Beauty Editors Tried the Best Fake Tans – These Are the Ones That Left Us Glowing

When it comes to fake tan, there really are two types of people: Those who are committed to weekly tanning sessions which involve a strict exfoliating and moisturising routine, and others who are nervous to even pick up a bottle of the stuff in fear of dreaded orange streaks and unpleasant smells. But fake tan has come a long way in the past few years; formulas are foolproof, smells less biscuit-y, and shades that cater to all.

But it can be a difficult beauty product to navigate since there is so much to consider. You’ve got to decide what consistency you want (mousse, drops, water), the shade you’re after, the development time (anywhere from instant results to 8 hours), and how it wears (does it transfer to bedsheets? Does it wear-off in dry patches?). Like we said, there are a lot of factors of self-tan to consider. It can be a long and expensive endeavour, which is where we come in to give you our honest reviews.

As beauty editors, we’ve tried pretty much every fake tan out there. To help make your choice a little easier, we reviewed some of the best self-tanners around. We broke each product down into highlights, downsides, our results, and our overall star rating. So, whether you’re looking for gradual tanning drops that can be easily added to your moisturiser for a subtle glow, or want to bring out the big guns and commit to six hour development time for a deep faux tan, we’ve found the perfect one.

Welcome to the ultimate fake tan guide.

Related: The Quickest and Best Ways to Remove Fake Tan

Bali Body Dark Self Tanning Mousse

Best for: A golden bronze hue for committed tanners.

Downsides: Takes longer to dry and does transfer a little onto sheets.

Overall Review: “Chic packaging? Check. Sweet scent? Check. Bronzed goddess? Check. Bali Body Dark Self Tanning Mousse (£26) has ticked all my boxes and I’ll continue to use and love this tan. Although you won’t smell like a biscuit, it definitely does have a smell (though I can’t pinpoint what exactly). It is also a little bit sticky immediately after applying so wait a good few minutes before dressing. And while the tan is great, but the branding and marketing could definitely be more inclusive.” – Tori Crowther, associate editor

Overall rating:

Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water

Best for: Custom colour, minimal smell when developing, and no stained sheets or clothing.

Downsides: The spray gets everywhere so best applied in the shower and no guide colour means it’s not easy for beginners.

Overall Review: “Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Water (£19) is perfect for anyone who wants quick and easy results without stained clothing or sheets. This product comes in three shades and each has a colour-correcting tone to ensure the most natural results. I tried medium on fair skin. A little goes a long way, and used sparingly it gives the perfect golden glow without a hint of orange. Application is slightly messy (the spray gets everywhere and is quite hard to press down with one hand) but the water formula really does give a lovely streak-free finish. The spray has a tropical scent, which does a fairly good job of hiding the fake-tan smell. The tan lasted around five days. The tanning water now also comes in sustainable refill pouches.” – Gemma Cartwright, senior editor

Overall rating:

Tan Truth Clear Self-Tan Mousse

Best for:Those tired of transfers and stains.

Downsides: More likely to get streaks, depending on application, as it’s clear. So use a mitt!

Overall Review: “I found the Tan Truth Clear Self-Tan Mousse (£19) to be my saviour when it came to achieving a natural tan and sun-kissed glow, without the headache of colour transfers. Although this tan is best left overnight, I had no stress of transfers in the morning, which was a refreshing change. I also found the formula really moisturising and hydrating, which is always a plus.” – Lauren Gordon, editorial coordinator.

Overall rating:

Vita Liberata Body Blur Instant HD Skin Finish

Best for: A temporary fix if you don’t trust a true fake tan.

Downsides: Quite expensive, may transfer if you get hot and sweaty.

Overall Review: “If you really don’t trust a true fake tan, Vita Liberata Body Blur Instant HD Skin Finish (£30) is hands-down the best instant tanner / body makeup on the market. I’ve never met anyone who’s tried this who hasn’t loved it. It doesn’t just add colour; it also has a perfecting and smoothing effect, and is amazing for making up your legs and arms for a night out. A little goes a very long way, so apply it very sparingly. Once it’s dry it’s surprisingly smudgeproof. I’ve worn it in the rain and found that it stands up pretty well, but wouldn’t recommend it with expensive white clothing, just to be sure.” – GC

Overall rating:

Cocoa Brown Medium 1 Hour Tan

Best for: Those short for time but still want something that lasts.

Downsides: It’s slightly harder to apply than other mousse tans as it dries really quickly, but that’s why it works so well as a 1 hour tan.

Overall Review: “Cocoa Brown Medium 1 Hour Tan (£8) is great for people who are short for time. It develops a nice shade of brown with no hint of orange and only takes one to three hours to develop a bronze that doesn’t all wash off in the shower. It definitely smells like tan but it isn’t unpleasant. Although it’s a formula you definitely have to exfoliate off before reapplication, the Cocoa Brown Fresh Start Tan Eraser (£10) makes that process super easy.” – TC

Overall rating:

Vita Liberata Heavenly Elixir Tan

Best for: People who hate the tan biscuit smell.

Downsides: On the pricer side (but worth it).

Overall Review: “Say hello to the world’s first (and your new favourite) slow-release tan Vita Liberata Heavenly Elixir Tan (£32). Trust me: there are many reasons you’ll love it. It’s one of the best no-biscuit-smell tans out there – seriously, this stuff smells like cocoa just as it promises but in the most luxurious way possible. It glides on easily and doesn’t leave a single streak; if you struggle with patchy tan, this one is pretty much fool-proof. It features an innovative formula that allows the tan to develop into a gorgeous medium bronze tone over three days. Plus, it dries down within just a few minutes of application, giving no horrible sticky tan feeling. I usually pop it on in the morning and go about my day without worrying about transfer.” – TC

Overall rating:

Sienna X 1 Hour Self-Tan Mousse

Best for: Easy to use and develops well.

Downsides: Takes longer to dry than a lot of one-hour tans.

Overall Review: “Sienna X 1 Hour Self-Tan Mousse (£19) is another great option for those pressed for time and want a tan that lasts longer than one day. This one develops gradually so you can go about your day while it gets to work, however this mousse does need a little longer to dry than some. My favourite thing about this product is that it deepens even after washing off.” – TC

Overall rating:

Tanologist Self Tan Water

Best for: Easy application, customised colour, long-lasting results, no staining.

Downsides: Might go too dark if applied overnight, reacts to deodorant, and goes cloudy over time (though this doesn’t disrupt the formula) so best used up quickly after opening.

Overall Review: “Another water formula with no guide colour, Tanologist Self Tan Water Medium (£23) comes courtesy of beauty influencer Lottie Tomlinson. It might just be my new favourite. The spray is a bit easier to manipulate than the Isle of Paradise one, and the product blends easily with a mitt. You can customise the colour depending on how long you leave it on. I did three hours and got the perfect medium tan. I think most tan fans could safely leave this on overnight for a deep, golden colour. It’s easy to apply, has an unusual citrus scent, and only the tiniest hint of fake tan scent while developing. My glow lasted a week, fading very evenly except on the armpits, which needed a top-up after my deodorant removed the tan.” – GC

Overall rating:

Tan-Luxe Super Glow Hyaluronic Self Tan Serum

Best for: Non-comedogenic (pore-clogging) tan.

Downsides: Quite a few drops needed for noticeable tan.

Overall Review: “Tan-Luxe Super Glow Hyaluronic Self Tan Serum (£35) has solved everything you hate about tanning your face. It’s super hydrating, doesn’t cling to your hairline and brows, and doesn’t clog your pores. It’s perfect if you want a glow rather than an obvious faux tan. And if you just can’t get enough of the stuff, it now comes in a larger version for the body.” – TC

Overall rating:

Tropic Sun Drench Overnight Tanning Mousse

Best for: You like a mousse, are prepared for prep, and are worried about turning orange.

Downsides: The accompanying mitt isn’t the best on the market.

Overall Review: “I knew that if the Tropic Sun Drench Overnight Tanning Mousse (£32) was anything like the Tropic Sun Drops, I’d be a fan, and thankfully, it is. If you’re worried about being orange, fear not. This has a blend of plant allo-melanin (an oxidised pigment in plants like black oat) which mimics the skin’s own melanin and chlorophyll (found in algae and plants), a pigment that helps counteract orange tones. And it truly works. As all Tropic products, this is also cruelty-free and vegan.” – TC

Overall rating:

SolSkin Tan Mousse

Best for:Beginners looking for zero streaks.

Downsides:Little bit of transfer.

Overall Review: “Thanks to its skin-loving, hypoallergenic ingredients, the sun-kissed bronze I achieved from the SolSkin Tan Mousse (£22) was was nourishing, streak-free, long-lasting, and perfect for my sensitive, dry skin. Plus, the hyaluronic acid and organic aloe vera kept my glow going strong for up to three days.” – LG

Overall rating:

Bondi Sands Dark Self Tanning Foam

Best for: A dark golden hue for regular tanners.

Downsides: Does have a biscuit smell and does transfer onto sheets.

Overall Review: “Bondi Sands Dark Self Tanning Foam (£10, originally £15) is another firm favourite of mine. It truly is dark (unlike a lot that still takes multiple application to build up) and doesn’t have an orange hue. It’s super easy to apply and a little goes a long way. I’m left with no streaks and a guaranteed bronze result. However, it does transfer onto the sheets, so this one is best for the wintertime when I’m wearing full-on pjs or just before a bedding wash (it comes out perfectly in the wash).” – TC

Overall rating:

Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Butter

Best for: Easy to use for beginners and low maintenance tanners.

Downsides: Not ideal for people who want a fast-developing tan.

Overall Review: “Yep, another Isle of Paradise product. What can we say? The brand knows its stuff.
If you don’t fancy a foam, serum, or water, then you have to try the newest product in the Isle of Paradise line-up, the Self-Tanning Butter (£17). This creamy butter is your solution to low-maintenance, gradual tanning. I apply this in place of my everyday moisturiser and watch my glow develop throughout the day (making sure to wash my hands after applying though!) It’s fast absorbing, non-greasy, and doesn’t smell like biscuits.” – TC

Overall rating:

Nip+Fab Faux Tan Express Mousse Caramel

Best for: Those short for time looking for a deep bronze.

Downsides: Takes a little maintenance.

Overall Review: “Nip+Fab Faux Tan Express Mousse Caramel (£26) is a great hue, is supereasy to apply, and doesn’t have the usual tan smell. Great for someone who wants a deep colour without the hassle of having to wait for it to develop. However, I found that it does take a little more exfoliation to get off, so get your scrubbing mitt to the ready.” – TC

Overall rating:

Isle of Paradise Dark Self-Tanning Mousse

Best for: A deep tan, minimal transfer, and no streaks.

Downsides: Zero, zilch, nada.

Overall Review: “This brand has changed the tan game, which is why it deserves to be in here twice. The mousse in particular has been in my tanning routine every since I tried it. I reapply weekly and get great results every single time. The Isle of Paradise Dark Self-Tanning Mousse (£20) gives me a deep tan with minimal transfer on my bed sheets and doesn’t leave me with that dreaded biscuit tan smell. It’s my all time fave.” – TC

Overall rating:

St Moriz Radiant Glow Face Mist

Best for: People apprehensive of using more high maintenance or darker tans.

Downsides: Doesn’t give immediate results (though that’s not necessarily a downside) and must be used continually to maintain results.

Overall Review: “If you prefer a fake tan that gives a healthy glow and is totally fool proof to use, consider St Moriz Radiant Glow Face Mist (£10). Simply spritz onto your face, neck, and anywhere else you fancy and you’ll wake up the next day with a sun kissed glow without any transfer to clothes or bedsheets, thanks to zero colour guide. I love how the spritz allows for super even coverage so I didn’t have to faff around with rubbing into the skin. Best of all, this face mist smells just like holiday and it has absolutely zero biscuit smell.” – TC

Overall rating:

EFFN Tanning Water

Best for: Sensitive skin.

Downsides: Needed a brush to help evenly distribute product.

Overall Review: “The EFFN Tanning Water (£19)is Cruelty-Free, vegan, dye-free, paraben-free, alcohol-free and silicone-free (phew!). It’s a lightweight mist which makes application super easy, but I found that using a brush to help blend and distrubte the product over my face was helpful in balancing the natural glow, making it less sporadict. All in all, I really like this product, as it felt really gentle on my sensitive skin.” – LG

Overall rating:

St.Tropez Gradual Tan 1 Minute Everyday Pre-Shower Mousse

Best for: Newbies, very gradual results, anyone who hates sticky lotions.

Downsides: Needs a few applications to really see results.

Overall Review: “If you hate waiting for your tan to develop or the stickiness of some gradual tanning lotions, St.Tropez Gradual Tan 1 Minute Everyday Pre-Shower Mousse (£14.50) is for you. Simply rub this shiny mousse over your skin, wait one minute, then shower as normal. It’s definitely one of the easiest tanning products I’ve ever used, but I found that it took a while for the glow to show. After two days, I was still ghostly pale, and it wasn’t until the third application that I saw a glimpse of golden tan. You can leave it on a little longer before rinsing to speed up the process, but to me that negates the point. However, for newbies or anyone who just wants a hint of colour, it’s easy, smells lovely, and is totally foolproof.” – GC

Overall rating:

Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam

Best for: A faux holiday glow.

Downsides: It’s a little expensive compared to others on the market.

Overall Review: “The Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam (£30) promises: no biscuit smell, a light-weight formula, fast-drying, and just two hours develop time, and I’d have to agree with its claims. While I don’t agree with its claims of being anti-cellulite and anti-ageing, I do think it gives a noticeable, and never orange-tinged tan.” – TC

Overall rating:

Amanda Harrington Body Mousse

Best for: A supernatural tan.

Downsides: Has the classic biscuit fake tan smell.

Overall Review: “I’m fairly new to trying the Amanda Harrington Body Mousse (£36) and I’m so pleased I did. It’s incredibly easy to apply, which is all thanks to the colour guide (so you can spot the patches you’ve missed) and mousse-y texture (so it doesn’t dry too quickly), meaning you won’t end up with the dreaded tan streaks. The Body Mousse comes in three shades to cater to your preferred glow.” – TC

Overall rating:

Skinny Tan Wonder Serum

Best for: People who don’t like mousses or drops.

Downsides: Isn’t great for those new to tan and only looking for a subtle glow.

Overall Review: “Skinny Tan Wonder Serum (£20) is intimidating on first pump. It’s very deep brown with shimmer in it, because of this I’d say this isn’t one for first-time tanners. It’s perfect if you don’t like mousses and are a bit more experienced when it comes to tanning. I think this serum is best added to moisturiser giving a deep brown without being too intense because it does dry very quickly. Make sure you wear a tan mitt; just because it says serum doesn’t mean it won’t give you a deep hue!” – TC

Overall rating:

Coola Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist

Best for: Those after a light-bronze tan that is super easy to apply.

Downsides: Expensive for amount of product.

Overall Review: “If you’re a tanning newbie or perhaps dislike mousse tans, Coola Sunless Tan Dry Oil Mist (£43) is a good option. It applies easily, gives a very subtle bronze shade, which doesn’t require exfoliation to wash off, and doesn’t transfer onto bed sheets. However, if you like a little more of a bronze, quite a lot of product is needed for the whole body. I use this tan on my face when I want a quick bronze spritz. However, given the price, this isn’t one for regular tanners.” – TC

Overall rating:

Tori Crowther is a freelance beauty journalist and former POPSUGAR UK editor.

Gemma Cartwright was the former senior editor at POPSUGAR UK. Before joining POPSUGAR in 2013 Gemma was best known for creating one of the UK’s first ever fashion blogs. Over the years she has worked for celebrity websites, beauty brands, and tech companies. She is a graduate of the London College of Fashion, a pub quiz fanatic, and a period drama devotee. She has never met a polka dot she doesn’t like.

Lauren Gordon is the editorial coordinator at POPSUGAR UK, where she creates lifestyle and identity content. Lauren has a degree in journalism from University of the Arts London and previously worked as a showbiz and TV reporter at The Mirror US. Lauren specialises in pop culture, hair and beauty, focusing on trends, sharing in-depth tutorials, and highlighting hidden gems in the beauty industry.

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