The best fake tans for 2021

Save your skin the stress of a sunburn and snap up the best fake tan for you.

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to fake tan or if you’re a bit of a bronzing guru, we’re about to change your life with the best fake tan products in a number of categories.

We know using the fake stuff can be scary – no one wants to look like they’ve been swimming in a packet of Doritos, now do they? But with the right products, you can achieve a flawless tan without having to withstand blistering temperatures in the name of sun-kissed skin.

We’ve tried and tested a whole range of brands over the years, but these knock-outs below are the kings (and queens) of the bunch. Don’t believe us? You can see for yourself right here, with images of real (yes real) results.

Categories:

Best light/medium fake tan

1. Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam - Light/Medium

Where to buy: LOOKFANTASTIC, ASOS and Feelunique

Bondi Sands is one of the most well-known brands in the tanning game, and for good reason. Its stand-out product is the light/medium tanning foam.

It’s perfect for those who don’t want a super dark tan but do want a little bit of colour to spruce things up. The formula of this tanning mousse is incredibly easy to apply due to the foam texture – it means you can really control where you’re putting the product. It also contains hydrating properties, meaning it won’t dry out your skin as much as other products.

Oh, and one other thing – this tan has been commended for how long-lasting it is.

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Best medium/dark fake tan

2. St. Tropez Gradual Tan Classic Lotion - Medium/Dark

Where to buy: LOOKFANTASTIC

If you like your tan nice and dark (guilty!), then you seriously cannot avoid the St Tropez Medium/Dark Foam.

This bad boy will take your skin to such a rich, deep tan colour (with no orange undertones in sight) and we’re betting that you’ll fall in love instantly. It will take 12 hours or so to see a real difference, with the best results 72 hours following application.

It’s a pick that works for a number of skin tones too, so we really can’t fault it.

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Best express fake tan

3. Bondi Sands 1 Hour Express Aero Aerated Self Tanning Foam

Where to buy: ASOS and Beauty Bay

This is one of the hottest tanning products on the market right now. In just one hour you can achieve the most natural, beautiful looking tan you’ve ever seen. And if you leave it on for two hours, it’ll look like you’ve spent an entire summer lounging on a deck chair in the Maldives (now who doesn’t want that?)! But of course, in reality, all it took was a couple of minutes in your bathroom.

This foam also dries incredibly quickly, leaving you to pop your clothes back on soon after application. It’s pretty safe to sleep in the stuff if you like.

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Best gradual fake tan

4. Tan-Luxe The Gradual Illuminating Tanning Lotion

Where to buy: LOOKFANTASTIC

For those who don’t enjoy the process of using fake tan, or just want the smallest touch of colour, a gradual tan is definitely the way to go.

Gradual tans can often be tricky – some literally make no difference at all, but with others, well, let’s just say you may as well have picked up any old bottle. But don’t worry, this product is the Goldilocks porridge of gradual tans – it’s just right!

You get a beautiful natural glow and absolutely no streaks. Win! You can even apply it with your hands, but make sure to wash them afterwards, of course. It’s also a great shout for those with sensitive skin as it contains very few of the harsh ingredients harboured by others on the market.

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Best fake tan for pale skin

5. Australis Ultimate Dark Tanning (Ash Base) Foam

Where to buy: eBay

If you have fairer skin, the chances are you’ve either given up on using fake tan, or you do take a whack at it every year, with mixed (often orange) results.

But fear not. The product you’ve waited your entire life for is finally here. The Australis Ultimate Dark Tanning (Ash Base) Foam has been created just for you. It really is the bee’s knees… just see for yourself.

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Best fake tan for the face

6. Bali Body Face Tan Water

Where to buy: Beauty Bay

We’ve all been there. Bronzed legs, sun-kissed arms but a pale face really isn’t the one. So, you’ve probably tried putting fake tan on your face, right? This might do something about the colour, but it can cause breakouts due to clogged pores (hey, acne!).

And so fake tan for the face was invented, and we’ve never ever looked back. If you want to give your complexion a glowing lift try Bali Body Face Tan Water. It’s the perfect mix of colour for your face and it will leave you skin blemish-free, too.

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Best fake tan oil

7. Bondi Sands Liquid Gold Self Tanning Oil

Where to buy: ASOS

Fake tan doesn’t just come in spray, cream or foam, though. Tanning oil is a great alternative. Why? It’s a lighter consistency, making it an ideal purchase for those with dry or sensitive skin.

It will also help you develop a natural-looking tan, which is what we’re all here for right? Bondi Sands has done it again with their liquid gold oil (it really is liquid gold, people).

But the best thing about this product? It’s dry oil, meaning it won’t go sticky or greasy, and it won’t transfer onto clothes or bed linen. Conveniently, you don’t have to wash it off, either. It doesn’t get much better than that…

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Best fake tan for dry skin

8. Australis Ultimate Dark Tanning Foam (Marula Oil)

Where to buy: eBay

Dry skin is super common during the winter and if you’re a keen tanner, this can be problematic. If you’re in this boat, you’ve probably noticed that the fake tan tends to attach itself to your dry skin? Hello, patches and streaks galore! Not only does this not help you achieve your desired look, but your skin is also likely to dry out even more.

This is where the Australis Ultimate Dark Tanning Foam (Marula Oil) comes in. It works to hydrate your skin at the same time as giving you a flawless tan in the process. It’s not greasy or sticky either – nope, the tan dries incredibly quickly and doesn’t transfer nearly as much as other products we’ve used.

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Best instant fake tan

9. St.Tropez Instant Tan Wash Off Lotion Light/Medium

Where to buy: LOOKFANTASTIC, Feelunique, and Beauty Bay

We know you’re always going to have a moment when you need a tan immediately, and that’s when instant tan is 100% the way to go. There are lots of options out there though, so how can you possibly choose?

Luckily you don’t have to. The St. Tropez Instant Tan is the only product you’ll ever need. You can even put this bad boy over an old tan and it will give you a glorious and noticeable glow. Or, use the product on fresh, exfoliated skin and see the results before your very eyes. The best part? It washes off so easily, which means you don’t have to scrub your skin forever and a day when it comes to removing your glow.

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How to fake tan…

1. Prep your skin

Okay, listen up because this step is more important than applying the tan itself. No matter how well you massage in the product, if you don’t have a clean canvas to work from, you’re going to get a nasty result. When prepping your skin you want to exfoliate properly and get rid of any old fake tan or dead skin cells. This allows a clean base for the tan to be evenly distributed. Also, be sure to moisturise your skin about an hour before applying.

2. Apply tan

The main event… When applying the tan, you want to work in small sections because most formulas dry pretty quickly. If you try to do it all at once, some sections will dry up before you’ve had time to rub it in. And this will leave you with a patchy tan. Not. Cute.

So, break your body into sections: calves, thighs, arms, chest, stomach and finally, your back. Leave your hands and feet until last and only use the excess tan leftover on the mitt for these two areas. This way you won’t end up with hands and feet that are 10 times darker than the rest of your body. Once you’re done, leave your tan to dry for 5-10 minutes and then pop some dark clothes on.

3. Wash off tan

Once you’ve left your tan on for a week or so, or you’ve decided to sleep in it, you’ll probably want to wash it off. Our best tip would be to use a small amount of soap or shower gel. This is because it’s going to dry out your skin and strip off some of your fake tan in the process. So, only wash what is necessary, then get out of there! Once you’ve patted yourself dry with a towel, a small amount of moisturiser and hey presto. Your work is done – a gorgeous and glorious tan is complete.


The do’s and dont’s of tanning

Do’s:

  • Do apply small amounts in sections. Start in one section and make your way up your body.
  • Do moisturise your skin an hour before tanning.
  • Do take off an old tan before applying a new one.
  • Do use a tan that works for your skin type.
  • Do give your tan time to dry before applying another layer, or putting on clothes.
  • Do wash your tanning mitt each time after use.
  • Do put in the effort to tan your back. Or even ask a friend.

Dont’s

  • Don’t apply fake tan straight after shaving or exfoliating. Fake tan will get stuck in open pores.
  • Don’t layer a new tan over older fake tan – patch city!
  • Don’t apply fake tan to your face.
  • Don’t apply heaps of tan in one go. Wait half an hour then do another layer.
  • Don’t put clothes on before your tan has dried.
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