The best instant tan for a super-speedy party-season glow

We've tried and tested the best instant tans for a flattering, streak-free bronzing fix

Three of the best instant tans in the guide from By Terry, James Read, and Bali Body
(Image credit: Future/Brands)

The best instant tan can work like magic to overhaul skin in seconds. A quick glow boost is the ultimate finishing touch that will pull any outfit together and allow you to look and feel your best.

In my years searching for the best self-tan, I have realized that there is a time and place for different formulas. The best gradual tan is excellent for those looking to maintain an all-over glow, but they take time to develop, which is not ideal when you need a quick fix. Like the best bronzers, an instant tan is an option that bronzes immediately on application and can be washed off in the shower, making it ideal for party season. 

Nicola Matthews (opens in new tab), the founder of Sienna X, explains, ''An instant tan is perfect for last-minute plans, giving a vacation-worthy glow in minutes. If you are wearing an outfit that only reveals part of your body, instant tan is the product you need as you can use it on the parts on show." The commitment-free formula means you can wash off the tan whenever you like, which Matthews explains is extra helpful if you have a busy week with multiple events planned, "as there is no need to worry about the build-up of tan - you can simply wash off and reapply.'' Sold! 

How we tested the best instant tan 

Why you can trust Woman & Home Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Our beauty assistant tests best instant tans: Tan-luxe, By Terry, St Tropez, Isle of Paradise

A selection of the instant tan products we tested for this guide

(Image credit: Darcy Brown)

Tanning formulas have come a long way, and I have tried a lot of them. For me, the best instant tan should offer a quick fix and have the ability to transform your skin, so I was on the lookout for easy-glide and nourishing formulas, with blurring capabilities that even out the skin tone and disguise cellulite. I tested each tan based on ease of application, transfer-proof lasting power, and the finished look. 

To give each tan a fair chance, I prepped according to Matthews' instructions. ''It's important that dry areas such as elbows and knees are moisturized to prevent the tan from clinging, which can create a patchy effect. Dry skin can also be removed using your best body exfoliator 24 hours before application." She also revealed how to fake tan, which I followed for each product testing session, ''apply your instant tan lightly and in circular motions ensuring that the product is rubbed in and blended thoroughly. Do not put any clothing on until the tan has dried, as the tan can cling to clothing and affect the overall glowy look.''

The best instant tan buys, tested by our beauty team

Tan-Luxe Instant Hero Self-Tan

(Image credit: Tan-Luxe)

1. Tan-Luxe Instant Hero Self-Tan

Best instant tan for an all-over glow

Specifications

RRP: $30.40/£22
Application: Lightweight cream
Key Ingredients: Vitamin B, C & E, aloe vera and caffeine
Available Shades: One shade

Reasons to buy

+
Quick dry formula
+
Built-in applicator sponge 
+
Moisturizing formula

Reasons to avoid

-
Not odourless

You can always rely on Tan-luxe to go above and beyond the standard self-tan checklist, and this product is no exception. It comes with a sponge that, like your best makeup brushes, helps to blend the formula into the skin without the need to use your hands. The formula has the same consistency as body lotion and I found its texture was easy to manipulate and spread around my skin. 

The quick-drying formula locks the layer of bronze in place in record time; I found this so helpful as it limits the time spent doing that awkward 'arms-up' walk as you wait for the tan to dry. The resulting look was a transparent bronze glow that coats the skin to mimic a week in the sun, which lasted until my next shower before melting off easily with soap and water. Overall, this was the best instant tan I tried. 

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Spray

(Image credit: Sally Hansen)

2. Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Spray

Best instant tan for the legs

Specifications

RRP: $11.99/9.99
Application: Mist spray
Key Ingredients: Palmaria Extract
Available Shades: Four shades: Light Glow/ Medium Glow/ Tan Glow/ Deep Glow

Reasons to buy

+
Super quick
+
A global bestseller
+
Four shades available

Reasons to avoid

-
Some may find messy

This instant tan makes wearing a shorter dress or sleeveless party top that little bit more enjoyable. It is extremely easy to apply, thanks to its spray applicator that coats limbs with pigment that comes in four shades to match most skin tones. Like your best tinted moisturiser, this product offers a 'your skin, but better' approach, and its formula provides light coverage without being too opaque or fake-looking. 

With that said, I was impressed to see the incredible concealing powers that the mist holds. It did take me a few goes to get the application technique right (and I'd definitely put a dark towel down to protect your floor) but once I had the knack my veins were blurred, and any signs of cellulite were significantly reduced. This would be a perfect quick fix, especially for any last-minute winter parties when your legs may not have seen the sun for a while. It's a global bestseller for a reason - it just works. 

St. Tropez Instant Glow Body Bronzer

(Image credit: St Tropez)

3. St. Tropez Instant Glow Body Bronzer

Best instant tan for high coverage

Specifications

RRP: $20/$15
Application: Cream-to-powder
Key Ingredients: Coconut Milk
Available Shades: Two shades: Light & Medium

Reasons to buy

+
Instant drying formula
+
Easy to blend
+
High coverage

Reasons to avoid

-
Some may prefer a more shimmering finish

This higher coverage option is on-par with applying your best under-eye concealer to your body. The heavier consistency by no means compromises the blending power, and you can manipulate the formula until all areas are covered in a streak-free finish. This was the quickest drying formula out of all I tested; I could get dressed within 30 seconds of application, which is great if you tend to get ready in a rush.

This formula felt like no product I have tried before. It is where body care meets makeup and dried to a finish more like your best powder foundation than a liquid instant tan. It is quite high coverage, which won't suit everyone but I loved the flawless look it gave. This would be the perfect option for an evening event as you can rest assured that this will completely even the skin tone and blur every vein, mottled or bumpy bit of skin in sight. 

By Terry Tea to Tan Face and Body Bronzer

(Image credit: By Terry)

4. By Terry Tea to Tan Face and Body Bronzer

Best instant tan for the neck and chest

Specifications

RRP: $82/£59
Application: Liquid bronzer
Key Ingredients: Active Cherry Fruit Water, Black & Red Tea Extracts
Available Shades: One shade

Reasons to buy

+
Tailored application
+
Impressive formula 
+
Buildable result

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive

The décolletage is where body care and skincare meet, so it should not be neglected and it's a smart idea to extend your skincare routine down to this area. This buy ticks the skincare checklist but can also be used all over your body. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get the best instant tan - but if you have the budget, this multitasker could be the one for you. 

The application is incredibly versatile and can be used in several ways. You can coat the product all over your body and allow the warm undertones to create a sunkissed glow. Or, you can take a brush and try 'tantouring' specific areas like your collarbones, cheekbones, and temple to sculpt and define. When we shook the bottle and applied this directly from the pump, a subtle sparkle was dispensed with the formula that caught the light nicely. But if shimmer isn't for you, you can allow the glitter to sink to the bottom and tip the formula onto a brush for a matte glow. 

Bondi Sands GLO Matte Deep Bronze One Day Tan

(Image credit: Bondi Sands)

5. Bondi Sands GLO Matte Deep Bronze One Day Tan

Best instant tan for darker skin tones

Specifications

RRP: $13/£9.99
Application: High-coverage cream
Key Ingredients: Free from self-tanning actives
Available Shades: One shade

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive staying power
+
A little goes a long way
+
Transfer resistant 

Reasons to avoid

-
Takes more time to blend

This is one of the best instant tan options for darker skin tones as it delivers a deep olive hue. Due to the deeper tone, a little goes a long way, and you only need a small dab of the product to coat an impressive amount of surface area. I found the cream consistency less fluid than some other options on this list and it did take a little more blending, as you would do for your best cream bronzer

The staying power is impressive, and on testing the tan lasted all day and night without budging, but then completely disappeared when it came into contact with warm water. I loved the wash of color that this creates rather than anything too mask-like, it's the closest you could get to a gradual tan result with an instant tan application.

Bali Body Instant Tan

(Image credit: Bali Body)

6. Bali Body Instant Tan

Best instant tan for buildable results

Specifications

RRP: $24.95/£17.95
Application: Aerosol spray
Key Ingredients: Vitamin E and cucumber
Available Shades : Two shades: Light-Medium/ Medium-Dark

Reasons to buy

+
Nourishing formula
+
Easy application 
+
Affordable pricepoint

Reasons to avoid

-
Lighter coverage

This spray applicator makes the fake tanning process more convenient than ever. When you hold the spray further from your body, the color disperses to coat an entire area. Or you can have the bottle closer to the skin for more precise application. I did find this one of the most subtle instant tans I tried, but you can build up the color by applying extra layers, which allows you to take the color deeper.

It is formulated with Vitamin E, which works to nourish the skin, allowing for even application and leaving skin soft and supple. I really enjoyed using this - it was quick, fuss-free, and easy. 

Vita Liberata Body Blur with Tan

(Image credit: Vita Liberata )

7. Vita Liberata Body Blur with Tan

Best instant tan for durability

Specifications

RRP: $45/ £32
Application: Lightweight, foamy cream
Key Ingredients: Aloe vera, shea butter, glycerin, hyaluronic acid
Available shades: Two shades: Light/ Medium

Reasons to buy

+
Will last all weekend
+
Blurs imperfections
+
Leaves skin radiant

Reasons to avoid

-
Does not wash off instantly

I know I said that the best instant tan comes with no commitments, but if you want a bit more longevity, use this clever instant and gradual tan hybrid. This mousse-like formula glides over the skin streak-free and offers an instant tanning effect with impressive glow-giving pigment that leaves skin looking immediately radiant and refreshed.

As the tan sits on the skin, it gradually leaves behind a layer of tanning actives that will develop in the skin and build a nice glow for the next few days. Genius! This would be a godsend if you have a busy week of events, as you can enjoy instant gratification and lasting bronzing effects in one go. If you're more of a commitment-phobe, Vita Liberata's original Body Blur, without the addition of gradual tanner, is still a great go-to. 

No7 Perfectly Bronzed Self Tan Quick Dry Tinted Lotion

(Image credit: No7 )

8. No7 Perfectly Bronzed Self Tan Quick Dry Tinted Lotion

Best instant tan for on the go

Specifications

RRP: $18/£14.95
Application: Silky moisturising lotion
Key Ingredients: Babassu oil and passion flower seed oil
Available Shades: One shade

Reasons to buy

+
Moisturizing formula
+
It can be applied with the hands 
+
Beginner-friendly application

Reasons to avoid

-
Just one shade available

If subtle bronzing is your style, then opt for this lightweight option that coats your skin with an understated tanned veil. Its formula is like a moisturizer with a slight tint, and it is perfect for those who want to avoid committing to a full-blown tanning routine. 

I loved that you can use your hands to apply the formula, just like your body moisturizer, with the confidence that it won't stain (don't forget to wash them afterward though!) Its soothing formula will nourish the skin, and it dries quickly. As it's so quick and foolproof, this would the perfect option for when you are just about to leave the house and want to give limbs a quick glow boost.

Isle of Paradise Disco Tan Instant Tan

(Image credit: Isle of Paradise )

9. Isle of Paradise Disco Tan Instant Tan

Best instant tan with a shimmer

Specifications

RRP: $18.50/£15.95
Application: Lightweight cream
Key Ingredients: Grapefruit, chia seed, avocado & coconut oils
Available shades: One shade

Reasons to buy

+
Sunkissed looking colour 
+
Subtle shimmer included
+
Great price

Reasons to avoid

-
Takes multiple coats to conceal streaks

This tan takes the act of glowing to the next level by including a subtle sparkle in its sunshine-in-a-bottle formula. The shimmer is subtle yet flattering and illuminates limbs, catching the light just right in photos. The smell is also delicious, thanks to its inclusion of coconut oil and zingy grapefruit.

The formula is creamy and glides effortlessly over the skin. It is quite sheer, in terms of color, so you may want something more robust if you have specific concerns you wish to camouflage. Once I applied the first coat, I allowed it to dry before going over it with a second coat that deepened the color and blended it further for a streak-free result. The radiant finish really is so flattering that it's worth the extra effort if you can spare the time and faff. 

James Read Body Foundation Wash Off Tan

(Image credit: James Read)

10. James Read Body Foundation Wash Off Tan

Best instant tan for daytime wear

Specifications

RRP: $21/£15
Applicaition: Lightweight cream
Key Ingredients: Coconut and vanilla fragrance
Available shades: One shade

Reasons to buy

+
Delicious vanilla scent 
+
Buildable shade
+
Natural-looking tan

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited shade range

Celebrity tanner James Read knows his stuff when it comes to faking a golden glow. This instant formula from his range suits all skin types and smoothes the appearance of imperfections in just one coat. 

It does seem like this tan was designed to be worn during the day, as it's got a very light texture and lots of skincare ingredients that make it feel like a body lotion. You can use the product on its own, or for an even more natural look, I added a blob to my favorite moisturizer, which creates a very sheer shade. The formula is also enriched with a delicious coconut and vanilla fragrance that doubles up as a nice body perfume that lasts all day.

Darcy Brown
Beauty Assistant

Darcy Brown is a print and digital beauty journalist with her finger on the pulse of the latest trends. She entered the industry as an intern for publications such as Fabulous Magazine and the Sun. Since graduating from university with a first-class BA Hons degree in Philosophy, she has thrown herself into all things beauty. 

When she's not writing for Woman & Home and Weekly titles including Woman and Woman's Own, you can find Darcy working on editorial shoots and social media campaigns with some of the industry's leading experts, including George Hammer, Angelo Seminara, and Lan Nguyen Grealis.