My name is Astrid and I am a fake tan addict. People are often shocked when I tell them how much I love fake tan because I’m pretty lowkey when it comes to the rest of my beauty regime. Don’t get me wrong, I take care of my skin, but the other stuff – the fluff, the lashes, the manicures, the perfectly threaded brows – not so much. But fake tan, god, I love the stuff. It just makes me feel great, takes away that corned beef-esque hue my legs acquire after a British winter and, in my opinion, makes me look at least 75% better. 

I’ve tried them all thanks to working at fashion and beauty magazines for the last 10 years, from cheap Boots buys to the £90 face tanner beauty editors swear by. Truth be told, while the expensive ones are probably far better for my skin, some of my favourites are amongst the cheapest. Rimmel Sunshimmer will forever hold a place in my beauty bag – it’s seen me through many a Fake Tan Thursday, my once upon a time weekly ritual I never missed. Of late, I’ve been less militant with the tanning schedule thanks to having a baby (no one wants to accidentally fake tan their kid through nursing), but I’ve been topping my legs and arms up with some nourishing, gradual tans when I find five minutes to spare.

Sunless tanning has come a long way in the last few years with smart ingredients and easy-to-apply formulations leading the way. There are a host of products out there that won’t make you look orange, but rather gently sun-kissed. There are drops that can be added to your serum or moisturiser to give you a healthy glow, or water-based, colour-free products that won’t rub off on your sheets, and fake tan correctors for when you do make a mistake (we’ve all been there.) And instead of creating a one-shade-fits-all, there are some smart brands out there like The Isle of Paradise and Tan-Luxe that are not so much creating a suntan in a bottle but mastering colour correcting products that even out skin tone, brighten it and reducing red or ashy tone, for a huge range of skintones. Plus, you don’t have smell like a tin of biscuits these days to fake it. Beauty brands have finally managed to close that gap between looking glowy and smelling weird.

Anyway, if I haven’t waxed lyrical about my devotion to fake tan enough, I’ve handpicked some of my favourites that I return to time and time again. Scroll on for the products that, well, make me feel a little more like me…

Rimmel Sunshimmer Instant Self Tan Mousse – £7.99

Give me all the expensive fake tans in the world and I will always return to my old faithful Rimmel Sunshimmer. I dread to think how many bottles of the stuff I’ve bought and would be pretty gutted if they ever discontinued it. But at £7.99 it’s a sweet price to pay for a year-long holiday tan. The foam consistency is super light and dries quickly, while the strong guide colour (don’t be alarmed, a lot of the colour washes out once you’ve showered) makes sure you don’t miss any little spots – elbows, back of the knee, etc. Love this stuff, I’m sure I’ll be buying it until I’m 80.

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Frank Body Original Coffee Scrub – £13.95

Your fake tan is only as good as your last exfoliating session so I always make sure I’ve stripped away any old tan and smoothed out dry skin with a hard working scrub. Frank Coffee Scrub uses sea salt and stimulating Robusta coffee beans to buff away dry skin. A summer essential whether you fake tan or not.

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Tan-Luxe The Gradual Illuminating Tanning Lotion – £16.66

I’m a big fan of this brand, they create smart tanning solutions with added skincare benefits and formulas that don’t have that weird biscuity smell. Also, the branding is super chic which makes me feel less tacky in my fake tan addiction. This stuff is great if you just want to pep up your legs and arms but don’t want to commit to full-on tan.

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Sisley Self Tanning Hydrating Facial Skin Care – £104

Eye wateringly expensive but if you’ve got cash to burn this is a fave. It sinks into the skin like a dream and leaves the most natural glow like you’ve had just the right amount of sun. It does last for ages, if that makes the £87 price tag any easier to swallow.

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St. Tropez Self-Tan Velvet Applicator Mitt – £3.33

A no brainer, but don’t even think about tanning without a mitt. I’ve tried tonnes of them and they are all very much the same, but St. Tropez’s £5 option is a favourite. It glides across the skin, is double-sided (a must), is easy to clean and leaves a flawless finish.

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Isle of Paradise Glow Clear Self-Tanning Mousse – £14.96

Founded by the man behind many a celebrity faux tan, Jules Von Hep, cult bronzing brand Isle of Paradise is one of the smartest when it comes to fake tanning. The formulations are dictated by the undertones of your skin, for example, the medium ‘green’ shade which I use compliments red undertones, while the darker ‘violet’ shade helps to reduce sallow and orangey undertones. The light as air mousse is water based and leaves no guide colour on your skin (or your pillows), which is far less frightening if you’re a fake tan novice.

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Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drop – £35

A constant in my beauty arsenal, Tan-Luxe Drops are the easiest way to add glow to your face without compromising on skincare. I add three to four drops into my usual moisturiser or serum a couple of times a week and it honestly makes me look like I’ve had four hours more sleep than I have.

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Summer Body Hydrating Gradual Tan Moisturiser – £9.99

An oldie but a goldie and cheap as chips, Garnier’s Gradual Tan keeps the glow topped up and skin hydrated all in one.

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Amanda Harrington  The Big Body Brush and Illuminating Bronzing Mousse – £45 and £36

If, like me, you’re a dedicated fake tanner and are looking to invest, Amanda Harrington’s line is the Rolls Royce of self-tans. Amanda has spent years tanning the bodies of some serious celebs – Jennifer Aniston, Poppy Delevingne, Sienna Miller to name just a few – and she has perfected the ultimate formula and revolutionary application brush to recreate the look at home. The results are magic, with incredible guidance on her website and products that leave the skin flawlessly tanned and incredibly nourished. It’s not cheap but if you’ve got a big event coming up and want to look and feel your best it might be worth the splurge.

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Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Mousse – £30

Another favourite, Vita Liberata’s tan builds up and lasts once you’ve apply it a couple of times. It definitely smells better than most, leaves skin moisturised and the colour is deep and rich. I like to use this before a big event or a holiday as it tends to last a little longer between top-ups.

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Bare by Vogue Liquid Body Illuminator- £22.50

Vogue Williams knows her tan, and her Bare range has been a bathroom staple since launching back in 2019. Her latest addition is the Liquid Body Illuminator; it perfects the skin by minimizing blemishes, covering imperfections and smoothing the skin’s appearance while reflecting light for the ultimate glowy skin.

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The products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however, The Handbook may make a small commission on some of the products purchased through affiliate links.

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