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Fake tan sales have been rocketing in the UK ever since restrictions were lifted, and no wonder. Let’s face it, nothing beats the best fake tan for giving you bare leg confidence for summer.
Being a fake tan superfan, it was the first thing I grabbed once I needed to look presentable for real-life hangouts again, and this year I’ve been truly spoilt for choice.
There’s a host of innovative "tans with benefits" launching, so I’ve been busy testing some of the most talked-about newbies.
With the promise of multiple heatwaves on the horizon for the rest of summer, it’s good to know even super-pale skin like mine can get a glow safely without fear of looking streaky.
Here are my five-star favourites for a quick and believable golden glow.
Best fake tan for pale skin
Bondi Sands Pure Concentrated Self Tan Drops, £11.24 here
Ready to go green while you bronze? Then check out Bondi Sands Pure, the first fake tan range to come in 100% recyclable packaging.
There are seven products in the line, from mist and foam to milk, mask and drops, and all contain Hydralite 5, which claims to boost tanning performance and skin hydration.
My verdict: I opted for the Pure Concentrated Self Tan Drops, which you mix into your regular moisturiser to create a customised tanning cocktail – more drops, more colour.
I really liked being able to add it to my trusty SFP50 face cream (bonus safe suntan points) and the subtle, natural lift I saw in the mirror at the end of the day. Easy-peasy fakery.
Best deep fake tan
Vita Liberata Heavenly Elixir Tan, £34 here
Here’s the faux glow that promises to keep developing over time, faking the effect of a genuine sunshine tan. Vita Liberata Heavenly Elixir Tan calls itself ‘the first-ever slow release tan’, which continues to deepen for three days once you’ve showered it off.
My verdict: If you need to leave a fake tan on for at least eight hours of developing time, you'll want one with an instant effect like this: think glam body bronzer rather than Marmite.
It was also remarkably stink-free. I braved it on date night with my husband, a man whose nose curls in revulsion at the merest whiff of fake tan, but he didn't detect the dreaded DHA malodour.
Once I'd showered it off, my skin had an impressive golden hue, and although I didn't go dramatically more tanned over the next two days there was a subtle intensification. I could almost fancy I was on holiday, watching my arms catching the sun.
Best fake tan for sensitive skin
utan Gentle Glow DHA-free Mylk, £18 here
Sensitive faces don't always take kindly to being doused in fake tan. However utan Gentle Glow promises to stay on the right side of even allergy-prone complexions thanks to a fragrance-free face formula that swaps dehydrating DHA for erythrulose, a gentle, raspberry-derived skin tanner.
My verdict: I'm lucky enough not to be the target market for this product, but I was intrigued to see if it worked. I've tried erythrulose tans before (did I mention that my husband hates the smell of DHA..?) and haven't seen much of a colour result.
However, Gentle Glow lives up to its name, delivering a subtle lift after three to four applications. It takes time to get going so I don't think you'd use this unless regular fake tan was out of bounds but it's brilliant to see utan taking such an inclusive approach.
Best quick fake tan
James Read Tan GLOW20 Tan Mousse, £30 here
Fastest off the line is James Read Tan GLOW20 Tan Mousse, which promises to leave other express tans in the dust. While the typical fast-developing tan needs to be left on an hour for a light glow, this one promises to do it in just 20 minutes, while a deeper bronze is meant to take 90 minutes instead of the usual three hours.
My verdict: The guide colour looked a bit muddy but I wasn’t fazed, knowing it would soon be down the shower drain. I'm glad to report that the tan underneath developed perfectly evenly, and I was impressed with the natural looking tone. However, the final result from a 60-minute marinade – recommended for a "medium" tan – was lighter than I'd have liked.
I re-did it for 90 minutes the next week and got a perfect glow, along with some “you look well” compliments. It's a bit faster than other express mousses I've used, but I reckon you'd need to leave it on for several hours for the full “been to Barbados” bronze. The final colour is gorgeous though.
Best overnight fake tan
Isle of Paradise Night Glow Self-Tan Face Mist, £15.95 here
There are tons of tans that give you a glow while you sleep, but what about one that helps you drift off faster in the first place?
That’s the idea behind Isle of Paradise Night Glow, which is a hybrid between gradual face tan and soporific pillow spray. It contains a relaxing blend of lavender, ylang-ylang and jasmine oils, which mix with the tanning ingredients when you shake the bottle.
My verdict: I’ve got to hand it to Isle of Paradise, this is an ingenious spin on night-time tanning. It smells similar to my regular lavender sleep mist – no cries of "Ugh, are you wearing fake tan?" from the other side of the bed – and even if I didn’t quite get my eight hours, my subtly warmed-up complexion looked like I had.
I especially like it for topping up an existing fake tan, which always fades fastest on my face.
Consider the best fake tans well and truly found.
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