Best fake tan 2021: go bronze before hitting the beach

If you’re not quite happy with the result of your sunbathing session on the beach, you can always top it up with these best fake tans

Best fake tan
(Image credit: Getty)

You can forget thoughts of the patchy, orange, foul-smelling results fake tan once delivered, as the game has matured since then, with an unrelenting demand for a fresh holiday glow all year round. 

If you're looking to rekindle your love for a faux sun-kissed glow, or if you're a complete fake tan novice, rest assured we've trialled them all to ensure you'll achieve natural, streak-free results.

So whether you’re all about the Miami Pro level of tangoed orange or prefer a coverage that’ll give you that golden glow reminiscent of ten days in St.Tropez, we’ve put together a list of the best fake tans to help you achieve the perfect level of bronze.

There’s no denying that getting your level of fake tan right is almost an impossible feat but buying one that is of high quality is definitely one step to streak-free. 

We’ve popped the St.Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse at the top of our list because it enables you to choose just how bronze you want to go and with heaps of five star reviews, it’s certainly a success all round. 

If you’re scared that you’re going to wake up the next morning looking like David Dickinson, go for a fake tan lotion that gradually adds colour the more you apply. La Mer The Face And Body Gradual Tan is the best of the best if you prefer the gradual approach to a golden glow. 

To ensure the best results, exfoliate the day before to lift any dry skin and follow with a heavy dousing of moisturiser, particularly around the elbows and ankles. Give yourself 24 hours for the moisturiser to work its magic and set to work the following evening. Failing to prepare and all that... Don’t make us tell you again. 

We've rounded up the best fake bakes to deceive your friends and family. They’ll be hard pushed to tell if you've got a St Tropez glow from a can or the French Riviera itself.

The best fake tan

1. St.Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse

A 100% natural tanning agent that allows you to bronze to the perfect level

Reasons to buy
+Mousse is easy to apply with the applicator mitt+Streak-free glow+You decide level of tan

A pocket-friendly tanning mousse that when applied effectively, should provide you with a streak-free golden glow. There’s a number of reasons why this high street product has made its way to the top of the list. 

Whether you keep it on for 1, 2 or 3 hours will affect the depth of the colour, so you shouldn’t accidentally turn bright orange… unless you fall asleep with it on, then it’s your own fault. 

Xen-Tan Transformation Ultra Weekly Self-Tan

2. Xen-Tan Transformation Ultra Weekly Self-Tan

Who knew the power of broccoli (and other natural ingredients)?

Reasons to buy
+Rinse off after just 45 minutes for a light to medium tan+You control level+No orange marks
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive

Packed full of ingredients that make this lotion more than just your average fake tan, there’s a reason why this one is going to cost you that bit more. If you’re after a subtle glow, rinse after just 45 minutes, but you can let it develop for a full ten hours if you’re looking for that deep, sun kissed glow. 

Best of all is that the composition of this fake tan doesn’t leave incriminating orange marks on your bed sheet, while ingredients such as broccoli seed and Moroccan Oil help to keep your skin in the best condition. 

La Mer The Face And Body Gradual Tan

3. La Mer The Face And Body Gradual Tan

Build your perfect tan over time with this gradual tanning lotion

Reasons to buy
+For a natural-looking tan+Applied as everyday cream+Streak-free
Reasons to avoid

There is a tendency for fake tan to look, well… fake, so if you want your skin to boast more of a natural glow, then this rather expensive option from La Mer should do the trick nicely. 

You can apply this lotion as an everyday cream, which should result in a gradual, streak-free cover that you can top up as and when you need to. 

4. Omorovicza Glam Glow

A luxury tan from Hungarian beauty brand Omorovicza

Reasons to buy
+Silky-smooth+Flawless results+Hydrating

A luxury tan from Hungarian beauty brand Omorovicza, this tan feels as good to use as the wider range of products. Silky-smooth on application thanks to the addition of thermal spring water and sumptious jojoba oils, you'll reap the rewards of this hydrating formula and notice the flawless results.

5. Bondi Sands Everyday Tanning Milk

A fake tan that also moisturises

Reasons to buy
+Moisturises+Slowly builds warm glow+Smells nice initially
Reasons to avoid
-Smells (a bit) after a while

Kill two birds with one stone with this Bondi Sands gradual tanner. A moisturiser first, you can keep your skin hydrated throughout whilst slowly building a warming glow that won't shock with impact. It smells good initially but after a few hours of development, you do get the classic fake tan smell creeping in. 

6. Sienna X 1 Hour Self Tan Lotion

For a fake tan in under an hour

Reasons to buy
+Quick+Hydrating an nourishing ingredients+Pretty flawless results

If you need to pump some life back into your skin but you're against the clock, this fake tan gets to work within an hour. Enriched with a number of hydrating and nourishing ingredients such as Q10 and Vitamin E, you're almost guaranteed a flawless finish, even around the dry patches.

7. Ambre Solaire Natural Bronzer Self Tan Dry Oil

A great fake tan for first timers

Reasons to buy
+Scented+Gradual tanning+Great for first timers
Reasons to avoid
-A bit greasy

If you're looking to ease yourself into tanning, this is a great introductory self tan. It's very gradual so you can build out the desired colour effectively without anyone assuming it's a spray tan. 

Subtly scented with coconut, it's not got the usual stifling scent of the fake tans of your teenage years. The oil is hydrating and does absorb quickly, but it is a dry oil so not for the person who doesn't like greasy textures. 

Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse

8. Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse

A fast acting mousse that lasts

Reasons to buy
+Available in three different colours+Great result+Easy application
Reasons to avoid
-Development takes  time

With three different skin types to choose from including fair, medium and dark, you can ensure that this fake tan mousse blends to the right tone. Some reviewers prefer the resulting colour of this mousse over the St.Tropez, with development taking 4-8 hours for lasting results. 

The application is easy, too; just use the mitt and apply in a circular motion for a streak-free finish. 

James Read Coconut Dry Oil Tan

9. James Read Coconut Dry Oil Tan

An easy to apply spray fake tan that dries in an instant

Reasons to buy
+Non-greasy and packed full of good ingredients+Alternative to mousse and lotion+Quick
Reasons to avoid
-6-8 hour wait

As an alternative to mousse and lotion, this dry oil tan is easy to apply and quick drying so you can get on with your day quickly once you’ve applied it. 

Although it dries quickly, it should still leave the skin feeling moisturised and enriched, with the protective probiotics helping to protect the skin from pollutants and the elements. You’ll need to wait 6-8 hours to wash the tan off but once rinsed, should last 5-7 days. 

Clinique For Men Face Bronzer

10. Clinique For Men Face Bronzer

If you wear a hat during the day, you can use this fake tan to give your face a boost of colour

Reasons to buy
+A temporary solution for uneven body coverage+Especially for men+Health glow+Easy to remove

When you’re out and about during the day and you’re wearing a hat, it’s easy for your arms and legs to catch the sun but your face may miss it. If you’re worried about your face looking out of sorts, this bronzer for men will provide your face with a healthy glow. 

All you need to do is pop a coin sized amount on your hand and rub it in and it can be easily removed with soap and water so there’s no risk of overdoing it. 

Skinny Tan 7 Day Tanner

11. Skinny Tan 7 Day Tanner

A great value fake tan for those on a budget

Reasons to buy
+Vegan friendly+Tropical smell+Smell-free

This fake tan is all about staying natural, both in colour and ingredients. With its tropical scent and Aloe Vera enrichment, it should be a pleasure to apply, with the resulting colour giving you a subtle sun kissed glow. 

With the brand saying that Skinny Tan is a streak-free, nasty smell-free and cruelty-free product, this one is all about doing good. 

12. Palmers Cocoa Butter Natural Bronze Body Lotion

A great budget fake tan

Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Pleasure to use
Reasons to avoid
-Patchy as it wears off

Cocoa Butter, forever the benchmark of tangible hydration. An ingredient so sumptuous and indulgent it’s a pleasure to use. Thankfully Palmers allows us this luxury at a very low cost. Use this tanning lotion three times a week and you’ll forever have the glow of someone who frequents their holiday home.