The Best Gradual Tanners For A Natural Summer Glow

Easy does it…

If you’re a self-tanning novice and the words ‘fake tan’ make you break out in a sweat, the easiest way to achieve a golden glow this summer is with one of the best gradual tanners.

Why choose a gradual fake tan?

It's easy to use and more forgiving than many one-off fake tans. Gradual tanners slowly build colour each time you use them, so you can see exactly where to apply more or less, and add to your colour if you want to build intensity.

Jules Heptonstall, Tanning Expert at St.Tropez adds: 'Having a tan is like having an injection of confidence. Limbs look leaner and a sun kissed glow makes everyone look healthier. Tanning can be daunting for novices, but there is no need to be reluctant with a gradual tan.' St Tropez’s new Gradual Tan In Shower Golden Glow (£14.50) is seriously easy to use, and is included in our top 5 edit (below).

What are the top tips for a perfect gradual tan?

Even when you're using one of the best gradual tanners, the usual self-tanning rules still apply.

You should exfoliate and moisturise before tanning, but not right before – give your moisturiser time to sink into skin before applying your tanner or it will sit on the surface and not apply evenly.

Apply a heavy-duty moisturiser or a little Vaseline on areas like the inside of your arms, elbows, knees and ankles that are susceptible to a build-up of colour and are usually the problem spots for at-home tanning.

And finally, don’t forget to use a mitt to apply your gradual tanner or wash your hands well after application – nothing says ‘This colour’s from a bottle!’ like tell-tale orange palms…

Does gradual tan come off in shower?

There’s no need to worry about your golden glow disappearing after a shower or dip in the pool, as long as you’ve left it on at least 4-8 hours before. We recommend applying after a shower so the product has a good amount of time to sink in and work its magic before you wash again. If you’re on holiday and in and out the pool or sea it is probably best to apply in the evening or before bedtime. To keep up a solid tan you can use your gradual tanning moisturiser on a daily basis.

Does gradual tan stain clothes?

Unfortunately because gradual tanner contains DHA (the tanning agent) it can stain clothes or sheets. However, thanks to the lower concentration in gradual tanner versus classic fake tan, the stains are less severe. To avoid stains use a mit during application and ensure to let the gradual tan sink into the skin fully before putting on clothes or getting into bed - this should only take 10 minutes or so.

Can you use gradual tan on your face?

Gradual tanners can be used all over including your face, however, you might want to consider using a gradual tanner designed specifically for the face. These tend to come with increased skincare benefits tailored specifically for the delicate face area.

Can you tan through gradual tan?

Yes, you can. Gradual tanners have no SPF protection (unless otherwise specified) which means your skin is fully exposed to the sun. It is therefore crucial to wear a full spectrum SPF suncream on top of the gradual tanner if you are planning to be outside.

Should I look for a gradual tanner with added SPF?

While tanners that contain an SPF are a bonus, it’s still worth applying a high SPF cream all over before exposure to sun; remember you might be wary of applying too much tanner, or leave certain parts free from bronzer, but you’ll want all-over protection from your sun cream.

When should I apply gradual tan, so I look bronzed for my holiday?

Start applying your gradual tanner a good two to three weeks before your holiday if it’s a beach break you want an extra hint of colour for. Trying to achieve an even, natural-looking glow in a couple of days is not realistic with a gradual tanner, so if you have left it to the last minute, you’re better off booking in for a spray tan or going for an at-home instant self-tanner.

Can you use gradual tan when pregnant?

There is no evidence to suggest DHA is unsafe for pregnant women. However, it is worth noting that sometimes during pregnancy some women find that their skin can become more sensitive as a result of hormones. It’s therefore a good idea to patch test any gradual tanner you plan to use a few days before.

Shop our favourite body gradual tanners, now:


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