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Tried and tested

Say no to faux pas with our self-tanning heroes

Verity Douglas
Writer and expert4 years ago
View Verity Douglas's profile

The only acceptable tan lines, our latest self-tanning essentials are changing the way you (faux) glow. So, whether you’re feeling decidedly sun-starved or want to prolong your post-holiday bronze, our newest recruits will ensure you stay golden.  Cult Concierge expert  Ryan gives his recommendations of the best self tanners for all your tanning desires...

three arms of different skin tones with different fake tan lines

But do self tanners work? Every self tanner contains DHA — a colourless molecule that reacts with the amino acids on the surface cells of the skin causing a chemical reaction (called Maillard Reaction). This little reaction is responsible for the bronzing effect. Literal sunshine in a bottle!

Does self tanner work on dark/deep skin tones? You may be wondering how it works on skin that's blessed with more melanin. Ryan explains that like the lovely glow we get on medium to light skin, faux tan on deeper skin tones "can be great to help reduce the difference between natural skin tone and hyperpigmentation as well as blur and reduce the appearance of scars." Plus Ryan explains that tanners in general are "great at blurring and reducing the appearance of cellulite and accentuate muscles." As if we need more reasons to lather on the golden glow!

Here are Ryan's top tanners:

For a gentle and gradual build up

St. Tropez Gradual Tan Body Lotion Medium-Dark

This light, fast-drying, non-sticky formula gradually creates a gorgeous glow. Suitable for all skin types, it's ultra-hydrating, vegan formula is infused with skin-loving extracts such as firming marine algae, hyaluronic acid (for hydration, duh!), as well as antioxidant-rich blueberry and raspberry seed oils.

If you're new to tanning:

Bondi Sands Pure Gradual Tanning Milk 

Completely colourless (you can kiss goodbye to stained clothes!), fragrance-free and housed in completely recyclable packaging, this hero formula is ideal for those who are new to tanning, tanning connoisseurs and even those with sensitive skin!

isle of paradaise tanning mist on a purple background

For ultra-hydrating & colour correcting tan

Isle of Paradise Dark Self-Tanning Oil Mist

Three hydrating heroes (hyaluronic acid, glycerin and squalane,) plus a mix of oils including argan, grape seed and avocado, this *super* hydrating, ultra-fine mist gives you 24 hour hydration and a glorious tan!

For a nourishing deep tan

Bondi Sands Aero Self Tanning Foam - Ultra Dark

This quick-drying, featherlight formula gives you ultimate control and contains dual-action tanning actives to achieve a deep and long-lasting colour that you'll love!

For a flexible formulation

Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam - Ultra Dark

With this customisable formula you can choose how deep you want your colour! Leave it on between 1-6 hours and have ultimate control. Enriched with aloe vera and a sumptuous coconut aroma, this self-tanning foam will leave your skin glowing like you've spent the day (or week!) by the beach.

Ryan's top tanners for the face:
dark skinned model using a tan dropper on her check

Dermatologically approved and suitable for sensitive skin, these concentrated tanning drops are laced with a 100% natural tanning active as well as a cocktail of skin-loving ingredients such as niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, echinacea and acerola cherry extract.



Ultra-customisable, these tanning drops are vegan and cruelty-free with no biscuit scent (yuck) or tango pigments. Yay! Simply choose how dark you want to go by dropping 1-12 drops of this into your favourite moisturiser. So fool proof you can maintain your faux glow all year round.

Tan-Luxe The Face Anti-Age Rejuvenating Self-Tan Drops 30ml - Medium/Dark 

This hero face tan not only gives you a gorgeous luminous tan, but has added age-defying benefits too! It’s super-charged with tri-collagen boosters to keep skin plump and supple while enhancing elasticity. Get a holiday glow without the skin-damaging sun rays!

Omorovicza Glam Glow Self-Tanner

Perfect for the face and body, this gradual tan has no guide colour so wont stain your sheets! Hurrah! Enriched with 'Hungarian Thermal Water', jojoba oil and apricot seeds, it not only gives you a golden hue but nourishes your skin too!

Verity Douglas
Writer and expert
View Verity Douglas's profile
Cult Beauty’s Content Editor and a Cult Beauty OG, Verity loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm. A quintessential Libran, she’s a self-professed magpie for luxury ‘must-haves' and always pursuing the new and the niche — from the boujee-est skin care to cutting-edge tech. Balancing an urge to stop the clock with her desire to embrace the ageing process (and set a positive example for her daughter), Verity's a retinol obsessive and will gladly share her thoughts about the time-defying gadgets, masks and treatments worth the splurge...