May 5th 2018
Being British we know we can’t rely on the weather for a tan and if you’re not lucky enough to be jetting off to sunnier climes in the near future, the best (and safest) way to get a holiday glow is to employ a bit of the fake stuff. The most foolproof of methods? The gradual tanning moisturiser. Not nearly as scary (or dramatic) as the real stuff, tanning moisturisers claim that they can be built up in a streak-free manner, providing the added benefits of hydrated, soft and smooth skin. Read on to discover which gradual tanners won gold...
The promise: "Gradually builds to create a classic, healthy looking tan to suit you."
We give it: 7/10
Review: "Gradual tanners give me flashbacks to summer at secondary school. Coated in lashings of “holiday skin” lotion, we proudly displayed our streaky legs and bright orange hands, thinking we were terribly grown up. Cringe. Luckily, this St Tropez slow builder was a touch more sophisticated on every level."
"It’s easy to apply, but takes a little while to seep in, so I wouldn’t recommend applying it right before you head out the door. It does develop the familiar biscuit scent after a couple of hours which I personally love (!) but many hate. To avoid any pointed glares on the tube, I applied at night and showered in the morning to dampen the smell. It left my skin moisturised and glowing, but it did collect around my knees and ankles after a couple of applications, which is frustrating. It’s also difficult to get it all off your hands after applying, leaving me with giveaway orange patches between my fingers. More seasoned tanners will know that a mitt's the way to go."
"The price tag is quite steep when you need several all-over applications to build up a good colour. Going for the “dark” version made me feel I got more bang for my biscuit-y buck. My big discovery was that it was brilliant for touching up any mistakes when using “proper” fake tan, blending in any telltale streaks beautifully. I think I’ll stick to my normal big-girl tanning routine and use it as emergency back-up for missed patches and for sneaky top ups."
The promise: "Creates a truly bespoke tan as you can control the depth of colour."
We give it: 5/10
Review: "For a fake tan phobe like myself this gradual tanning lotion in ‘fair’ was scarily dark in colour on first encounter but with the initial shock out the way I found the application process super simple. The dark colour meant you could see exactly where you were applying the lotion and I found the lotion to be soft and silky on my skin (top tip: wear the gloves they supply or you’ll be racing against the clock to wash your hands before they stain like I was!). Unlike some other gradual tanning products this lotion doesn't double up as a moisturiser but the non sticky formula sunk in in a matter of seconds meaning no awkward period of time spent hanging out in your underwear."
"After wearing the lotion overnight and showering it off in the morning the colour was spot on: a subtle streak free glow that said more weekend in Cornwall (a lucky one) than fortnight in the Caribbean. Unfortunately though, great results aside, the scent was a real problem for me. The lotion itself had a sickly sweet fragrance and overnight I found the obvious fake tan smell quite unpleasant which has therefore brought down the score significantly.”
The promise: "Tinted lotion gives you instant colour, golden "tan" develops in just a few hours."
We give it: 8/10
Review: “First things first: I am pale. Really pale. And I stay pale for most of the year due to a fear of fake tan, namely because of my sensitive skin. However, having learned that it’s mainly fragrance I react to, this 100% fragrance free Clinique self tanner left me with no excuses. It does contain DHA, so do patch test it if you’re fragile like me (see this helpful feature on tanning for sensitive skin for more info). To use, you simply exfoliate, then smooth on the bronze-tinted gel-like lotion in long sweeping motions and leave it to dry. The most reassuring part of this product is the colour - you can see exactly where you’ve applied it to avoid patchy areas. I left it to develop overnight; the colour intensified, as did the slight biscuit smell but I found it pleasant rather than off-putting. The end colour was a glowing, golden bronze - I’m glad I was light-handed else it could have been verging on tangerine but I was happily content with my faux tan. Apart from a couple of unfortunate marks on my ankles (quickly cleaned up with lemon juice), it was streak-free, too. I’ll be using it all summer - I just wish it came in a larger size.”
The promise: "Use just a few drops of sun booster for a golden glow."
We give it: 9/10
Review: “A truly bespoke beauty product, this tan works by mixing a few drops (somewhere between 4-6 depending on how intense you want the colour to be) into your body moisturiser and applying evenly all over - which initially feels like it might encourage more opportunities for streaks or an oompa loompa-esque finish. However, what in fact results is a healthy, natural glow that develops without a tidemark or pasty patch in sight. With a much higher concentration of self-tanning ingredients than regular gradual tanners, a few drops of this tan will also keep your glow going for longer, while the odourless formula makes the whole task all the more easy, breezy. In short, it’s a godsend for paler skin tones and those fearful of fake tan."
The promise: "Luxurious, gradual tan body lotion that instantly moisturises the skin."
We give it: 9/10 (purely a price point knockdown)
Review: “I love a gradual tanning lotion- nowhere near as scary as deep, dark tanning unctions that leave minimal margin for error, easy to customise in terms of colour (just slap more on the next day if you’re going for gold) and generally more softening and moisturising than conventional fake tan. This ELEMIS version ticks all the boxes- I’m lily white and a touch haphazard when it comes to application yet can report a convincingly honeyed, streak-free result. I have no qualms in saying that this is actually the best I’ve tried yet- there’s no tell tale tan stench, my skin felt and looked smooth and ‘lotioned’ and the colour developed into an expensive looking, natural holiday hue. On the expense front, it’s more dear than its competitors, but if a subtle faux tan plus added protective antioxidants and nourishing oils float your boat, you won’t be disappointed. Plus, it eliminates the need for a separate body moisturiser, so it’s essentially a beautifying, conditioning multitasker. Sold.
The promise: "Effortless, glowing super-luxe skin."
We give it: 9/10
Review: "Lots of things to recommend about this oil/lotion hybrid. First off, it’s virtually unscented in the bottle and doesn’t smell at all on the skin. Second, it’s highly moisturising and sinks in immediately so you can pretty much get dressed as soon as you’ve applied it. Third, the colour is very natural and comes up more strongly than other gradual tanners I’ve tried which need a good couple of coats to notice a difference (if you suddenly wanted to wear a skirt and had pasty legs, you could whack this on and in less than an hour you’d be more than presentable). Full development time, according to the bottle, is four hours so you need to stay away from sweaty activity until then. Fourth, you can use it on both face and body and fifth, a little goes a long way. One application gave me a natural warmth, two applications gave me a decent-looking tan."
"Now the (small) caveats: it’s very runny so pack with care if taking en voyage and don’t stand on a carpet when applying as splash chances are high (but that may be just me running at my usual 100mph). Use a tanning mitt; I didn’t and, because the colour came up well, so did the streaks."
The promise: "Skin is beautifully moisturised and looks naturally sun-kissed."
We give it: 9/10
Review: “This lotion has become my new go-to body moisturiser for hydration with a bit of added glow. Although you do have to wait around five minutes or so for it to soak in before you get dressed, the light formula is in no way oily or greasy. The apricot scent is fresh and summery (no musty biscuit smell here) and after one application the subtle glow it leaves is neither too dark nor too orange."
"Plus, if you want a more intense colour you can easily build up the layers over a few days without a streak or patch in sight. This supersize bottle will see you through summer and beyond, and coming in under £6 makes this product amazing value for money.”
The promise: "Cheat your way to a year-round glow"
We give it: 9/10
Review: "I'm fair, so a gradual tan is the perfect option for me. I like that it takes a while to develop, so you can build it up as much or as a little as you wish. What I love about this one is the scent- it has a slightly floral smell to it so you don't smell like a mouldy barrel of biscuits when you use it. The consistency is quite thick, but not in a greasy way. It has more of a silky texture to it, so that it can really moisturise the skin while building up a gradual colour. The finished colour is natural and even: not a streak in sight. It's definitely pricy (and currently only available for international shipping until stocks replenish) but a little goes a long way, and another plus for me is that it's face and body in one which is always a hell of a lot more appealing when it comes to making an investment!"
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