Best Self-Tanning Products
Achieving the faux glow you’ve been wanting can be tough to get right, but with the right self-tanner, you should be able to easily and safely fake tan at home.
Natural, streak-free, and long-lasting, the Loving Tan Deluxe Bronzing Mousse is a staple in the bathroom cabinets of tanning enthusiasts.
Achieves natural looking tan
Easy to blend
- Value for Money4.7 (38)
- Causes Irritation Yes (0) · No (46)
- Stains ClothesYes (6) · No (34)
- Colour 4.8 (41)
- Smell4.4 (43)
- Ease of Application4.8 (44)
- Coverage4.8 (44)
The Loving Tan 2 Hr Express helps you quickly and effortlessly achieve a deep, flawless tan - giving you salon-worthy results in the comfort of your own home.
Simple and quick to apply
Doesn't leave streaks
- Value for Money4.4 (28)
- Causes Irritation Yes (0) · No (31)
- Stains ClothesYes (1) · No (30)
- Colour 4.5 (30)
- Smell4.4 (28)
- Ease of Application4.7 (32)
- Coverage4.7 (30)
Latest review: First time user of any product so I was sceptical of how this will turn out and I couldn't be happier with it! Great colour, not too dark and it really does work with body hair. Highly recommend!
- Value for Money4.3 (62)
- Causes Irritation Yes (1) · No (65)
- Stains ClothesYes (5) · No (12)
- Colour 4.6 (16)
- Smell4.1 (63)
- Ease of Application4.6 (66)
- Coverage4.5 (17)
- Personal PreferencesOil Free, Paraben Free, Sulphate Free and Vegan Friendly
The Dove Summer Glow Tanning Lotion lets you achieve a light, natural glow and build up gradually to a deeper tan, making it great for first time tanners and tanning aficionados alike.
Containing cocoa butter and vitamin E to soothe and nourish the skin while giving it a natural-looking tan, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Natural Bronze lotion gives you a double dose of both moisture and colour.
Latest review: Product 3 minutes it is so easy to apply plus it’s got S P F 15 At least someone is thinking Of sun protection but we cannot find anywhere to buy the p
Using two natural self-tanning ingredients, the How Now Brown Cow Gradual Tanning Cream provides you with a non-smelly, natural and gradual tan. MooGoo use their favourite moisturising oils as the base to provide extra hydration while extending the life of your tan.
Latest review: Colours good and applies easily enough but I’ve since switched to the modelco express tan which you only have to wear for a couple of hours and is a third of the price of the Ella Bache. The colour i
Latest review: Green liquid was all that would come out of the tube until I unscrewed the applicator lid and squeezed harder. Then a gritty, grainy lotion splodged out. Gritty, awful
Latest review: I have fair, freckled skin. I love this spray, particularly the darkest one as it achieves the best results. I exfoliate in the shower. Dry off then spray all over. I use my bare hands to rub it
Latest review: This was my one and only tanning product for 10 years before it was discontinued. It didn’t smell. Didn’t streak, I would get dressed almost straight away. Didn’t stain anything. The gel would melt wi
Latest review: I have used this product for years and love it. It smells nice (not like most fake tans) it goes on easy and doesn’t streak to bad. It’s better on arms and shoulders can be a little hit and miss on my
Latest review: Not happy with the change in product in the cream ultra dark and dark.Used for years with no problem but now colour comes off after a day and ultra dark leaves no colour at all.Cant get money back no
Latest review: Applied twice as didn't even work the first application. Brought online they look my money then told me no stock took 4 weeks to arrive the disappointed when did will never buy again or recomend.
Latest review: It Smells, is streaky, and super orange in colour. Save your money. Company staff very rude to deal with especially The owner ! It stains took ages to apply and
Latest review: The application was easy & I enjoyed the color, however both my little one & I (I didn’t apply it on her but she’s near me often) broke out in a rash. If you have a baby/toddler that likes to snuggle
Latest review: Application took about 5 minutes after exfoliating in the shower and then moisturising knees, ankles and elbows. I used it all over my body apart from out of reach places like my back. By the morning
Latest review: Horrible. Not worth the price at all. Fades in 2 days, yet impossible to get the remainder off. Got this to treat myself thinking for the price point it would be amazing. I hated it on the first
Types of self-tanning products
Self-tanning can be tough to get right, but with the right product, achieving the perfect tan doesn’t have to be a mere pipe dream.
Here are some of the formulas available:
- Mousse: Mousse or foam is the most popular type of self-tanning product, as it’s quick drying and can help you achieve a deep tan. It’s recommended to use a tanning mitt to apply mousse evenly onto your skin.
- Lotion: Tanning lotion or tanning cream is the second most popular type of tanner - lotions are similar in consistency to moisturisers and are generally easy to apply which makes them popular for first time tanners. They do however typically have the longest drying times.
- Spray: A spray or tanning mist allows you to reach the parts of your body that can be awkward to apply product to, such as your back. If you don’t have someone around to help you with your tan application, and you’re not particularly flexible, then a spray might be a good option for you.
- Oil: Tanning oil is usually quick-drying, nourishing and hydrating for the skin, and tends to more gradually develop colour.
What to consider when choosing a self-tanner
Should I get an instant tanner or a gradual tanner?
An instant tanner will usually develop over the course of around 6 to 8 hours, giving you almost immediate results. They’re a great option for those who want to tan for a special event, or for those who like to sport a deeper tan most days.
A gradual tanning lotion is generally a good option if you’re non-committal or new to tanning - these give you more control over the colour. For a gradual tan, look for gradual tan moisturisers that you can apply daily without having to worry about washing off after some hours.
What looks natural on your best friend may make your tan look a little, well, fake, so you should find a colour that suits your unique skin tone and will also get you to your desired skin shade.
Self-tanning products are usually available in around 3 shades - this could be Light, Medium, and Dark, or Bronze, Deep Bronze, and Dark Bronze, but every brand has different ways of categorising the different colour intensities they offer.
If you’re in doubt, try a lighter shade first so you look sun-kissed rather than orange.
There are also some brands that consider your undertones to direct you to the most suitable shade for your unique skin colour.
For example, some brands will carry a self-tanning product with a:
- Violet base. Because violet cancels out yellow tones, violet-based tanners are marketed as better suited to warm, already tanned skin, and olive or darker skin shades.
- Green base. Green cancels out red tones, making green-based tanners better suited to those with pinker skin, and those who experience skin redness.
- Ash base. Ashier tones are well-suited to people with fairer skin.
No one wants to apply their dream tan only to have it all peel off in a few days, which is why you should find a self-tanning lotion that’s long lasting and makes the fiddly application worth the hassle.
Digging through the discount bin at your local chemist for the cheapest product probably won’t leave you with salon-worthy results, so look for a quality product that will last you up to a week - most brands advertise their products as lasting from 5 to 7 days.
It’s normal for a bit of your tan to wash away with every shower you take, but a shower shouldn’t completely remove the rest of the product. Reading through reviews to see how long a product has lasted on other people is usually a great indicator of the self-tanner’s quality and longevity.
If you’re not already using a tanning moisturiser, keeping your skin hydrated with a body lotion will help you maintain an even tan. Remember, a quality, long-lasting tan will ultimately mean less maintenance for you, as you won’t need to reapply as often.
The ingredients you should look for in a self-tanning product will largely depend on your skin type and your personal preferences when it comes to the type and consistency of the formula - we’ve listed a few pointers below.
- If you have oily or acne-prone skin, it may be a good idea to steer clear of tanning oils or other products with a heavy consistency - sprays or mousses are lighter and will be less harsh on your skin. Keeping an eye out for a tanner with natural soothing ingredients like vitamin E can also help prevent an acne flare up.
- For those with dry skin, look out for moisturising ingredients such as argan oil and coconut water, and be vigilant about regularly moisturising after you’ve tanned.
- If you’re easily itchy, the most suitable self-tanners for sensitive skin will generally be ones with natural ingredients that are .
- Facial tanners, such as face tan water or mist, will usually have gentler ingredients. Look for a non-comedogenic product with moisturising ingredients (such as aloe vera and hyaluronic acid) that will keep your face glowing without clogging your pores and causing breakouts.
There’s also growing concern about how ethical and sustainable our cosmetics are, and self-tanning products are no exception.
For those who also shop for the planet, looking for cruelty-free products that haven’t been tested on animals is a great place to start - they get an extra tick of approval if their ingredients are sustainably sourced or are completely vegan.
The scent of the fake tan is going to be an important factor in which one you decide to go with, as this smell can linger on your skin even after you’ve washed it off. Because smell is so subjective, it’s generally a good idea to try to smell a tester of a tanning product before you decide whether or not you want to buy it.
Many fake tans try to emulate a “summery” feel, so they often smell like coconut. Even if you like the smell of a tanner, consider whether it will clash with the perfume or cologne you wear.
Looking for a quickly absorbing and quickly drying fake tan can help prevent the risk of it staining your clothes, towels, and bed linen. It can also just help quicken the tanning process and let you get on with your day.
While many self-tanning products, particularly mousses, may require you to leave them on for up to 8 hours before washing them off to get the desired results, there are some that can be washed off in as little as an hour or two.
It’s difficult to tell whether a product will stain your other items just by looking at the packaging in store - the easiest way to get an idea about how transferable the tanner is is to read reviews.
Ease of use
How easy your tan is to apply will largely depend on the type of tanner you use and its quality. The design of the packaging can also affect its ease of use - if you’re looking for a mousse, look for one that comes in a simple pump bottle that lets you extract an exact amount of product without making a mess.
A tinted product also lets you see where you’ve applied the product on your body, so you can easily create an even tan layer that isn’t streaky once dried.
Untinted fake tanners usually develop color on your skin due to a chemical reaction between it and the tanner over time, so while it may be more difficult to see whether you’ve applied an even layer, you often won’t get the same stark results as an instant tan.
A fake tan usually lasts around a week, so if you want to use it regularly, the costs of tanning can add up pretty quickly.
Value for money isn’t just about the price of a self-tanning product - a product’s longevity, smell, and how good it makes you feel are just some of the things that can make even a pricier self-tanner well worth the amount you fork out for it.
Instant tanners can set you back anywhere from $5 to $100 and upwards, although most will cost somewhere between $20 and $35.
Gradual tanners can cost you from $5 to $40, although most are in the form of lotions or moisturisers and cost between $10 to $20. You should expect to fork out more if you’re looking for a product with more natural or organic ingredients.
Tips for self-tanning
- Even if your self tanner contains SPF, you will still need to apply a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from sun exposure. Self-tanning products with SPF will only provide you with protection for a few hours after you first apply it, not for the entire duration of the tan being on your skin.
- Exfoliate your body using a scrub or loofah before self tanning - removing dead skin cells should help you achieve an even, deep tan.
- If you’re using a tanning product for the first time, test it on a discreet patch of skin to see if the colour suits you.
- To maintain your tan for as long as possible, ensure you moisturise immediately after tanning and every day you have the tan.
Should I visit a professional?
If you have a one-off event that you want to bronze up for, then seeing a professional to give you a flawless finish may be a handy option that will also give you some peace of mind if you’re not particularly confident in your self-tanning ability.
Professional spray tans involve a tanning specialist spraying a tanning solution onto your skin with an airbrush. You can either go to a beauty salon to do this or have a mobile specialist come to your home. They usually cost significantly more than a DIY job, but last longer.
Whether you’re after a golden glow or a deeper bronze, finding the most natural looking self-tanner can take a bit of trial and error. Choosing a quality skin tanner, prepping your skin, and maintaining your colour with moisturiser should help you achieve and keep a perfect tan.