My HERO product: self tanners

I love fake tan, and over the years have become a bit of an expert in faking colour (in my opinion).

woman with half face tanned, half naturalAnd why not – my skin’s pale, I burn quickly and it takes forever for me to get any colour, let alone a good one. But I do love a glow – don’t we all feel better with sun-kissed skin?

For me there’s no point dangerously frazzling your skin under UV lights, or regularly dishing out for a spray tan or professional tan when, with the right products and following good tips, you can create the sun-kissed goddess look at home, and have a golden, healthy glow all summer – for a fraction of the price.

Self tanning has been given a bad name through bad experiences of people applying products wrongly or using the wrong stuff. Some think self tan is for the youngers, and yes, you do have to be careful that it doesn’t highlight dry skin. But it can still look great. Fake tanning products have really improved a lot.

So I’d like to help you achieve a natural, healthy-looking glow, rather than look ‘tango’ed’ or ‘over-dry’.

My top three self tanners

All these products give me a natural tan, and if my husband can’t smell it on me, that also means there’s no ‘soggy biscuit’ pong.

My favourite: Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 week Tanning Lotion

Vita Liberata package and product

  • £37.50 for 150ml
  • Tan lasts 2-3 weeks!
  • Develops in 4-12 hours
  • Range is the winner of the Natural Health Beauty awards

This tan is the first of its kind. It combines pHenO2 technology and Moisture Lock™ to last four times longer than other self tanners. The lotion is silky smooth, and although it’s fast drying is still very blend-able so I can get a seamless tan.

This gives me my best natural colour – an olive, golden tan – and fades evenly. Perfect.

Its heavy price tag may put you off but it’s worth it because the tan lasts such a long time. I apply it once a week so it never really wears off. Many people think I’ve just had a great weekend in the sun, but no – I’ve just reapplied!

In summary, it looks good, saves time and, because you need less to keep the colour up, it’s good value in my book.


You might prefer to build up your self-tanning expertise before you go for this one – the downside of long-lasting means a longer-lasting gaffe for the inexperienced. Still, Vita Liberata do other, cheaper self tanners with the same great results (but they don’t last as long as the amazing Vita Liberata Phenomenal).

Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tan Liquid

Fake bake self tan product and packaging

  • £16.66 for 150ml with mitt included (1/3 off at Boots)
  • Tan lasts 3-6 days
  • Develops in 4-12 hours
  • Silver Award for Best Artificial Tan (Pure Beauty Awards)
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I got a bottle of this cheap at a show and Boots was out of Vita Liberata so I gave it a go. But I would pay the full price. And it came with a really luxurious mitt so saved me the cost of buying one.

It did all it promised – flawless finish and fast drying, in fact faster than my usual product. The end result was a lovely natural-looking colour, even on my fair skin, so it’s great if you don’t want to go too dark.

I think this tan is the best value for money. This small bottle lasts longer than the rest. It also smells like tropical heaven – fragranced with black coconut (didn’t know there was black coconut) – and there’s not a trace of chemicals. The big bonus for me is that I can smell that my daughter has borrowed it because it distinctively scents the house!


You do have to be very fast blending this tan with your mitt so it might take you a bit of time getting used to it to avoid tide marks. And I use more moisturiser than with San Tropez and Vita Liberata to avoid looking dry.

Plus, it can get a bit messy as it’s a spray – all fake tans should be applied in the bathroom really.

St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Mousse

St Tropez classic bronze mousse

  • £20.50 for 120ml
  • Tan lasts 4-7 days
  • Develops in 4-12 hours
  • Winner of Cosmopolitan Beauty Awards, Company Beauty Awards, and on the Glamour Beauty Power List.

A widely recognised, well-loved and best-selling fake tan, I think St. Tropez’s Self Tan Classic Mousse is the greatest fake tan St. Tropez has to offer. Best applied with a mitt, this mousse creates an airbrushed effect. While not as fast-drying as the other tans I’ve used, this is actually a bonus, as the whipped loveliness blends perfectly all over your body, creating an even, streak-free finish. The tan is enriched with vitamin E, so your skin feels completely moisturised with no sticky patches.

It smells better than many self tans I’ve used – it actually smells nice! The colour isn’t my favourite though, creating a more yellow-based finish than a natural sun-kissed shade on my fair skin.


I do have to ‘air-dry’ for longer and never again would I put clothes on before it was completely dry. Fine though when I’m home alone and don’t mind walking around the bedroom starkers.

If you’re in a hurry…

Fake Bake 60 product and packaging

Fake Bake 60 minutes Self-Tan Liquid

  • £18 for 236ml including mitt (1/3 off at Boots)
  • Develops in 60 minutes
  • Lasts for 3-6 days.

If you don’t have much time, this self-tanning liquid is a good solution and a great alternative to instant tanners, as it contains accelerators to speed up the process.

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You can get a nice glow in just 60 minutes and if you’ve more time, two hours for a golden tan and three for a deep tan.

Like the Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tan liquid, this product dries and absorbs very quickly – so make sure you blend the product with your mitt quickly.

Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs

Sally Hansen Airbrush legs product

  • £9.99 for 75ml
  • Comes in a variety of shades: Light, Medium, Tan Glow, and Deep Glow
  • Recognised on the BAZAAR Top 100, and Beauty Steal Winner for the Beauty Bible Awards

My daughter’s hero product rather than mine. I’ve used it as a last resort when I’ve fallen out of my fake tan routine and it was good.

This leg make-up creates spray-on perfect legs, covering veins, freckles, bruises and other imperfections whilst creating a flawless, instant tan.

It’s easily removed as it simply washes off in the shower. As an instant tanner, you can apply this with your hands (just make sure you wash them immediately afterwards). It only takes 60 seconds to dry, so it’s a quick and easy solution for your legs but not the rest of your body (I tried it – not good).

Effective but I don’t like the price so I prefer to borrow my daughter’s. This is a leg make-up/foundation – it just sits on the skin and doesn’t absorb much. This means it can transfer to other surfaces like car seats and sofa’s.

Gradual tanners

While gradual tanners promise a quick and convenient way to create a natural tan, I think self tanners work best. Gradual tanners are often untinted, meaning you can’t see where, and how evenly, you’re applying the product… nevertheless, as the results not usually that obvious in one application, you can correct it.

Personally I’ve had more problems with orange palms with gradual tanners – better to apply with a mitt.

My favourite gradual tanner is St Tropez Gradual Tan – Light/Medium

St Tropez everyday gradual

  • £9.67 for 200ml (1/3 off at Boots)
  • Develops in 4-12 hours – no need to wash off
  • Infused with vitamin E to moisturise and protect skin

A great alternative to normal moisturiser, with a subtle hint of self tan. Builds to a lovely colour, smells nice, good for a novice tanner and makes my skin look soft and well hydrated.

This one’s ideal if you have just come home from holiday to make your tan last longer. Personally I stick to the light/medium shade,

My top fake-tanning tips:

  • Always do a patch test before self tanning
  • I like fake tanning my entire body to avoid the tell-tale signs of legs shades darker the rest of me, and it only takes a few minutes!
  • Exfoliate before fake tanning, paying particular attention to dry knees and elbows (but I do this the day before rather than prior to applying the fake tan)
  • Moisturise your body, again paying particular attention to dry areas like elbows, knees, ankles and feet – but leave at least an hour between moisturising and tanning!
  • Make sure you’re squeaky clean before applying these tanners – even deodorant can ruin the finish.
  • Shave your legs before fake tanning. The tan will not only stain your skin, but also the hairs – not a good look!
  • Apply fake tan with a mitt to create the most even finish. Blend the tan in a circular motion.
  • Never apply fake tan with your bare hands.
  • Have cleansing wipes nearby to correct any streaky mistakes – just wipe the area and try again.
  • Be very careful when applying fake tan to your face (I tend to just use bronzer instead). If you must tan your face, use a sensitive self tan specially formulated for your face – I recommend St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Face Lotion, £22 for 50ml, which won’t block your pores.
  • Fake tan about an hour before you go to bed, as this allows the tan time to fully dry, and avoids a smudged, streaky finish, as well as fake-tan-smeared bed sheets! Personally I wear cotton pyjamas.
  • Wash your face, brush your teeth and wash the pots etc before self tanning, as any contact whatsoever with water could streak your tan.
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My top top tip

  • Fake tan never seems to develop evenly on hands and feet. This leaves you with streaky hands, or a tan that’s cut off at the wrist. To avoid this, lightly, but evenly and thoroughly, brush your hands and feet with the remnants of fake tan on your mitt. Wait for a couple of minutes, and then apply a small amount of face cream (or any other light moisturiser) to your hands and feet. This helps to blend the tan evenly, creating sun-kissed hands and feet with no streaky ankles!

Finishing touches

  • Use a damp cloth to remove the product from where the sun wouldn’t normally tan your body, using a dabbing motion in between your fingers, your knuckles and the backs of your ankles. Then use a dry cloth to blend the sides of your hands and feet in a wiping motion. These quick touches will help you achieve a natural finish.
  • If you want your tan to last longer, moisturise regularly. Scaley, flakey tanned skin is a real give-away and not very attractive.

If you’ve any tips or recommendations for products, let us know.

(Prices as at April 2018)