lady with fake tan bottle

The Best Fake Tan For That Sun-kissed Glow This Summer

Published 20th July 2021
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Not been able to make the most of the summer sunshine yet or simply struggle to tan no matter the intensity of the sun? Now it’s time to take tanning into your own hands with the help of some tools from OnBuy’s online shelves!

If you have neither the time nor inclination to visit a salon, a domestic self-tanner could be your new best friend, and we’d love to introduce you to some of our fabulous bestsellers! It’s unlikely you’ll be topping up a golden glow on a Mediterranean beach this year and we can’t always rely on the Great British weather to deliver the goods, so these little bottles of loveliness are the perfect substitute. 

However, the last thing you want is to end up with a Trumpian tangerine hue - that’s why we’ve taken a look at the various positives and pitfalls of various fake tan products on offer! Whether you’re a complete novice, an intermediate colour creative, or a tinting aficionado, we have plenty of suggestions to guide you through the process; there’ll be no botched jobs or *cue high-pitched screams* streaks to contend with. Yep, hold onto your hats ladies and gents… sumptuously smooth and glowing skin is just a pumice stone’s throw away! You can thank us later.

Is the vast array of options causing you tanning terror?

confused lady

If you’ve never used fake tan before, it can seem like a pretty daunting prospect - especially if you have no idea where to start and don’t want to risk a patchy nightmare! Generally speaking, the most important thing to remember is patience. As with most beauty treatments, the end result is only as good as the preparation, so carve out some well-deserved pamper time in your day and ensure you’ve gathered all the necessary products. 

Before the colouring commences, it’s worth garnering a brief knowledge of the various tinting consistencies on offer, as this can help you decide which texture (and permanency) is best for your personal needs. First up, it’s instant tan which, essentially, does exactly what it says on the tin! These treatments are your last-minute saviour on the nights when you promised yourself treats, trackies, and TV, only to find yourself in a cocktail dress, stilettos, and falsies! Semi-permanent and simple-to-use, simply wash off the excess after a few hours to return to your natural shade. 

Another popular example is gradual fake tan, like this Fabulous Vita Liberata Lotion, which allows you to build a rich tone over a number of days without the pressure of a swift and speedy change. Or, if a delicate, dewy appearance is your bag, it’s probably best to opt for a tanning oil (Bondi Sands’ Liquid Gold frequently tops the charts here), instead of a moisturiser or thicker liquid. Though they’ve garnered a pretty bad reputation in recent years, mostly due to constant misuse and an obvious lack of education, they’re actually completely pure and unprocessed, increasing the body’s ability to produce natural melanin. So long as you’re sensible with your exposure to the sun, and don’t ever use oil as a replacement for SPF protection, you’re certainly good to glow!

Tanning mists (great for speedy yet accurate application), mousses (fast drying and easy to blend), and water-based formulas (perfectly suited to faces and areas of sensitive skin), are all equally effective and user-friendly, particularly if you don’t have time for a long-haul sunning session. For those who want to steer clear of fake tan altogether, but still wish to achieve an even and enduring colour, supplements could be the answer. Brands like Dr Viton really deliver on this front, often containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and crucial pigment complexes as standard. Who knew it could be that easy?!

How do I apply fake tan?

fake tan in mitt

Before diving straight in and slathering on the tan, it’s important to prep your skin. No one wants an irregular finish (let’s be honest, that’s up there with a horrifying hairdo), so give yourself some peace of mind by exfoliating the night before with a body scrub or shower gloves. This will remove all the dead skin cells and make for a super smooth base underneath. 

Likewise, if hair removal is required, be sure to wax, shave, or lather around 24 hours before the tan is applied. These methods can strip the top layer of your skin, so it’s important to wait a while before applying fake tan to prevent a patchy mess. 

Last but not least, it’s time to moisturise those dry and delicate areas. If you don’t want your hands, knees, or elbows to give the game away, gently spread plenty of lotion over your problem regions to prevent the dehydrated skin from peeling. Leave to permeate for at least half an hour. 

Right, the prep is over - now it’s time to get down to business and apply a brilliant bronze in three simple steps:

  1. With your tan in one hand and your glove in the other, carefully squeeze or pump the solution straight onto your mitt. To spread the product evenly, softly scrunch your hand into a fist and release. 
  2. Focusing on one body part at a time, spread the formula in upward circular motions, making sure you reach every inch of your skin. Build until it’s uniform (if your chosen tan has a guide colour, this will be easy to see), buffing out any overlapping parts. Commonly missed areas include the small of your back and the inside of your legs and arms, so be sure to double-check these before you pack away. To prevent tangerine hands, form your fingers into a claw shape and take any excess product around each knuckle and nail.
  3. Leave to dry. Timings tend to depend on the product itself, so have a read through the instructions and refrain from getting dressed until the recommended interval has finished. To prolong your domestic treatment, keep your skin moisturised, hydrated, and use a cooler temperature setting in your shower to help avoid flaking.

How do I remove fake tan?

removing fake tan

Just as fake tan is simple to apply, so too is it incredibly easy to remove. If you’ve ever found yourself feeling dirty as a week-long treatment slowly makes its way off your skin, then this is the section for you. Similarly, if you’ve recently suffered a terrible tan and your body is resembling nothing short of a tiger’s fur, we have some tips to help!

First things first, don’t panic scrub! This will end up taking the product off in patches, which can lead to even more stripes on your arms and legs… eek! Instead, try massaging a light body polish, mixed with a small amount of bath oil, into the affected area, repeating a couple of times for an even, all-over fade. Alternatively, try a tan eraser like this ultra-popular product from Bondi Sands. Simply pump onto the skin, smooth over the section you want to diffuse, leave for five minutes, then wipe away with a damp cloth. It really is that fuss-free!

OnBuy’s top five fake tan products

lady applying fake tan to legs

Now that we've established the basics, let’s delve into our list of the top five fake tan products available. Whatever your complexion, required tone, scent preference, and staying power, we truly have a beautiful bronzer to suit every budget and buyer, so… what are you waiting for? A summer of gorgeously sun-kissed skin awaits!

The best for pale skin | Dove Visible Glow Self-Tan Lotion

dove self tan lotion

Pros: You’re free to determine the depth of your colour, moisturises skin to leave it feeling smooth 

Cons: Self-tan scent can be off-putting, not suitable for darker skin tones

Perhaps the best fake tan for pale skin, Dove’s Visible Glow formula is your one-stop-shop for colour and moisturisation combined. Yep, it’s a cream as well as a tan… who’d have thought it?! Containing a unique NutriDuo complex with natural nutrients, this lotion can be used daily to gradually build up a glittering, gorgeous glow, without the need for extra mitts or buffing gloves. Allowing you to choose the depth of your shade, it’s best applied as part of your regular skincare routine, to progressively enhance your colour over time.

A smooth surface will help you to achieve an even finish, so start by exfoliating. Massage the lotion consistently into clean, dry skin, in circular motions, and allow it to absorb before getting dressed. Once you’re finished, remember to wash your hands. 

On the downside, while this tan is great for fairer tones, it’s not best-suited to other complexions, and therefore isn’t the most versatile product on our list. The self-tan scent may also seem off-putting if you’re not accustomed to artificial smells, especially after multiple uses at home.

For a quick and quality fix | St. Tropez Express Bronzing Mousse

st tropez fake tan mousse

Pros: Three potential colour choices, extremely short process from tan to end result

Cons: The most expensive item on our list, can leave stains on your clothing and bedsheets

This St. Tropez Express Mousse is one of the most popular self-tanners on the market. Incredibly easy to use, apply, and remove, you can choose up to three different depth levels (light, medium, or dark), depending on your needs and preferences. For natural-looking, streak-free colour that’s extremely long-lasting and fool-proof, this is the option for you. 100% clean and vegan-friendly too, this particular model has no fake tan smell... only the signature St. Tropez mood-boosting fragrance.

To use, start by exfoliating and moisturising dry areas (including your hands, feet, ankles, and wrists) up to 24 hours before application. Squeeze the mousse onto a mitt and gently glide the product in upward circulation motions across your body. It’s recommended that you start with three pumps per leg, two pumps per arm, and one pump for your tummy. Shower in warm water after one, two, or three hours, rinsing off the guide colour as you go. Your tan will continue to develop for up to eight hours after this wash, so don’t worry if you’re not the desired shade straight away.

On a slightly more negative note, and despite the Express Mousse’s evident benefits, it’s also the most expensive item on our list, so may not be best suited to the more budget-conscious among you. The formula has a tendency to transfer onto clothes and bedsheets too, especially when you perspire, so this is something to bear in mind if you’re a fan of white outfits and linens.

To achieve that golden hour glow | Sienna X Dark Glowing Self Tan Lotion

sienna fake tan bottle

Pros: Specially created with sensitive skin in mind, infused with green tea for its moisturising qualities

Cons: Takes up to eight hours to develop, long-lasting formula - may be better suited to those with a bit more tanning experience

If you suffer with sensitive skin and find yourself constantly frustrated with the formulas that leave you feeling sore, tingly, and inflamed, then Sienna X is the brand for you. Prepared with organic ingredients like green tea, calendula, lemon peel extract, and aloe vera, this natural fake tan is mild and non-irritating, making it perfect for use on fragile and delicate areas. Achieve a rich holiday glow from the comfort of your very own bathroom with this life-saver, that can also reduce the appearance of cellulite, and leaves your skin with a silky, flawless finish. 

For a professional finish, apply the Sienna X Perfect Self-Tan Primer to your elbows, hands, knees, ankles, and feet. Use a mitt to gradually sweep over the lotion, using any excess product on your extremities. Allow to develop for eight hours (easily done overnight), avoiding tight clothing throughout. In the morning, gently wash until your guide colour runs clear in the shower, then pat yourself dry with a towel. 

Unfortunately, compared to some of its competitors, this product does take a long time to develop, so is probably best suited to individuals who have slightly more free time on their hands. However, the resultant tan lasts for five to seven days, so you won’t have to worry about constant reapplication throughout the week.

The best for mature skin | Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Gradual Tanning Moisturiser

cocoa butter tanning moisturiser

Pros: Great for all skin tones, signature Palmer’s Cocoa Butter scent doesn’t smell artificial

Cons: Not best suited to younger, fresher-looking skin, consistency can seem heavy and thick

One of the oldest skincare brands in the world, Palmer’s celebrated its 180th anniversary in 2020. Having sourced and sold natural cocoa butter and coconut oil since the 1970s, it’s extremely well-placed to offer quality tanning products in the signature chocolatey scent, perfectly matched with mature skin types and complexions. 

As we age, our pores often lose hydration, so this moisturising self-tan will help tenfold if you’re looking for a dewy glow. The creamy and enriching texture will not only keep your skin looking beautiful and healthy, it’ll also provide a sun-kissed appearance that you can gradually build to achieve the tone you’re looking for. Packed with vitamin E and pure cocoa butter, it’ll provide 24-hour moisture. For best results, apply evenly once a day, or as often as required. Be sure to wash your hands after use.

On the downside, Palmer’s has often been criticised for its thicker, heavier consistency and, as such, is often avoided by those who tend to prefer gentler, more delicate creams and tanning lotions. Specially formulated for mature skin, it’s therefore not best suited to younger complexions.

The spectacular spritzer | L’Oréal Glam Bronze Tinted Mist

fake tan mist

Pros: Great for facial skin and other sensitive areas, super quick to apply and dry

Cons: Not ideal for those who prefer mousses or lotion-based formulas, not best suited to novices

If you tend to prefer sprays when it comes to tinting treatments, this is the option for you! Perhaps the best fake tan for your face, the L’Oréal Glam Bronze Mist is great for achieving a radiant glow and uniform complexion in an instant - without the worry of colour-related disasters!

As with the majority of fake tans, it’s best to start the process with an intensive exfoliation. Next, apply your hydrating daily moisturiser and, holding the can at an arm’s length away, gently spray the product onto your freshly buffed skin. Use sparingly in the high-absorption areas, bending your knees to keep the surrounding area taught as you go. Allow the colour to dry before dressing, and you’re good to go!

Despite this spray’s convenience, it’s not ideal for those who feel more comfortable rubbing the tan in themselves, as opposed to relying on an aerosol. As such, it’s probably best suited to those with more experience in the world of tinting, as it’s easier to determine your desired shade.

Bring on the bronze!

fake tan on arm

There you have it… our top five fake tan products that are sure to give you a golden glow this summer. You’ll find all the tinting treatments we’ve mentioned, as well as many other pale skin remedies, in our broad and beautiful bronzing collection. From Rimmel to L’Oréal, St Moriz to Bondi Sands, our shelves are simply stuffed with all the lotions and potions you could ask for, available at prices to suit every budget and shopper. What more could any colour connoisseur ask for?!

Or, if it’s general beauty advice you’re after, why not explore our fantastic blog and buying guide resources? Packed full of recommendations on everything from bath additives to blonde hair dye, pre-vacation schedules to nail trends and skincare vogues, there’s certainly plenty to keep you feeling sensational throughout this season of sunshine. Whether you’re in desperate need of some moisturiser, concealer, or a new bottle of sunscreen for that beach-side weekend away, OnBuy has you (and your complexion) covered - literally! 

All that’s left to say is… bring on the bronze, and revel in all the excitement that summer has to bring. We have a feeling it’s going to be the best one yet! 

Please note: the information in this blog is correct at time of publishing but may be subject to change

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