The best fake tan for a glow that lasts all summer long


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

Elemis Total Glow Bronzing Face Moisturiser, £32.50, Beauty Expert

best fake tan Elemis Total Glow Bronzing Moisturiser

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.

Buy now

The best fake tan for pale skin

St Tropez Self Tan Purity Body Mousse, £31, Lookfantastic


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.

Buy now

The best gradual tan

Omorovicza Glam Glow, £37, Cult Beauty

best fake tan Omorovicza Glam Glow

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.

Buy now

Best tanning moisturiser

Ameliorate Transforming Body Lotion with a Hint of Colour, £19.50, Cult Beauty

best fake tan

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.

Buy now

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.

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