'Timeless and enduring' may not seem like obvious words to describe the trend for tanning, but given that being bronzed has been en vogue ever since it was first popularised by Coco Chanel in 1923, and has remained a durable beauty aspiration ever since [despite the recent zeal for a gleaming alabaster complexion], it seems to be more than worthy of such accreditation. Although the products are often clichés of a certain kind of disposable beauty, their continually innovative formulations and enduring popularity point towards a timeless demand that transcends the latest trends; for, come summer, the tan is always in.
All in the name of research, I've spent the past couple of months turning myself every shade of golden you could possibly imagine, so it's finally time to meet my favourites.
N.B. If the past few months have taught me anything it's that fake tan is not an area of beauty in which to be frugal [unless you want to be orange, stop scrimping and buy the good stuff], and that a mitt and a good salt scrub are indispensable.
If you're new to the game and wary of streaks then allow me to introduce you to the product that hooked me in. The formulation is coloured from the get-go, allowing you to see exactly where you've applied it and where not. A mitt [see here] is vital to ensuring smooth distribution and effective application [as well as preventing stained palms], but you can expect a natural bronzed finish that you can truly pass off as your own. I'm paler than pale, but the delicate golden shade is a perfect match to the shade my legs sport with a natural tan [with the unwanted lobster-red phase avoided!]. Never too dark or too orange, and even if you overlap there's no chance of patchiness; this stuff is my first recommendation for hesitant sceptics and beginners.
I do love a multipurpose product and this buildable lotion offers a streak-free finish and believable bronzed hue in the form of Soap & Glory's bestselling Righteous Butter [expect the brand's signature scent with a mildly tropical twist]. Packed with rich and moisturising ingredients, it has a decidedly non-fake-tan aroma and develops instantly, perfect for last-minute night-out prep. Instant but temporary, it glides on effortlessly, lasts for hours, and washes out just as easily; simply step into the shower, no scrubbing required. Perfect for an unexpectedly sunny day, it's quite literally a one-wash wonder.
A cult classic, Flash Bronzer is streak-free and easy to use, creating a realistic tan whilst drying quickly and evenly into a lovely honeyed hue. Packed with Vitamin E to keep skin supple, it melts into the skin with a velveteen texture for an even, expensive looking tan. The amber tinted formula provides instant colour and guards against uneven application, delivering an instant hit of coppery glow. Its speed and ease of use render it a last minute saviour that never disappoints.
For a deep, just-back-from-Antigua glow, He-Shi's Liquid Tan is second to none. This thin liquid formula is deeply hydrating and deposits just the right amount of colour when applied with a mitt; resulting in an even warm glow which proves that you don't have to go all-out - a touch of tan can bring wan, sallow skin to life and cover all multitudes of sins with soft-focus glow and reflection. The rich sun-kissed result will hold its own for over a week even with frequent showering.
Tanning takes on a truly luxurious feel with one of summer's most covetable launches. Mix a little of this into your regular moisturiser before bed and expect to wake up with a subtly sun-kissed complexion. That's right, just one night and two drops is all it takes for the powerful contents of this unassuming bottle to give your face a must-be-natural tan, whatever the weather. If you're naturally pale and wary of [typically orange-hued] traditional bronzing powders, this subtle and hydrating oil is the perfect choice for a healthy-looking glow - plus it lasts, so voids additional bronzer application. Just don't be tempted to over-apply.
TIP : For a flawless and even finish, exfoliate regularly for 2-3 days and immediately prior to application. Post-tanning be sure to moisturise on a daily basis to prevent blotchiness and peeling.
A true wonder product, the innovative formula prepares the skin for sun [additional SPF is still essential!] and promotes an even, long-lasting tan with less exposure required. The entirely natural and organic blend of ingredients helps to stimulate and increase melanin production for a notably more virtuous take on a natural tan. It adds a hint of warmth and radiance upon application, but is perfect for those who do prefer to keep it real. Its efficacy and performance mean that even if you're not jetting off somewhere infinitely closer to the Equator, you can still make the most of the UK's few precious days of sporadic sunshine to achieve a noteworthy golden tan.
equip your kit
As with any and every area of beauty, preparation is key and maintenance is vital. From pre-tan exfoliation to post-tan hydration, and with an eye [always] to SPF protection, make the most out of your tan by ensuring that your limbs are suitably prepped, primed, and preserved.
Boasting a serum-like texture which makes it easy to apply all over the face for a luminous glow come sunrise; tanning ingredients work their subtle but effective magic overnight, whilst hyaluronic acid plumps away beneath the surface to improve hydration and elasticity. Completely odour-free, the formulation is packed with almond and jojoba oils in order to provide a natural glow as complement to a warm finish. Use on a regular basis to impart a subtle tan over time, think : more 'spa break in the south of France' than 'tangoed'.
What better way to achieve a golden glow than with Nars' take on what is essentially a body highlighter? This silky oil is packed with iridescent gold shimmer; providing a subtle and buildable warmth, perfect for faking a radiant glow, and ideal for paler skintones that seek a luminous low-level tan. It's less of a base tan and more of a finishing product, so use it to luxe up any of the above as they begin to fade, or wear it on its own [never underestimate the power of a subtle wash of warmth, there is finesse in simplicity].
What are your preferred self-tan options?