Your fake tan encyclopaedia


The faux glow has come a long way. From the days when the school yard looked more like Willy Wonka’s factory to when streaks were more common than flip phones. Nowadays you’d be hard-pressed to find a self-tanning product that doesn’t look like the real deal. You can fake a European summer getaway with just one bottle and a good-quality mitt (can I get an amen?). But with the plethora of foams, sprays, lotions and oils on the market – how do you choose the best type for you? To decipher the diversity among tanning products, I chatted to St. Tropez expert tanner Michael Brown and Coco Body co-founder Leah Dowell. I give you, the fake tan encyclopaedia…

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Tanning foam

Michael reckons tanning foam (or mousse) is the most popular form of self-tan “due to the foam texture drying very quickly once applied with less residue”. Tanning foam is usually very light and fluffy, making it easy to apply (especially when using a mitt, which both Michael and Leah recommend). Leah notes that most foams go onto the skin dark so you can see where you’ve applied the tan, which helps to avoid streaks and ensure an even finish.

Best for: Oily skin types, time-poor beauties.

We love: Rimmel London Sun Shimmer Self Tan MousseReef Beach Glow Instant Tan Foaming MousseBondi Sands Self Tanning Foam DarkCoco Body Bronze Me Nourishing 2 Hour Tanning MoussePaula’s Choice Sun 365 Self-Tanning Foam,

Tanning spray

Self-tanning sprays were extremely popular back in the day, however are less favoured now as it’s harder to achieve an even finish with them. Most store-bought sprays come in a can and are tricky to use solo. Loads of beauty salons offer in-salon spray tans (as well as brands such as Benefit) which are a fabulous option. With an in-salon spray tan, Michael explains you don’t need a mitt to massage the spray into the body (like you do with most at-home sprays), and you’re unlikely to experience any unevenness since the tan is being applied by a trained professional.

Best for: Experienced tanners

We love: Pelactiv Sunless Tanning Systems Tanning SprayLe Tan In Le Can, , Australis Rapid Tan Chocolate SpraySt. Tropez Self Tan Dark Spray

Tanning oil

Michael says tanning oils are relatively new to the self-tan scene but are quickly gaining traction due to their “nourishing power”. Tanning oils are usually quick-drying and gradually develop colour. Many foams and sprays can leave the skin a tad dry (especially after prolonged use) but oil-based tans give a similar colour payoff and hydrate the skin. “You can use an application mitt to apply tanning oil but it’s also nice massaged into the skin and [can be] easily layered to get the shade you’re after,” adds Michael.

Best for: Dry skin types, any tanning level

We love: Bondi Sands Liquid GoldSt. Tropez Self Tan Luxe Dry Oil

Tanning lotion

Available in both instant and gradual forms, tanning lotions are more hydrating than mousse and sprays but are less hydrating than oils. They have a similar consistency to moisturisers and can be applied with your hands (just make sure you wash them after!). Leah explains that lotions generally take the longest time to dry so are not ideal for the time-poor.

Best for: Dry skin types, lazy beauties.

We love: JBronze Gradual Tanning CreamDove Summer Glow Gradual Self Tan Body LotionDr. LeWinn’s Sunless Self Tanning LotionSt. Tropez Gradual Tan In ShowerModelCo Instant Tan Self Tan Lotion

Which type of fake tan do you like best and why?

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