We tried eight of the most popular tanning mists and were pleasantly surprised by how foolproof they are
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If you feel wary about using self-tan on your face you need to get on board with self-tanning face mists. I’m a total novice when it comes to self-tanning and even I emerged from a day testing them with a flawless glow that garnered many compliments (not to brag).
They're super easy to apply, as Jules Von Hep, founder of Isle of Paradise explains: "Simply close eyes and mist in downward sweeping motions, there’s no need to blend as mists are so lightweight."
Another way to apply tanning mist to your face is with a brush. Tanning expert Amanda Harrington, who has bronzed the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Holly Wiloughby recommends spraying the mist right onto your brush. "Starting in the centre of your face buff the colour in circular motions, remembering to blend product into the hairline," she says. "Then work down the neck and across the décolletage using circular, blending motions."
When should you use a face tanning mist?
We tried our mists at all times of the day and they all worked. Bear in mind that they usually develop over four to six hours, so leave a minimum of four hours before you cleanse.
"I would recommend using face tanning mist in the morning over the top of your skincare or makeup and also before bed," says tanning pro James Read. "This will allow you to wake up with a glow. Mists work with your beauty regime without compromising it."
Supermodel Ashley Graham, who is an ambassador for St Tropez and a self-tanning veteran says she sprays tanning mist directly onto her face as the last step in her skincare routine each night. “I use my face tanning mist right before I go to bed as the last step in my routine. It means I don’t have to wear as much makeup the day after because my face is so tanned."
For fun, we tried a different tanning mist on each side of our faces to compare how they all developed (see video below) and are happy to report that none of the tanning mists looked dramatically different from each other.
Tested by: Melanie Macleod, digital writer
Face tanning mist with vitamin C: Isle of Paradise Day Dew Self-Tan Face Mist , £15.95
"I tested this mid-afternoon and as it develops gradually, I knew I wouldn't suddenly be dramatically bronzed. I washed my face as normal at bedtime but was still greeted with a gentle sun-kissed look come morning. If you like a gradual tan with skincare benefits, this is for you. The spray is super-fine and disperses well; just three spritzes with a couple extra on my neck and chest felt sufficient. It wasn't clogging or heavy.
"It's an alcohol-free clear bi-phase formula with energising essential oils such as rosemary leaf and cocoa seed oil with vitamin C for brightening. Other ingredients include glycerin to lock in moisture, avocado oil to nourish, chia seed oil for anti-inflammatory benefits. It has Isle of Paradise's colour correcting actives that are in all of the brand's tanning range to keep skin tone even.
"Isle of Paradise also has a Night Glow version , £15.95, of this tanning mist with soothing essential oils such as jasmine oil for bedtime. It has more DHA in it than the one I tested, for a deeper glow."
Face tanning mist for blemishes: James Read Gradual Tan H20 Tan Mist for Face, £20
"With a subtle rosewater scent, this alcohol-free face tanning mist dries ultra-quickly and builds gradually for a natural bronzed look. It feels a little wetter than other tanning mists, which makes it refreshing and tempting to apply several times a day, which is fine if you want to as it's colourless so you won't look super-tanned right away. Plus, there's no need for a mirror when you're applying. Ingredients-wise, it includes witch hazel to reduce blemishes and aloe vera oil to soothe. James Read suggests applying just before makeup as a primer, or on top of your makeup as a refresher."
Tested by: Jemma Thompson, design and social media manager
Face tanning mist for dark skin: Utan 50% Darker Face Mist, £36
"Out of all the mists there, this is undoubtedly my favourite facial tan to apply. There are two version of this; the original tanning water suitable for light to medium tones and the 50 per cent darker formula which is great for darker tones like mine or for those who want a deeper tan. Both have no guide colour. I applied post-cleansing in the morning and the quick-working tan left a lovely glow immediately after and developed to a rich sun-kissed tan within a couple of hours, base and bronzer were certainly not needed! You can apply over makeup as a setting spray if you want to. It’s a super fine mist that’s easily absorbed and didn’t leave my pores feeling clogged. As someone with oily, blemish prone-skin I can see why this mist has hundreds of stellar reviews raving about its acne banishing properties. I like to think of this as tanning that meets skincare; it contains CBD and works to calm and reduce redness, blemishes and has a mood-boosting lavender scent."
Face tanning mist with eco-packaging: Bondi Sands Pure Self-Tanning Face Mist, £15
"I have mixed feelings on this one; the end result was great however getting there was a bit of an ordeal. The bottle itself was difficult to use; the pump was hard to press with one hand and the product came out as droplets as opposed to a fine mist. The instructions advised you to apply four to six pumps (re-apply as required for darker skin tones) then blend gently with an application mitt, which was a step I’d rather skip for my face because it feels a bit heavy-handed. Overall I did about eight pumps to match with my tone and I was extremely worried about the end look because there was no guide colour to suggest how it would look, however the colour payoff was spot on. It didn’t break me out either which was a massive plus. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid and vitamin c to help with hydration radiance and repair and contains no alcohol and is unscented. It’s also made of 100 per cent recyclable plastic which is a bonus."
Tested by: Catherine Fulwood, commercial projects manager
Refreshing face tan mist: Skinny Tan Coconut Water Tanning Mist, £21.99
"This was clear on application which meant I probably over applied a tad because I couldn't see where I'd sprayed it, but it wasn't a huge issue because it was so light and easily absorbed that I couldn't tell it was a tan to begin with. It felt more like a hydrating face mist and there was no grease at all. My skin looked fresh and hydrated afterwards. It had a slight coconutty scent on application with the classic fake tan smell coming through the longer I left it on. I applied this mid-afternoon and kept it on till morning as I wanted maximum taannage. I didn't apply anything on top but I did buff in with a brush and down my neck to keep it natural. I'm glad I did this as it developed quite dark rather than a natural glow, but I don't mind that look so was fairly happy with the result."
Budget face tanning mist: Sosu by Suzanne Jackson Dripping Gold Wonder Water Self Tanning Facial Mist, £9
"This tanning mist was clear on application too, so again, I spritzed on liberally. It was light and easily absorbed and I buffed in with a makeup brush and a tiny bit of moisturiser around the hairline, a tip I learned from model Vogue Williams, who has her own tanning mist range. It had no scent on application but it did have that telltale fake tan smell as the day went on. I went to bed with this on and there was a little transfer to my sheets but nothing a wash wouldn't rinse out. This tan did develop a little patchy on my very fair skin, but with makeup on top it wasn't noticeable and for the price this is worth a try."
Tested by: Victoria Woodhall, editorial director
Face tanning mist for contouring: Amanda Harrington Face Illuminating Bronzing Mist, £28
"Professional tanning artist (and she is trained in fine art) Amanda bronzes the bodies of Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Snowdon and Kate Moss and this is the formula she made when nothing else on the market was natural-looking enough and didn't aggravate her asthma with nasty chemicals. It’s alcohol-free with skincare ingredients CoQ10 (an antioxidant that reduces sun damage) and collagen (for skin moisture retention) and you apply it like a bronzer with a kabuki brush, thanks to the guide colour, which reflects the eventual colour of your skin as the tan develops over four-to-six hours. It means you’re tanned from the get-go and can choose the depth of your colour. It’s completely natural, non-drying and lasted me two days. Although not the cheapest, one bottle will see you through the entire summer and it comes in three shades (mine is Rose, and there’s also Honey and Olive). I found it easiest to apply at night and because you've worked it in with a brush, it doesn't transfer to your pillow."
Hydrating face tanning mist: St Moriz Radiant Glow Mist, £9.99
"I slightly poo-pooed this one as it seemed like it was trying to dupe St Tropez, but in fact, it’s rather brilliant for the price. Alcohol-free with moisturising ingredients such as aloe vera , the clear liquid sprays on as a fine mist and tans subtly and naturally. It’s slightly stronger than a gradual tan. It made me look healthy the next day and has a pleasant ‘holiday’ smell.
For more mists we rate, read on
A-list approved face tanning mist: St Tropez Self Tan Purity Face Mist, £19.75
Ashley Graham's face tanning mist of choice, this clear spray with no guide colour has a pleasing tropical scent that lingers long after it dries on your skin. It delivers the finest mist of our edit; Ashley sprays it over her shoulders onto her back too as it doesn't need to be rubbed in; it's so light that it dispenses evenly without any assistance. This has castor oil in the ingredients list for moisturising but does also contain alcohol , so if you suffer with dry skin this might not be the best choice for you.
Long-lasting face tanning mist: Oskia Adaptive Tan Mist, £55
This includes amino acid and natural melanin boosters for a tan that gently deepens over time, giving up to ten days worth of tan with one super-fine application. There’s no guide colour and no need to rub it in so it’s a great one to apply when you’re in a rush. As you’d expect from a skincare brand, this packs a punch in nourishing ingredients too, with vitamins A, C and E. It has a natural jasmine and mint scent too, so feels like a little spritz of self-care.
GTG contributor Marie-Louise Pumfrey is onto her third can of this face tanning mist which bronzes you in an instant with a quick spritz. "All you do is close your eyes, spray and go," she told us. "There are no orange palms and a golden natural tan develops in a few hours. Plus, it doesn’t have that self-tan cookie smell." It gives an instant hit of colour so you can see where you've sprayed it.
Model and presented Vogue Williams launched her self tanning range in 2019. Her mist is available in light, medium and dark and all three are clear and fine. It has skin loving ingredients such as antioxidant goji berry and chamomile so dial down redness if that one of your skin bugbears. It’s fairly light on the skin (or at least the light one that we tried is) so you might want to apply it every day for a few days for darker results.