The best fake tan formulas of 2021 that won’t let you down

These self-tans recreate sunshine.

Lay to rest the fluro orange ghosts of self-tans past. Formulas have dramatically improved since those streaky, biscuit-tinged bronzing mousses. Scratch that. They’re infinitely better, with less DHA and more skin-loving, moisturising ingredients so you look glowy, not half-baked. Proof is our pick of the best fake tan for 2021.

Think foams that give a natural sun-kissed finish; creams that build gradually and even serums that combine the best in skincare with tanning agents.

Before you get to the products, though, you need to first follow our fool-proof fake tan tips. Then select the right self-tan for your skin type and tone to get the most convincing coverage.

Beauty Drawer

Types of Fake Tan

There are only three golden rules for choosing a self-tan.

Namely, opt for a gradual tan if you have pale skin or are a complete self-tanning novice. These contain less tanning agent than regular fake tans to steadily boost your colour. Use daily and you can control how dark you go.

Consider your skin type. If you suffer from dry skin, chose a self-tan lotion or serum. Tanning water, which you spray on much like a face or body mist, also promises hydration alongside a sun-kissed glow.

‘Gels offer oily skin the added bonus of a quicker tan result,’ says Michaella Bolder, St.Tropez’s Tanning & Skin Finishing Expert. ‘While mousses and multi-angle spray tans work on everyone.’

Fake tan mousses also come with the benefit of immediate results; there’s often a guide colour, meaning you can see where you have and haven’t bronzed up. Just remember to use a mitt and work fast as mousse tans have quick-drying formulas. You’ve been warned.

tanned woman smiling - best fake tan

And finally, use a different fake tan for your face than your body.

The skin on your face requires a completely different formula as it’s far more sensitive.

‘It also has a tendency to go a little darker as your PH balance is higher,’ says James Read, the man responsible for Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Lady Gaga’s tans. ‘Facial self-tans contain humectants and anti-ageing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and are formulated to be slightly lighter.’

Tanning drops, which you add to your face cream, are a good option, too, as the tanning agent is diluted in a nourishing base and you can customise your colour with the preferred amount.

The Best Fake Tan For Your Skin Tone

Here’s some breaking news for you: everyone’s skin benefits from a slick of self-tan. In the same way that the pale-skinned among us love a hint of bronze, many women of colour want a deeper glow, too.

Pale Skin

‘If you have a fair skin tone and you freckle in the sun, then a red-based tan will complement your colour. It will also counteract an orange look you sometimes get,’ says A-list tanning pro, James Harknett. Sienna X Gradual Untinted Self Tan Lotion, is a good example of the best fake tan for pale skin.

And aim for levels of DHA (the sugar-cane derivative, which makes you tan) that are between two and five per cent, so that you don’t look like you’ve overdone it.

In fact, Tan-Luxe founder Marc Elrick believes four percent is the sweetspot for tanning actives, especially when talking about lighter skin tones.

‘The ethos behind Tan-Luxe is that it starts life as a skincare product,’ he says.

‘We then work backwards to incorporate the tanning actives. You get glowing results from 4% DHA after the first use, but the effect is much more subtle. Plus you can really enjoy the skincare benefits as you gradually build up the colour with each application.’

Olive and Dark Skin Tones

‘Olive skin tones and those who tan well on holiday should choose a green base to counteract an orange tinge,’ says Harknett.

Black skin can push the boat out with the darkest fake tan. These contain around 18 per cent DHA and, says Harknett, ‘effectively cover up blemishes and even-out skin tone.’

For more of our top-rated best fake tans, keep scrolling…