For many years I championed the pale look in lieu of jumping upon the faux tan bandwagon; admittedly, partly from laziness and partly from fear of a category of beauty to which Boots devotes a section larger than that housing toothpaste [an overwhelming enough category as it is]. However, pursuing a career in beauty writing meant that, inevitably, parcels of false tan began to frequent my doorstep, and [after initially surrendering these to the depths of my wardrobe] curiosity eventually got the better of me. I’ve since discovered that, as extensive and overwhelming as the range on offer is, it’s very easy to sort the good from the bad, and admittedly this is a task typically aided by a higher price tag...


If, like me, you’re super pale and pretty much immune to the [visible] results of sun exposure, whilst simultaneously being that pale as to appear completely out of sorts when embalmed in most forms of self-tan, these products will provide a subtle hint of colour that can be built to your desired shade without going so far as to evoke 90s JLo vibes.

It may not be the season for a post on tanning, but I always find myself reviving my favourite bronzing products at this time of year - spurred on by the fact that my skin never looks quite so dull, cold, and lacklustre as it does in the first months of the year [any hint of a naturally-acquired tan completely gone]. For January a sun kissed look should skirt the line between pretty, sexy, and sporty, but never overdone. An alluring hint of warmth adds a little life and vitality to a wan complexion, and is the perfect reminder of vacation days gone/to come.


These days, modern products and clever application prevent your at-home tanning experiments from ending disastrously. First mention must go to pro-tanner JAMES READ’s Day Tan SPF15* -  a luxurious moisturiser with just a touch of colour. Combining the features of day cream, gradual tan, and SPF in one, the lotion feels extremely moist on the skin, leaving it with a lovely healthy sheen. Like the application, the finish is flawless - an even, natural colour that can be built from light to medium in 2-3 days; a far cry from over-sunned, heavy-handed bronzing looks that appear dated in comparison. This results in the kind of warm glow that I imagine I’d look like if I tanned [and holidayed] like a normal person on a Caribbean beachfront.

Perhaps the most highly-acclaimed and innovative gradual tanning product to date; in the same line as the above, JAMES READ’s Sleep Mask Tan* combines skincare benefits [soothing aloe vera and hydrating hyaluronic acid] with a hint of self-tan. The colourless gel serum works overnight to impart skin with a subtle warmth and glow by morning. The effect isn't remotely ‘fake’-looking, can be layered to darken, and doesn’t fade in patches - the colour and streak-free finish fools everyone. Use 2-3 times a week to maintain a truly healthy glow - it’s super moisturising, and won’t breakout acne prone skin or cause irritation.

Those who seek the reassurance of a customisable product that can be tailored to suit personal preference will delight in the CLARINS Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster*, a super-concentrated serum that you mix in with your facial moisturiser by night to convert it to a gradual tanner. Three drops is recommended on first use, and delivers a surprising amount of pigment [so be wary of doubling-up on your first go as I did!]. For consequent applications, increase or decrease the dosage as you fancy, smoothing all over a clean, dry face. The formula absorbs quickly [so won’t smudge off on your pillow] but once mixed with moisturiser is invisible, so ensure to blend thoroughly for an even and perfectly natural-looking hint of colour. Again, this fades completely indiscernibly.


To modernise a bronzed look, it’s vital to keep the finish fresh, as opposed to dry and powdery. When it comes to setting powder, highlighting powder, and indeed bronzing powder, I swear by Eve Lom’s formula, which somehow delivers a fresh, healthy glow whilst keeping makeup in place and oil on lockdown. A little softer and less obvious than a traditional one-dimensional bronzer, EVE LOM’s Golden Radiance Bronzing Powder* contains light-reflecting particles that illuminate skin and blur imperfections. I've been wearing this a lot and I’ve never previously been one to liberally dust bronzer over my face at any point in my life; I’m super pale but the shade is incredibly delicate and natural-looking - in fact it takes some building up to get a truly noticeably colour. The mix of gold and brown pigments give skin a radiant sheen that is a far cry from your typically orange-toned bronzers, and the formula virtuously contains hyaluronic acid and antioxidants, which cleverly work to ensure that skin will in fact be naturally luminous over time. The handy brush applicator is also perfect for adding dimension to the contours of the face in order to infuse your complexion with an instant all-over post-holiday glow. N.B. Don’t forget your neck - any success in achieving a natural golden glow will be lost when a bronzed face reaches a pasty neck. To avoid any obvious discrepancy, dust it down to your shoulders and clavicle bones.

Like liquid sunshine in a bottle, BOBBI BROWN’s Liquid Face Highlighter in Sunlit Bronze* is the answer to mimicking the effects of a mid-holiday facial. For a bright, fresh complexion with just the right amount of glow, dot this across the high points of your face where the sun would normally hit it to make a bronzed look even more natural, whilst adding dimension. The sheer liquid formula is a perfect alternative to powders if you seek a fresh, dewy base and [if you’re blessed with a clear complexion] looks beautiful when adorning bare skin.

Maximise the glow-factor by mixing a warm-toned liquid highlighter with your foundation. NO7’s Skin Illuminator in Peach is the perfect candidate [although NARS’ Illuminators do offer a more extensive shade range]. A sheer, pearlescent gel-liquid [which was designed by Lisa Eldridge during her stint as the brand’s Creative Director], this is one of NO7’s understated products and I [along with small, loyal legion of fans who ensure it remains frequently sold out] adore it. Ignore the brush applicator and squirt a little onto the back of your hand, mix with your foundation, and apply for an instant, lit from within radiance. The affordable price tag means it can be used as liberally as you please in order to enhance your complexion with a hint of outdoors radiance whenever you like.


If you wish to make tanning a fuss-free addition to your routine then invest in ST. TROPEZ’s Gradual Tan In-Shower Lotion*, which delivers the most extraordinarily natural-looking tan I’ve yet to experience from a bottle. Effectively an in-shower moisturiser with a lower dose of DHA [the main tanning ingredient] than a typical fake tan. The benefit of this weaker formula is a much subtler [and therefore less disastrous] colour. Like most gradual tans, the colour fades more evenly than instant formulas and is infinitely easier and more convenient to wear - no ruined towels and tea-stained bedsheets. Your tan may not be quite so obvious initially, but the idea here is to build and maintain the effect by topping up daily in the shower. Perfect for anyone new to self-tanning or those wishing to boost or prolong a natural tan, the creamy lotion can be applied with the sort of wanton abandon one typically reserves for body lotion. I found it particularly useful last autumn when attempting to coax my own tan [a surprising momento of the three weeks I spent in France and Spain in August] back to perfection.

Weightless and easy to apply, HE-SHI’s Gold Foaming Mousse* gives the jet-set tan you’ve always wanted in a single application. The colour develops to a rich bronze hue over time but also leaves an immediate pigment that allows you to see if you’ve missed a spot - no more tea-stained knees, hurrah! Of the many instant tans I’ve trialled in my years of beauty writing, this is the most natural looking one I’ve found - it’s decidedly non-orange. The colour is incredibly long-lasting; just one application will leave you suitably bronzed for a good week [providing you keep exfoliation and shaving to a minimum] and it also fades more evenly than others. N.B. Whilst not wholly free of that decidedly Rich Tea-esque odour, the scent does disappear after about 12 hours.

For tan without the commitment, NARS Body Glow* delivers an instant bronzed radiance for a single night. Transfer-resistant and free of typical tanning agents, the formula is also heavy on the shimmer count so is perfect for one-night-only occasions. Layer the sheer, golden-brown liquid on top of an existing tan to enhance brown tones or massage it onto bare legs for a quick-fix alternative to a timely tanning regime. Unlike cheaper options, it doesn’t transfer to clothes, and can even withstand humidity, rain, and sweating [having tested this both poolside in Portugal and on a particularly rainy night out in Manchester] I can attest for all three. Plus, the large bottle will easily take you from January to July [and vice versa] twice over.

What products are you using to get the glow this January?

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