The best fake tans for every skin type out there

No sun? No problem.

best fake tans - heatworld

by Caitlin Casey |
Updated on

We have a special place in our hearts for fake tan. After one mere application, we can emerge from our bathrooms with newly-found confidence and a holiday-worthy glow. Just bloody brilliant.

It's no secret that fake tan has come a long way since the noughties. Essentially, it no longer smells of biscuits or leaves nasty streak marks on our bodies and bedding. There are even face tanners made for that sensitive skin, so no more patchy noses or necks. Hallelujah.

Closer's best fake tans at a glance

Now, not all of us want to faff around searching high and low through all of the details - so, to make it easy for you, here are our top choices. Simple.

Best overall fake tan: Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water - View offer on Boots

Best natural-looking fake tan: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Gradual Tanning Lotion - View offer on Boots

Best fake tan mousse: St.Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse - View offer on Boots

Some of us love to keep our gradual tanners close to our hearts, whilst others love to stick to the classic mousse applicators (you can't knock it, really). But the truth is, there are all sorts of fake tans out there, whether you're looking for something subtle or want to go ultra-dark.

©@theisleofparadise on Instagram

Let's be real, there's nothing better than feeling the glow of a freshly-baked fake tan application, and after a couple of hours stinking up the house you look as good as when you just came off a holiday. Whether you're an expert at-home applicator or this is your first time here (we all have to start somewhere), we've got a complete guide to the best fake tans on the market right now. From Isle of Paradise to the iconic St Moriz, there's something for everyone - and you'll feel ready to go and glow, once you've made a choice out of one of these favourites.

SHOP: The best fake tans, tried & tested

Best fake tan with no wash-off

On Sale

Bondi Sands Liquid Gold Self-Tanning Dry Oil

Rrp: $24.00

Price: $16.80
Alternative retailers
Ulta$16.80View offer
Walmart$23.90View offer

Bondi Sands is infused with coconut and argan oil, this luxurious self-tan comes in a dry oil formula that develops over 2 - 3 hours and lasts for up to a week. It's great for those who suffer with dry skin as it's moisturising, plus it smells divine, too!


  • Requires no wash off
  • Infused with argan oil and a coconut scent


  • Colour is gradual
  • Develops in two hours
  • Enriched with argan oil
  • Vegan
  • Doesn't need to be washed off

Best fake tan mousse

We can't mention the best fake tans without including this St. Tropez product. Thanks to its unique blend of active tanning agents combined with Jojoba & tanning actives, it's the perfect solution for anyone wanting a silky smooth glow.

Tried & tested by Jade Moscrop, Commercial Content Editor: "This fake tan mousse from St. Tropez never fails me. I always leave tanning until the last minute, and this foam makes it easy to get a gorgeous glow in just a few hours. It smells lush, dries quickly, and doesn't go streaky or transfer on to your sheets. Dreamy."


  • Highly rated in the industry
  • Long-lasting


  • Can be difficult to scrub off
  • Develops in 4-8 hours
  • Lasts for up to ten days
  • Award-winning lightweight foam formula
  • No transfer

Best gradual fake tan

On Sale

For a gradual, natural glow, we've been reaching for the Dove Derma Spa range. Simply sweep onto your skin in circular movements and give it half an hour (minimum) to sink in, and you'll have people questioning if you snuck off to Marbs for the weekend. You also get the added benefits of Dove's moisturising formula, so your skin won't only look great, it'll feel great too.


  • Fast-drying
  • Streak-free finish


  • Strong smell
  • Moisturising for up to 72 hours
  • 100% naturally-derived DHA
  • Streak-free

Best high street fake tan

On Sale

Meet one of the high-streets most coveted fake tans: the L'Oréal Paris Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Elixir. This buildable mist tan has a streak-free finish and oh-so-realistic hue. We love.


  • Dries quickly
  • A non-sticky formula


  • Scent can be quite strong
  • No self-tan smell
  • Streak-free

Best liquid fake tan

On Sale

he-shi Express Liquid Tan
Price: $27.64

This clever-working self-tanning bronzer tans on contact, giving you an instant golden colour which lasts up to 10 days. But our favourite part? He-Shi is super-quick drying due to its incredibly light, smooth and moisturising texture.


  • Long-lasting results
  • Vegan-friendly and cruelty-free


  • Strong smell
  • Vegan-friendly and cruelty-free
  • Develops after 6-8 hours
  • Palm oil free

Best fake tan water

On Sale

Tanologist Self-Tan Water
Price: £9.79 (was £13.99)

This vitamin-infused water hydrates your skin while you tan and is cruelty-free, organic and vegan-friendly. Tanologist has a multi-purpose formula, so can be used on your face and body, and it won't stain your sheets. One bottle gives you a spectrum of shades depending on how long you wait before washing. In just one hour, you could have yourself a healthy glow.


  • Smooth glow
  • Really easy to apply


  • Not great for sensitive skin
  • Available in: Gradual/light/medium/dark
  • Cruelty-free
  • Organic
  • Vegan-friendly

Best overall fake tan

On Sale

isle of paradise self tanning water
Price: £14.21 (was £18.95)

Tanning king Jules Von Hep created the brand Isle of Paradise, which we love. The products have clever colour-correcting technology in it, so you'll never look orange. Amen, sista!

Tried & tested by Caitlin Casey, Senior Beauty & Fashion Product Writer: "Now, having lighter tone myself, I know how hard it is to find a decent fake tan for pale skin, but Isle of Paradise is always my go-to for easy (and non-patchy) tanning. I find it super easy to just spritz myself after the shower and it comes out golden and even across the whole body. Even for me, I feel like I've just stepped off the plane."


  • Applies smoothly and streak free
  • 100% vegan


  • It can be quite oily
  • Packed with organic tanning actives + avocado, chia seed and coconut oils
  • No smells and no orange tone

Best fake tan for face

James Read Sleep Mask Face Tan
Price: $41.00

Wake up with a gorgeous glow with the help of the James Read Sleep Mask Tan Face. This lightweight formula combines skincare essentials (think aloe vera, cucumber and hyaluronic acid) with self-tan to moisturise and tan your face overnight. Dreamy, right?


  • Fragrance-free
  • Suits all skin tones


  • Can be quite patchy for dry skin
  • Formulated with antioxidants
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Colourless gel

Best natural-looking fake tan

Want to look great and smell absolutely insane? Palmer's Cocoa Butter Tanning Lotion is super easy to use and actually leaves you smelling fresh of cocoa butter, instead of that biscuity smell. Just pop on after washing for a simple and subtle glow.

Tried & tested by Jade Moscrop, Commercial Content Editor: "For a quick, sun-kissed glow, this is my go-to. It smells amazing, dries quickly, gives a lovely, natural colour and leaves skin feeling soft and supple. I used it after an evening shower and by the morning, I'm good to go."


  • Great smell of cocoa butter
  • Really easy to use


  • Not as intense as other fake tans
  • Buildable and will develop over days
  • Suitable for all skin tones
  • 24 hour moisture

Best celebrity-endorsed fake tan

It's no surprise that this mousse has made it into bestsellers when a tonne of celebrity reviews rave about St Moriz. A classic choice, this hydra-glow mousse is lightweight and will leave your skin feeling soft and smooth.


  • Guide colour makes application super easy
  • Quick and fast tanning development; develops in as low as one hour
  • Celebrity endorsed


  • You'll need a good mitt with this one
  • Three adaptable shades: a light sun kissed glow will develop in as little as just one hour, a medium golden glow after two hours and a deeper, darker bronzed tan after three hours.
  • Guide colour for easy application

Best daily fake tan

Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk

Rrp: $13.00

Price: $9.80
Alternative retailers
Ulta$9.80View offer
Walmart$14.78View offer

If you haven't already seen this gradual tanner from Bondi Sands, it's time to tune in. Known for being the ultimate everyday tanner, it's super easy to pop on after showers and just feels like a natural moisturiser. You'll be glowing in no time.

Tried & tested by Marina Avraam, Deputy Commercial Content Writer: "I'm generally hesitant to apply self-tan due to the risk of becoming an orange streaky mess. After lots (and I mean LOTS) of research I came across this little magic formula. Apply the cocoa butter-scented lotion after you shower, and wake up looking glowy as ever - but still supernatural. As an olive-skinned gal, my biggest fear with any product is looking too fake, but the Bondi Sand's Gradual Tanner is anything but. It genuinely makes you look like you've just come back from Bali; sun-kissed as ever."


  • Easy application; use as a normal moisturiser
  • Light glow for everyday use


  • May need multiple layers
  • Enriched with vitamin E and aloe vera
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Cocoa butter scent

Best fake tan for easy application

Applied like your everyday moisturiser, this Crazy Angel Gradual Tan is perfect for us lazy tanners out there - and it has an amazing smell too. Pale skin peeps, this is also good for you because it's not too intense.

Tried & tested by Ruby Barry, Beauty & Fashion Product Writer: "I don't like the feeling of having product on my skin, so this was the perfect solution as it easily fits into my "applying moisturiser after shower" routine, and sunk in quickly. Within three days of applying regularly, I could see my skin had turned a nice natural brown, that didn't veer into Jersey-Shore territory. Definitely going to be using this again."


  • Easy to apply
  • Perfect for pale skin


  • Not as intense as other products
  • Lightweight, moisturising formula
  • Enriched with shea butter

Is fake tan bad for your skin?

According to Cancer Research UK, fake tan is completely safe to use.

However, it's important to remember that using fake tan doesn't protect against harmful UV rays, so always remember to apply sun cream to avoid looking like a tomato and damaging your lovely skin.

In terms of skin reactions to fake tan, some doctors recommend doing a patch test before bronzing up to check you don't have an allergic reaction to the tanner.

We hear you - you're worried about breakouts too. Don't stress - fake tan can leave your skin feeling dry, which can cause breakouts, but keeping moisturised should keep those pesky spots at bay.

Does fake tan stain?

Fake tan staining seems pretty unavoidable. Whether it's your sheets, pillowcases or your favourite white dress, it happens.

Thankfully most fake tan stains come out in a 40-degree wash. For stubborn stains on pale fabrics, try a pre-wash stain remover.

If you're planning on getting your glow on, we recommend using a dark towel and sleeping on dark sheets instead of white or light-coloured ones. Either that, or invest in a fake tan sheet protector. Genius.

Is fake tan safe when you're pregnant?

According to the NHS, using fake tanning lotions and creams is safe during pregnancy.

However, it's probably best to avoid stepping into a spray-tanning booth while you're expecting, as the effects of inhaling the chemicals used during a spray-tan are unknown.

How often should you apply fake tan?

If you're not too sure on your fake tan skills, or just want to tighten up your knowledge on how to fake tan, we've got you covered. Want to be a glowy goddess all year round? Most fake tans last between three and ten days, so if you want to be constantly bronzed, you'll probably need to apply fake tan once every 1-2 weeks.

Don't worry about how to remove fake tan either, because there are even products out there for that now too. Or, just go hard on the scrubbing in the shower, like the rest of us,

Caitlin Casey is a Senior Beauty & Fashion Products Writer for heat, Closer, and Grazia. She covers shopping, women’s lifestyle, popular culture as well as all things trending.

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