The best fake tan for your face to build a flattering, streak-free glow

Our edit of the best fake tan for face formulas—from easy mists to gradual drops

Collage of three of the best fake tan for face formulas by St Tropez Face Mist, Tan Luxe Drops and Isle of Paradise Night Mist
(Image credit: St Tropez, Tan Luxe and Isle of Paradise)

The best fake tan for face will do a number of things for your complexion. Of course, a just-hopped-off-the-plane glow comes as standard, but it’ll also make dark circles and blemishes less noticeable. It is, in short, a holiday in a can, leaving you looking healthy and restedno long-haul flight required.

So, how does it do it? “Self-tanners contain an ingredient called dihydroxyacetone (also known as DHA) which is derived from plant sources such as sugar cane and by the fermentation of glycerin,” explains professional tanner James Read. “When applied to the skin, it reacts with dead cells in the skin’s surface layer to temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan.” 

Unfortunately for our skin, DHA can be drying. To counteract this, the best self tan innovations for the face are formulated with added hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid. By blurring the lines between tanning and skincare ingredients, the results are more natural and longer-lasting, as well as creating a smoother base beneath your best foundation

How to achieve the best fake tan for your face

  • Buy a face-specific formula: "Just like you wouldn't use shower gel to wash your hair, using body tan on your face is no different,” says expert tanner Amanda Harrington. “The skin on our faces is vastly different from our bodies. It is very thin and more delicate so needs to be treated differently to body skin, which is thicker and generally more robust.” (if it is in fact a robust body-friendly formula you seek, check out our Coco & Eve tan review) “Face tanners are produced to be non-comedogenic and give a lighter result, much like the best gradual tan. This makes them ideal to use without concerns of congestion or being too dark,” adds St Tropez Tanning Expert Michaella Bolder. Hence why the best fake tan for face tends to come in spray, serum, or mist form—a light formulation is less likely to settle into pores or the natural creases of the face.
  • Pay attention to ingredients. Some don’t play nicely with fake tan. “Avoid retinol or any enzymatic skincare as these can accelerate the fade time of tan,” says Harrington. “And steer clear of any oil-based skincare products too. Oil breaks down tan and causes it to separate on our skin.” Bad news for our fresh new glow, but that does mean that oil is your go-to ingredient for learning how to remove fake tan in a hurry. Another way is “with skincare acids and a warm cloth,” adds Read. Do this before applying a fresh tan, too, to avoid any streaking. 

Best fake tan for face, chosen by our beauty team

tan for face: Tan Luxe The Face Illuminating Self Tan Drops

(Image credit: Tan Luxe)

1. Tan Luxe The Face Illuminating Self Tan Drops

Best fake tan for face drops

Specifications

RRP: $50/£35
Texture: Drops
Key ingredients : Raspberry seed oil, vitamin E

Reasons to buy

+
Plays nicely with other skincare products
+
Easy to apply and mix
+
Choice of shades for light to dark skin tones

Reasons to avoid

-
No guide colour 

Tan Luxe's products have achieved cult status among beauty experts, and rightly so. Instead of stocking up on a wardrobe of fake tans to cover all seasons and occasions, this clever little bottle lets you customize your color at every use. 

We mixed one or two drops with our moisturizer for a light tan, which made a perfect fake tan for pale skin. But you could apply two to three for medium, or use it neat if you really want to fake two weeks in the Med overnight. The tone itself is natural, not orange, and the color fades evenly. It contains various hydrating ingredients and left our skin feeling soft, and hydrated, with minimal-looking pores. And while the dropper is pricy, a little goes a long way so it'll last for ages.  Don't forget to wash your hands afterward, and if you do, check out our guide how to get fake tan off hands, fast.

tan for face: Amanda Harrington Face Mist Illuminating Bronzing Mist

(Image credit: Amanda Harrington)

2. Amanda Harrington Face Mist Illuminating Bronzing Mist

Best fake tan for face mist

Specifications

RRP: $32/£28
Texture: Mist
Key ingredients: Camellia Sinensis leaf extract, CQ10

Reasons to buy

+
Doesn't settle into the pores
+
Different color options available by tone
+
Mist is easy to apply

Reasons to avoid

-
Fades quite quickly 

Natural is the aim of the game for tanner-to-the-stars Amanda Harrington, and this mist definitely delivers the most seamless glow of the bunch. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, you can choose between three different shades, each designed to flatter different skin tones. 

There's natural rose for a very light glow and natural olive for a deeper tan. Natural honey sits in the middle and would be a good place to start unless you're naturally very pale. We tried this one and achieved a lovely bronzed but believable look. For best results, we'd recommend stocking up on The Face Buffer Brush as well, which we found was the best way to fully buff, blend and contour the formula. 

tan for face: Isle of Paradise Night Mist

(Image credit: Isle of Paradise)

3. Isle of Paradise Night Mist

Best tan for face for using overnight

Specifications

RRP: $24/£15.95
Texture: Mist
Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, glycerin

Reasons to buy

+
Soothing scent
+
Packed with skincare ingredients 
+
No need to buff

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't follow with moisturiser 

If you're a fan of Isle of Paradise Tanning Drops, we're willing to bet you'll rate their latest launch too. Taking the faff out of fake tan, all you need to do is close your eyes and mist a couple of times onto clean skin. The hard work happens while you snooze, delivering a gentle color that can be layered up over a number of evenings depending on your desired shade.  

We found this the easiest, most foolproof tan of the lot to apply before bed, when messing around with several products is the last thing we want to do. The soothing floral fragrance is a real selling point too. Thanks to infused jasmine and lavender, it's aromatic and calming, smelling more akin to a fancy pillow spray than the sweet cookie aroma of other tanners.

tan for face: James Read Glow20 Face Tan Serum

(Image credit: James Read)

4. James Read Glow20 Face Tan Serum

Best fake tan for face for dry skin

Specifications

RRP: $33.50/£25
Texture: Serum
Key ingredients: Vitamin C, aloe vera

Reasons to buy

+
Develops in as little as 20 minutes
+
Hydrating formula 
+
Can be washed off quickly

Reasons to avoid

-
No guide colour 

Short on time? No problem. This super-speedy tanner reveals a light bronze in as little as 20 minutes and will continue to develop after you've rinsed it off. We found this so handy for applying in the morning, then layering over other skincare and makeup shortly afterward without worrying about interfering with the tan's development. 

The texture itself is like a hydrating slippy serum, but sinks in quickly and feels comfortable within the skin. Perfect for last-minute invites or on days when your skin is feeling a little lackluster, this is a great choice for anyone who finds fake tan can leave their skin parched, while the addition of hyaluronic acid and aloe vera helps replenish any moisture lost to the process.

tan for face: Oskia Adaptive Tan Mist

(Image credit: Oskia)

5. Oskia Adaptive Tan Mist

Best fake tan for face for tanning novices

Specifications

RRP: £55 (UK only)
Texture: Mist
Key ingredients: White tea, pro vitamin B5

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use
+
No biscuity scent
+
Light misting action

Reasons to avoid

-
Color needs to be built up

If you're new to tanning, allow us to point you in the direction of this easy-to-use mist. Just position an arm's length away from the face and spritz a couple of times onto the skin. It feels incredibly light and settles into the skin nicely, with a pleasant cooling sensation. You may want to buff it in with a brush or mitt, but we found it was evenly spread enough not to bother. 

If left overnight, the guide color can be a little scary in the morning. But once rinsed, we found the result natural and light, perhaps too light for ultra-seasoned tanning fans. It might not suit those that favor a deep or intense glow but can be built up over a number of days until you reach your desired shade. 

St Tropez Purity Face Mist

(Image credit: St Tropez)

6. St Tropez Self Tan Purity Face Mist

Best hydrating self tan for face

Specifications

RRP: $30/£22
Texture: Mist
Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, hibiscus extract, green mandarin water

Reasons to buy

+
Very easy application
+
Buildable
+
Hydrating formula 

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't come in light/medium/dark options

St Tropez makes some of the best fake tan for face products around, including this excellent mist. An ultra-light spray like this is by far the easiest way to apply fake tan to your face, as it requires so little effort—there's no need to rub in or risk getting streaky fingers after application. 

Packed with hydrating hero ingredient hyaluronic acid, which draws moisture into the skin, and hibiscus extract for a hit of antioxidants, it's both buildable and great for skin, never clogging your pores. We found just one or two spritzes were enough for a subtle glow, but it can be built up for a really sunkissed finish and didn't go streaky or patchy after three consecutive days of use. 

tan for face: Bondi Sands Pure Self Tanning Face Mist

(Image credit: Bondi Sands)

7. Bondi Sands Pure Self Tanning Face Mist

Best fake tan for face with skincare benefits

Specifications

RRP: $25.99/£22
Texture: Mist
Key ingredients : Hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C and E

Reasons to buy

+
Can be layered
+
Won't clog pores 
+
Fragrance-free 

Reasons to avoid

-
Mist action can be temperamental

If you're a keen tanner, chances are you've given Bondi Sands a whirl over the years. This budget-friendly Aussie brand has a tanning solution for every eventuality including this conscious fake tan for face, called PURE. It delivers the same impressive hit of glow the brand is known for, which is to say a medium to deep shade, without any fragrance. This will be great news to anyone who has sensitive skin or tends to react to artificial perfume, although we did find it meant we could smell the classic DHA biscuity odor more than with some other picks on this list. 

It also has the added benefit of 100% recyclable packaging. Even the pump bottle can be recycled, which is notoriously tricky to do. They've added hyaluronic acid and Vitamin E into the mix, too, helping to boost hydration as you get your glow on. The mist needs to be worked in with a mitt after application to ensure an even finish and develops into a strong color in as little as four hours. 

Bali Body Bronzing Serum

(Image credit: Bali Body)

8. Bali Body Bronzing Serum

Best for a short term glow

Specifications

RRP : $29.95/$25.95
Texture: Serum
Key ingredients: Sweet almond oil, shea butter

Reasons to buy

+
Great if you want a quick fix glow for the day
+
Hydrating
+
Works well under make-up

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one shade available
-
Avoid if you dislike sparkle

We love face tanners that have skincare benefits, and this serum nourishes your skin as well as giving it a healthy 'just back from holiday' glow. Sign us up! It contains skin-loving ingredients like vitamin E, and antioxidant-rich shea butter and camellia. And while the wash-off formula may not last as long as other facial tanners, we found it worked really well as a make-up base adding a lovely and healthy illuminated glow to our complexion for a dewy makeup look. 

There is just one shade available currently, although it will add radiance and warmth to a broad range of skin tones. That said, you may want to mix it with your moisturizer if your skin tone is very pale. It also comes with the added benefit of light-reflecting technology to ensure your skin looks glowy and radiant. A great addition to your makeup bag. 

Biotherm Auto-Gelée Autobronzant Serum

(Image credit: Biotherm )

9. Biotherm Auto-Gelée Autobronzant Serum

Best self tan serum for face

Specifications

RRP:: $35.30/£37.60
Texture: Serum
Key ingredients : Hyaluronic acid

Reasons to buy

+
Subtle wash of colour
+
Non-streaky
+
Hydrating formula

Reasons to avoid

-
Fragranced

Biotherm's Autobronzant serum is, in essence, hydrated summer skin in a bottle. It gives a lovely, healthy wash of a glow and can be mixed with your moisturizer or another serum for even more subtle results (which is a good idea if, like us, your skin is very pale). 

It's also worth mentioning that it does contain an 'aquatic fragrance', which we found very pleasant and not too overpowering. But do bear that in mind if you know your skin can react to the inclusion of fragrance in your skincare products. All in all, this is a lovely facial fake tanner that sinks into the skin beautifully—just remember to wash your hands after applying it!


woman&home thanks James Read, Amanda Harrington and Michaella Bolder for their time and expertise