackling the orange brassy undertones, removing less-than-lovely scents, and patchy applications to design formulas that are easy to apply for all.
There’s a massive selection of the types of tans available from lotions to mousses to sprays with all skin types and preferences in mind. They even have quick-developing tans and long-lasting tans that last up to three weeks too. Whatever your tanning preferences, you’re sure to find a product you love.
Share your favourite fake tan recommendations with us on Tria Beauty UK’s social media.
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