The best self tan for easy, believable bronzing on every skin tone

Our beauty team picks the best self tan in every texture – from mousse to mists and body makeup

Collage of two of the best self tan products by Isle of Paradise and ICONIC on a purple backdrop
(Image credit: Future)

The best self tan for you depends on a few factors. Skin tone, product type and budget all play a part, but more important still is tanning behavior. The scope of self-tanners runs from nervous first-timers who want the tiniest hint of glow to bronze-happy babes who won't leave the house without a coating of ultra-deep mousse. Happily, the market is so vast there's a product to suit both sides of that spectrum and everyone between.

No skin expert would ever recommend frying yourself in the sun to build a golden glow when it is so easily achieved from a bottle. And whether you're looking for the best fake tan for face or body, there's one golden rule: "It’s important to remember that self tan should always look natural," says Jules Von Hep (opens in new tab), tanning guru and founder of Isle of Paradise.  "If you’re nervous, select your tan like you select the best foundation opting for shades that will suit your skin tone." 

As with makeup, tanning options can seem overwhelmingly vast. But it's worth doing your research, as once you've nailed down the best self tan you'll be set. Set to enjoy the tone-enhancing, glow-imparting, and confidence-boosting powers that a great tan can bring. 

How we tested the best self tans

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.

Image of some of the best self tans we tested for this guide

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

(Image credit: Future)

Tanners have come a long way since the orange, biscuit-scented formulas you might remember from the early days of DIY bronzing. From creamy mousses and the best gradual tan body lotions to light mists and the best cream bronzers for the face, there's a huge variety of options – and we tested dozens of them for this guide. 

To whittle down our edit of the best self tans, we tried and tested each formula over the course of a few days (or one day, for instant self-tans) to see how well it developed. We took note of several factors including application ease, scent, color and staying power. As with the best bronzers, our key criteria for self tan is that it looks natural and believable, bestowing the sort of glow that will have friends asking why you didn't post your holiday snaps on social media. 

The best self tan, chosen by our beauty team

Classic developing tans

Vita Liberata Heavenly Tanning Elixir

(Image credit: Vita Liberata)

1. Vita Liberata Heavenly Tanning Elixir

Best liquid developing tan

Specifications

RRP: $44/£34
Texture: Cream
Key features: Slow-release DHA, nourishing squalane, aloe vera

Reasons to buy

+
Great color
+
Tinted and untinted available
+
Tan keeps deepening for 3 days
+
Hydrating
+
Smells delicious

Reasons to avoid

-
Slower to apply than mousse

Vita Liberata are known for their natural shades and hydrating tanners that fade as beautifully as they apply. Now, they've changed the game by creating this nourishing cream that develops into a tan after eight hours but keeps getting better for three days. This is down to encapsulated DHA (the active ingredient in self tan) which is slowly released into the skin over the course of 72 hours, then lasts for up to 10 days. 

You can imagine how pleasing this is for holidays or wedding weekends, where the last thing you want to do is waste time faffing around reapplying your tan. On testing we can confirm it was exceptionally long lasting, looking as good on day six as it did day two. It also smells gorgeously chocolatey and has a moisturizing feel that's great on dehydrated skin like the elbows and knees. We love that there are tinted and untinted versions, and though it is less spreadable than a mousse so will take a little longer to apply,  you won't need to reapply so that stitch in time really will save nine.  

St Tropez Ashley Graham Ultimate Glow Kit

(Image credit: St Tropez)
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2. St Tropez Ashley Graham Ultimate Glow Kit

Best mousse developing tan

Specifications

RRP: $53/£38
Texture: Mousse
Key features: Coconut water; white flower scent

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use
+
Hydrating
+
Classy fragrance 

Reasons to avoid

-
A little bit pricey

St Tropez might just be the biggest name in sunless tanning and this new-gen developing tanner shows why they've held that position for over a decade. It's a classic mousse that develops in around four to eight hours, after which you rinse the guide color and go. There is nothing particularly new about this protocol but what St Tropez has done is finessed every element of the experience. The mousse is ultra creamy and hydrating and doesn't dry out your skin, the guide color is natural-looking enough to be worn through the day and thanks to an uplifting flower fragrance it smells like summer, not biscuits. 

The longer you leave it on, the deeper the shade. This makes it a pleasingly customizable option for various skin tones and tanning desires. We found two to three hours ample for a natural-looking glow. This kit—a collaboration with supermodel Ashley Graham—packages it up with a mitt, which is always handy.  

Isle of Paradise Glow Clear Self Tanning Mousse

(Image credit: Isle of Paradise)
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3. Isle of Paradise Glow Clear Self Tanning Mousse

Best budget developing tan

Specifications

RRP: $28/£19.95
Texture: Mousse
Key features: Avocado oil; color correcting; 3 shades

Reasons to buy

+
Very hydrating
+
Customizable shade
+
No messy guide color

Reasons to avoid

-
Better for confident tanners

A-List tanner Jules Von Hep's brand brings positive vibes only to some of the best self tan on the market with inclusive campaigns and joyful products for every skin tone. This one works much like a traditional tanning mousse, with a few crucial differences. Firstly, and most notably, it's transparent. This will be a good thing for confident tanners, who can pop it on before bed or at the beginning of a day and gradually develop a tan without worrying about guide color transferring onto sheets, clothes, or looking a bit muddy. That said, if you aren't a regular tanner you might prefer to use a tan that you can see where you've put it to avoid streaks (if that's what you're after, check out our Coco & Eve tan review)

Color aside, what stands out are the three-shade options—light, medium, dark—each offering color-correcting properties and packed with nourishing oils like chia seed, avocado, and coconut. You can sense this in the rich texture of the mousse and plump bounce of skin after applying. The color, once developed is on the deeper side, so if you are fair definitely stick with light unless looking ultra bronzed is the goal. Those with deeper skin tones will likely adore the proper color 'hit' of the medium and dark shades. 

Amanda Harrington The Body Set

(Image credit: Amanda Harris)
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4. Amanda Harrington The Body Set

Best luxury developing tan

Specifications

RRP: $123/£89
Texture: Mousse
Key features: Includes primer and brush; 3 tones available

Reasons to buy

+
Complete tanning and contour system
+
Luxurious finish 
+
Caters for many tones

Reasons to avoid

-
Time-consuming

Yep, that's nearly $125 (£90) for your self tan, but in all fairness, you do get three products for that investment, plus a specific tanning protocol that is a real cut above the usual mousse and mitt job. Essentially, A-list tanner Amanda Harrington has elevated self-tanning to an art form with her unique application technique. For extra brownie points use one of the best body exfoliators beforehand then begin by applying the hydrating primer and bronzing mousse with rubber glove-clad hands, then buff buff buff with the giant brush. Next, follow a detailed illustrated guide to re-bronze outer legs, stomach and arms for body contouring (AKA tantouring) trickery. 

Leave it to develop overnight (where despite a fairly deep guide color it somehow fails to rub off on your sheets) wash it off and marvel at the natural tone and undertone, thanks to a choice of three shades, plus a hydrated, subtly enhanced silhouette. There’s no denying it’s more effort than slapping on your tan and being done with it but for a special occasion, the results make it more than worthwhile.

Best self tan from Bare by Vogue

(Image credit: Bare by Vogue)

5. Bare by Vogue Self Tan Foam

Best believable developing tan

Specifications

RRP: £21 (UK and Ireland only)
Texture: Mousse
Key features: Pregnancy-safe; cruelty-free; 3 shades

Reasons to buy

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Easy to apply
+
Develops quickly
+
Pleasant fruit fragrance
+
Realistic tan results

Reasons to avoid

-
Develops a fake tan smell after a while

Since launching, Bare by Vogue has taken the tanning industry by storm. And after testing the Self Tan Foam, we can see why. Not only is the fruity scented formula a joy to apply but it’s also available in three versatile shades (light, medium, and dark) to suit various skin tones. On application, the foam has a lovely lightweight texture that blends in so smoothly. Seriously, you’d struggle to make this one streak. Developing quickly, we noticed a change in color after a few hours (three to four) before it peaked at eight hours. 

The shade is red-based, as opposed to green-based, which lends limbs a believable bronzed glow that mimics two weeks in St Barths. In terms of staying power, this is up there with some of the best that we’ve tried – lasting five to seven days. Removal was also easy; we simply used the Bare by Vogue exfoliating mitt to take off the tan in the shower - but you could also use one of your best body exfoliators, too. The only downside? It does have that distinctive fake tan scent after a while – but this is to be expected with most developing tans. 

Gradual tanning lotions

Sienna X Gradual Self Tan Lotion

(Image credit: Sienna X)
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6. Sienna X Gradual Self Tan Lotion

Best gradual tanning lotion overall

Specifications

RRP: $23/£16.95
Texture: Rich lotion
Key features: Aloe vera; cocoa butter; coconut scent

Reasons to buy

+
Olive undertone
+
Skin nourishing ingredients 
+
Non-sticky texture

Reasons to avoid

-
Nozzle can get clogged

Sienna X creates some of the most revered-by-professionals spray tans on the market, with a sideline in excellent home products too. The secret? Undertone. Almost everything this brand does shares a brilliantly natural-looking olive base that's miles away from the orange disasters some might associate with self tanning. This gradual lotion would be a great introduction to the brand, offering the option to build up a believable bronze color bit by bit. Apply it as you would your body lotion, enjoy the tropical coconut fragrance and non-claggy texture, and repeat as you like on subsequent days.

Some gradual tans require a good two to three applications before you even notice a difference but this offers a subtle yet tangible glow right from go one. A little goes a long way, so it's great value too. One gripe: After repeated use, the skinny pump nozzle can get a little clogged up. It's easily picked out so no great issue, but seeing as this is pretty flawless otherwise, it would be nice to have that little packaging snag ironed out. 

Garnier Summer Body Moisturizing Lotion

(Image credit: Garnier)

7. Garnier Summer Body Moisturizing Lotion

Best budget gradian tanning lotion

Specifications

RRP: $14/£10
Texture: Light lotion
Key features: Apricot kernel oil, glycerin

Reasons to buy

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Huge bottle is great value
+
Light spreadable texture
+
Smells like summer 
+
Two shades available 

Reasons to avoid

-
None, we love this 

Just the sight of this jumbo-sized orange bottle might be enough to trigger misty-eyed nostalgia in anyone who came of age during the early '00s tanning boom. Garnier Summer Body was an icon and OG of the gradual tanning world, and while the formula has been finessed over the years we are pleased to report that all the things we loved about it remain intact. Namely, its low price, easy texture, subtle results, and sunshiney fragrance. 

This is so spreadable and gradual it would actually be some achievement if you did manage to mess it up. It applies like a very light body lotion, sweeping over limbs efficiently and sinking in fast, then develops into a mild glow that can be built up as you like. There are light and deep shades, so you can adjust for skin tone and tanning desires. We personally found applying it two days on the trot built up our ideal color, which could be maintained by reapplying every three days or so. Natural botanical oils keep limbs soft and offer skin smoothing properties on ashy areas.

Dove DermaSpa Summer Revived Body Mousse

(Image credit: Dove)
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8. Dove DermaSpa Summer Revived Body Mousse

Best budget gradual tanning mousse

Specifications

RRP: $14/£9.99
Texture: Mousse
Key features: Moisturizing formula; 2 shades

Reasons to buy

+
Nourishing feel
+
Very gradual 
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

-
Easy to apply too much

If you are a total self tan newbie and want a product it would be nigh-on impossible to mess up, Dove's gradual mousse may well be the best self tan to put on your shopping list. First and foremost, it's very gradual. So much so that after one application you might think, hmm, did that do anything? Rest assured it did as after round two you'll see a subtle golden color start to build. The beauty of this layered approach is, should you miss a patch or not wash your palms thoroughly enough, each coating is such a subtle veil of color there's no chance anyone else will spot it. 

Shade aside, the texture is a bouncy rich mousse that's supremely easy to apply using your hands (or a mitt, if you prefer) and smells fresh, fruity, and summery. A little goes very a long way, which is mostly a good thing as you're less likely to miss a spot but do be careful when pumping it out of the can or you could end up with far too much on your hands. 

COOLA Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist

(Image credit: Coola)
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9. COOLA Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist

Best luxury gradual tanning lotion

Specifications

RRP: $59/£43
Texture: Oil
Key features: Argan oil; aloe vera

Reasons to buy

+
Luxurious texture
+
Subtle color
+
Exotic fragrance 

Reasons to avoid

-
Oil not for everyone

Despite a longstanding belief amongst tanners that oil is the enemy of self tan, this clever product proves the two can make happy bedfellows under the right circumstances. This mist comes from a brand better known for its weightless SPF formulas and doesn't specifically bill itself as a gradual tanner. It does seem to fit the criteria however as the nourishing dry oil formula is more than happy to be left on the skin, behaving more like a classic body oil but offering subtle and buildable bronzing. 

Obviously, not everyone likes oils. But this is a dry and quickly-absorbed oil that won't ever leave your skin feeling slick or make a mess on your clothes. It also smells absolutely delicious, like a pina colada mixed with sun cream. So not only will your skin have a post-holiday glow, it'll have an ice cream-like mid-holiday vanilla perfume too. 

Best self tan from Skinny Tan

(Image credit: Skinny Tan)

10. Skinny Tan Wonder Serum Gradual Tanner

Best hydrating gradual tanning serum

Specifications

RRP: $29.99/£24.99
Texture: Light serum
Key features: Aloe vera; vitamin E, Q10 Coenzyme

Reasons to buy

+
Hydrating 
+
Great for mature and dry skin types
+
Easy to build 
+
Skin nourishing ingredients

Reasons to avoid

-
Slight shimmer not for everyone

This gradual tanning serum from Skinny Tan bridges the gap between skincare and fake tan with its hydrating, nourishing formula that’s brimming with skin-loving ingredients. Aloe vera hydrates and smooths, vitamin E calms and nourishes while q10 coenzyme supports the production of collagen and elastin for plumper, firmer skin. Tick, tick, tick! Expect happier, hydrated skin with continued use.    

Skincare asides, this tinted self-tan serum also bestows a natural-looking, sun-kissed glow that’s topped off with a subtle shimmer. A great pick for holidays and evenings out, this formula really makes skin glow. While the shimmer may not be for everyone, it is super subtle without lots of sparkle. As for application and staying power, the formula has a silky serum texture that spreads easily and dries quickly. It develops in six to eight hours and we found that it lasted well for three days before we topped it up. 

Instant self tan

Vita Liberata Body Blur

(Image credit: Vita Liberata)
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11. Vita Liberata Body Blur

Best instant self tan overall

Specifications

RRP: $41/£29.95
Texture: Cream
Key features: Shea butter; glycerin; soft focus particles

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra transfer-proof
+
Blurring finish
+
A little goes a very long way

Reasons to avoid

-
None, this is excellent

We'll come right out with it: This is the absolute boss, the unbeatable Beyoncé of instant tans. It's no exaggeration to say you wouldn't catch us on holiday or in a party dress without a bit of this on our legs. Essentially it acts like body makeup and glosses over all those little things that might make one reluctant to wear a skirt—mottled skin, cellulite, thread veins, and little bruises that hang around long after you knock your shin on the coffee table. 

Even if you don't especially want to look bronzed, it will even everything out, blur over bumps and give skin a soft-focus sheen that will boost your confidence. This makes it an excellent choice for anyone with darker skin who simply wants to perfect and enhance their skin tone rather than tanning, per se. Often the main fear with instant tans is that they will rub into clothes or dribble down the ankles at the first hint of precipitation, but this is unsurpassed in its staying power and has a five-strong shade range that adapts nicely to most tones. 

Bondi Sands GLO Matte One Day Tan

(Image credit: Bondi Sands)
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12. Bondi Sands GLO Matte One Day Tan

Best budget instant self tan

Specifications

RRP: $14/£9.99
Texture: Cream
Key features: Cucumber fruit water; matte finish

Reasons to buy

+
Natural-looking color
+
Water-resistant 
+
Instant effects 

Reasons to avoid

-
Matte finish won't suit all

An excellent, budget-conscious choice for occasions when there's just not time to wait eight hours for a tan to develop. Apply it as you would any instant tan or body make-up—with fingers is usually fine, although a mitt can make blending a bit easier—then leave it for a few minutes to set in place before dressing. As with most instant tan, this is best suited to use on the body, as the universal shade definitely gives a great thwacking hit of bronze color that can look a bit much on the face. 

It's matte, which is certainly preferable for a natural look, but if it is a high-glamour glow you seek you might prefer something with a radiant finish. As for the transfer test, this fared very well indeed, surviving a hot, humid day and brief dip in a paddling pool. It requires a bit of welly to remove in the shower but most will find that a fair trade for an instant tan you can trust not to smudge onto your sofa. 

Alleven Colour Shield Hydrating Tinted Protection

(Image credit: AllEven)
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13. Alleven Colour Shield Hydrating Tinted Protection

Best luxury instant self tan

Specifications

RRP: $97/£70
Texture: Mist
Key features: Argan oil; 6 shades

Reasons to buy

+
Very high coverage
+
Airbrushed effect
+
Good shades for darker tones

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be messy to apply

Like all the best instant products, this sits somewhere between body makeup and self tan. The main USP is a classy mist-it-on protocol that gives legs, arms, and anywhere else you fancy a smoothed-out and airbrushed appearance. 

The application takes a little bit of getting used to—hold it fairly far away and mist in long sweeps over the skin. Don't go too close and stay in constant motion for the best chance of smooth application success. It's worth getting the knack, as once it's on this stuff is hardcore transfer-proof and seriously flattering. The six-strong shade range extends from very light to the very deepest tones, meaning you can pick a true match for skin-perfecting or a deeper one for tanning. 

Whatever you use this for, you'll love the way it makes your skin look and how much you can trust it not to budge. So much so that you'll forgive a little mess from the spray (easily wiped off the bathroom tiles, promise). 

Sol de Janiero Glowmotions Glow Oil

(Image credit: Sol de Janiero)

14. Sol de Janeiro Glowmotion Glow Oil

The best instant self tan for radiance

Specifications

RRP: $35/£35
Texture: Oil
Key features: Cupuaçu Butter, acai oil, coconut oil

Reasons to buy

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Very glamorous
+
Flatteringly radiant
+
Great on darker skin tones
+
Smells gorgeous

Reasons to avoid

-
Not a subtle look

Sometimes you want a subtle, moderate glow to wear to work and sometimes you want deeply glamorous look-at-me legs to take out on the town. This is definitely the best self tan for the latter. More of a skin-finishing product than a trad tanner, this Brazilian-inspired range of shimmery body oils comes in five shades, three of which work well for bronzing plus rose gold and champagne tones for highlighting. Like everything Sol de Janeiro creates they smell amazing, like dulce de leche and tropical flowers, plus they come in fun packaging that'll stand out on your shelf. 

As an oil, Glowmotion feels lovely to apply, nourishes as it goes, and is fairly sheer so can be built up or just veiled over the skin. It also works particularly beautifully for anyone with a darker skin tone, who may not want a tan but does want to look even with a sexy-looking gleam. This is high glamour stuff so if that's not what you want look elsewhere, and while it may not have the durability of a matte cream, we wore it with a light-colored dress and had zero transfer issues. 

Best insant self tan from Tanologist

(Image credit: Tanologist)

15. Tanologist Instant Tan Lotion

Best instant tan for vacation

Specifications

RRP: $15/£11.99
Texture: Lotion
Key features: Non-comedogenic; blended with light-reflecting nano-particles

Reasons to buy

+
Water-resistant 
+
Transfer-proof
+
Gleaming finish
+
Smells lovely

Reasons to avoid

-
Messy to apply 

This instant tan lotion comes highly recommended and has been spotted on ITV’s favorite, This Morning. It has a smooth and creamy consistency that blends in seamlessly to deliver an instant veil of rich color. While it can be messy to apply, we highly advise investing in the Tanologist Kabuki Brush which helps make application a total breeze.  

The finish is luminous and healthy thanks to the light-reflecting nano-particles that catch the light to create a golden hour glow. If you prefer your formulas matte, this is probably not the one for you – but if it’s dewy radiance that you’re after, this is the perfect pick. We can totally imagine wearing this on holiday, paired with a floaty dress and an Aperol Spritz in hand. Oh, and it's also really easy to layer for a bespoke tan and removes easily with warm water. 

Tanning drops and mists

James Read Gradual Tan H2O Tan Mist for Face

(Image credit: James Read)
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16. James Read Gradual Tan H2O Tan Mist for Face

Best tanning mist

Specifications

RRP: $28/£20
Texture: Mist
Key features: Rose water

Reasons to buy

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Light, fresh mist 
+
Gradual tanning 
+
Hydrating

Reasons to avoid

-
Mist won't suit all

If you're not in the market for an all-over tan, perhaps a hit of healthy glow in your complexion could work instead? If so, you couldn't do much better than this hydrating mist from tanner-to-the-stars James Read. This is tanning at its very easiest and most pleasant. Just spritz the aloe vera and rosewater-infused water onto clean skin, let it dry for a minute or two then you're done. Expect a subtle color to begin developing after four hours or so, then you can top up as and when you wish to build. There's no grubby guide color and nothing to wash off, plus it plays nicely with other skincare and makeup. 

It's hard to imagine who wouldn't like this, although if you like to completely control where your self-tan goes then the mist action might bother you, in which case facial drops or serum would suit. As a pro tip, James recommends to "leave the mist in your fridge especially in the summer months for a cooling effect."

Garnier Ambre Solaire Natural Bronzer Quick Drying Dark Self Tan Face Mist

(Image credit: Garnier)
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17. Garnier Ambre Solaire Natural Bronzer Quick Drying Dark Self Tan Face Mist

Best budget tanning mist

Specifications

RRP: $12/£8.49
Texture: Mist
Key features: Apricot oil; one hour developing

Reasons to buy

+
Speedy developing 
+
Easy mist action
+
Good color

Reasons to avoid

-
May be too dark for some

This product looks a lot more intimidating than it really is. That largely comes down to the aerosol can which might not be the go-to tanning option for beginners, conjuring up images of a high-speed blast of bronze. Newbies shouldn't discount this product though, as what emerges is a super-fine and evenly-spread mist of translucent tanning water. Hold it far away, as ever with sprays, and use a bit of your best body cream for dry skin as a barrier on your palms and you'll be golden. 

Mist aside, there is plenty to love about this, not least the exceptionally good value price tag. The dark shade probably won't suit very fair skin but if you're naturally olive or deeper, it'll offer a decent level of bronzing in as little as one hour. You're looking at four hours for the full effect, a pleasingly speedy result. In fact, everything about this is quick. Applying, drying, and developing. It settles nicely under makeup as long as you give it a minute first, then you can just forget about it until that golden, streak-free glow starts to emerge. 

Tan-Luxe Super Glow Hyaluronic Self-Tan Serum

(Image credit: Tan-Luxe)
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18. Tan-Luxe Super Glow Hyaluronic Self-Tan Serum

Best tanning drops

Specifications

RRP: $48/£35
Texture: Serum
Key features: Hyaluronic acid; botanical seed extracts

Reasons to buy

+
Very nourishing formula
+
Customizable tanning
+
Mixes well with other skincare

Reasons to avoid

-
Fragrance won't suit all

Sitting right in the sweet spot between self-tan and skincare, this clever serum would suit anyone who finds traditional tanners drying or pore-clogging. You can tell from the moment you drop the silky serum on that this is absolutely packed with hyaluronic acid (HA) It's got that slippery, almost viscose texture typical of HA products, which means it's going to plump up your skin while also developing a nice bronze color. And what a color it is—subtle, glowy, and far from orange. It's no surprise this brand was founded by a Scottish entrepreneur. Take it from a Celtic writer: If you can bronze our complexions believably, you've got this tanning thing sewn up. 

The other beauty of this product is how you can tailor it to your needs, use anything between two and 12 drops to determine how deeply the shade develops. You can use it neat or mix it in with your other skincare to create a glow-giving cocktail. It's great for travel too, allowing you to top up a natural glow or turn any face cream or body lotion into a gradual tanner. 

Oskia Adaptive Tan tanning drops

(Image credit: Oskia)

19. Oskia Adaptive Tan tanning drops

Best luxury tanning drops

Specifications

RRP: $86/£72
Texture : Drops
Key features: Vitamin C, amino acids, vitamin E

Reasons to buy

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100% Natural
+
Luxurious brand
+
Part skincare-part tanning
+
Clever packaging

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive for tanning

There's no getting away from the fact that this is a pricy little number, so let's cover that one off first. The expense won't be possible for everyone, which is fine, but if you can afford to buy this, there are a few compelling reasons why you should. The formula is 100% natural and absolutely packed with skincare ingredients as well as tanning ones, including Vitamins C and E for antioxidant properties, skincare acid Lactic acid to gently exfoliate, and a bit of a retinol ester to boost cell turnover. The dropper bottle is slickly designed and allows you to be ultra-precise with how much you use, and because it's so highly concentrated a little bit really does go a long way. It'll last you for ages. 

Onto the tanning. We found this to be one of the punchier drops and mists we tried, so one or two drops in your usual moisturizer or serum is more than enough to give a nice hit of glow the next morning. Your skin will also be plump, refreshed, and smooth due to the aforementioned skincare ingredients. These would certainly be the best self tan drops for anyone who likes a bit of luxury and to take care of their skin while bronzing, plus it contains a natural botanical fragrance so it smells really great too.

Best self tan from ICONIC

(Image credit: ICONIC London)

20. ICONIC London Prep-Set-Tan Tanning Mist

Best tanning mist for radiance

Specifications

RRP: $29/£24
Texture: Mist
Key features: Cucumber; chamomile extract; hyaluronic acid; 2 shades

Reasons to buy

+
Hydrating face mist
+
Tropical aroma 
+
Delivers good glow

Reasons to avoid

-
Shimmer finish not for everyone

If you like Iconic’s Prep-Set-Glow, then you’ll adore their latest formula Prep-Set-Tan. It contains the same skin-nourishing ingredients (think hydrating hyaluronic acid and soothing cucumber) but has the addition of tanning agents to deliver a glowing, golden gleam. Easy to use, simply shake up the bottle to combine the tanning pigments and the shimmer particles before spritzing onto bare skin. While the brand recommends using a brush to buff and blend, we simply spritzed it on and let it develop. 

After approximately three hours, we started to notice the natural-looking tan which, by eight hours, had fully developed. The results? A gleaming, bronzed finish that will make you want to forgo makeup. While it’s loaded with shimmer pigments, which won’t be for everyone, the finish is subtle and glossy as opposed to being mega sparkly. We love how easy it is to apply, the natural color it lends to skin and the tropical smell that instantly transported our minds to sunnier climes. 


How to pick the best self tan for you 

How to pinpoint the best self tan for your needs?  With our expert cheat sheet on the four main categories of tanning product available, that's how:

  • Developing self tans: The classic home tanning product. These usually come in mousse or liquid form and tend to give the deepest color in one go. "These are created for the well-practiced tanner at home, due to their long-lasting effects," says spray tan guru to the stars James Harknett (opens in new tab). "They're also Ideal for a holiday, for those who don’t want to sunbathe but long for that sun-kissed glow. The benefits are color that can last a good week with an aftercare regime. The downside is without correct skin preparation the tan can sometimes blotch, streak, and not develop evenly." 
  • Gradual tanning lotions: A great option for novices who are unsure of how to fake tan, these feel like body lotions but offer subtle bronzing so work particularly well as fake tan for pale skin. "These are great for a first-time self-tanner as it allows you to build your tan up," says James Read (opens in new tab), spray tan artist and founder of James Read Tan. "The more you apply, the more golden your tan becomes. The first application will give you a weekend away look, the second a darker tan. Go for a third application if you want to look like you’ve just spent two weeks in Barbados." We tend to apply these without a mitt, so hand washing post-application is essential. If you do forget read our guide on how to get fake tan off hands.
  • Instant wash-off tanners: These can be applied speedily without any developing time then washed off when you're done. "A non-commitment tan. Think body makeup to give an instant glow and even out imperfections such as dry skin on legs" explains James Harknett. "These are ideal for that last-minute invites and nervous tanners as they dry in seconds and can be rinsed away fast if something goes wrong. The downside is all that work of applying a beautiful tan is washed away in one shower." 
  • Tanning drops and mists: These tend to be clear, gradual, and include a mixture of skincare ingredients and tan. "They're perfect for anyone who wants a self-tan that allows them to carry on using their favorite skincare and makeup," says James Read. "Tanning drops are great for customizing your glow—the more you drop, the more you glow and people love that choice as it puts them in control. Mists are fuss-free, won’t transfer onto clothing or bedding, and are great over makeup, sunscreen, or moisturizer."