I Hated Fake Tan Until I Tried This £20 Product

I grew up in the '90s when St. Tropez was first launched into the UK beauty market. Into the '00s, it came of age during a rush of gradual tan lotions hitting the shelves at Boots and tanning shops popping up on every high street. I also graduated around the same time The Only Way Is Essex first hit our screens in 2010. So I've never really known a time when fake tan hasn't been a major force in the beauty industry. That being said, I never felt the pressure to keep my skin looking like it's just spent a fortnight on a tropical beach somewhere.

Firstly, because any product that involves a multi-step application process (slather on, wait for hours, try not to notice the biscuit smell, and then shower off) just isn't for me. Secondly—and perhaps more importantly—I'm just not that bothered about being a bit pasty. Thirdly, because when I actually do go on my annual summer holiday, I want people to notice when I get back.

Of course, that's not to say that I haven't dabbled in fake tan over the years. There was the Johnson's Holiday Skin Body Lotion—one of the first gradual tanning lotions of its kind that promised to imbue skin with a subtle, streak-free glow that developed slowly over time. I, of course, woke the morning after using it on patchy, orange legs. Then there was everyone's university favourite, the Rimmel London Instant Tan. If applied with a mitt, you had a fairly decent chance of getting a tan effect, but if you stepped outside on a rainy winter day, it was washed away as instantly as it first appeared. These days, I'd pretty much resigned myself to the fact that fake tan just wasn't for me. That is, until Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops landed on my desk a few weeks ago.

Formulated specifically to give the consumer full control over their tan, the thing that intrigued me about this product was the promise of a fully customizable colour. Rather than a one-shade-fits-all approach to tanning, you mix one to 12 drops with your usual face moisturiser or body lotion depending on how bronze you want to go. I have to say that they really work.

I usually apply just three or four drops of the Light formulation to deliver a healthy radiance to the skin (rather than a full-on tan), and I really love how it looks. The product is also available in Medium and Dark for olive and deeper skin tones looking to add some glow.

But while this product might have changed my mind about fake tan, I was intrigued to find out what other tans are the genuine best sellers on the market. After all, if they're flying off the shelves, then they have to be good, right?

Keep scrolling to shop the best fake tan for this summer as well as top application tips from Bali Body's founder, Laura Foley.

The mousse that's sold every 3 1/2 minutes:

You might have spotted this cult Australian tanning brand while scrolling Instagram, as it's been all over social media since the launch last year. This quick-drying mousse has sold out four times worldwide since last year, and one currently sells every three and a half minutes. Clearly, it's in high demand.

Choosing the Right Formula for You

"Do your research and choose a formula that will suit your skin type," said Foley. "A product with a green base is perfect for all skin types, so that's always a great place to start if you're a self-tan beginner. I also think it's important to choose something really nourishing with natural ingredients, as it's less likely to dry out your skin and come off patchy, leaving you with a natural-looking glow," says Foley.

The secret behind Rosie's glowing skin is celebrity tanner James Read. Luckily, you can get some of that A-list skin at home as Read has his own range of self-tan products. "James Read Sleep Mask Tan is the best facial tanning product I've ever used," Rosie Huntington-Whiteley told Teen Vogue. "I can't stop using it. It gives me extra body confidence for my shoots and on the catwalk."

The first tanning brand to grace our shelves in the UK, St. Tropez remains the brand best seller and the one that shifts the most units in Boots each year. The original, classic formula is inspired by professional salon tans, and you can expect the same depth of colour and long-lasting results.

Getting a Perfect tan, Every Time

"Ensure you're always starting with a clean base," advised Foley. "Exfoliate and remove hair a day before [if you're so inclined]. Apply a small amount of moisturiser to your really dry areas (hands, knuckles, feet, knees) and make sure you use a tanning mitt for a streak-free tan. A good tanning mitt is a great investment, giving you an overall more professional finish on your tan."

VB took to Instagram Stories earlier this year to share a snap of this chic and simple, 100% natural tanning lotion from The Organic Pharmacy. "Really liking this self tan for my body, not to be used on the face ladies," Beckham wrote.

The mist that sold every 30 seconds at launch:

Another entry from Bali Body comes in the form of this new launch from the brand. I've had the chance to try this out for myself and can say it's a great option if you're just looking to boost the radiance in your skin rather than develop a full-on tan. You just sweep it onto clean skin using a cotton pad (much like a toner) and let the glow develop. When it first launched in March this year, a bottle was sold every 30 seconds.

Making It Last

"Moisturising every day is totally key," explained Foley. "Hydrated skin holds colour longer, whether you're wearing fake tan or have a natural suntan."

Used on the likes of Holly Willoughby, Kim Kardashian West and Amal Clooney, this temporary glow-booster can be worn on bare skin to add a subtle, sun-kissed gleam or mixed with body lotion to dial things down.

Vita Liberata's celebrity tanner has been responsible for some of Kim Kardashian West's glowiest spray tans. "When tanning Kim, I chose to use Vita Liberata professional tanning solution in Brazil. This formula offers a rich dark bronze colour." Try this dark lotion for a similar effect at home.

The best thing about the St. Tropez Purity range is that it has a genuinely nice, tropical scent—a real rarity in the world of fake tan. It's also super hydrating and lightweight on the skin, so it's a great option if you're not a fan of traditional lotions and mousses.

Tanning for Different Tones

"Have a play with what development times work for your skin type. Some people leave tan on for one hour, while others sleep in it so it really depends on your skin tone and preference," said Foley. "Our Self-Tanning Mousse is made with colour guide technology so it's always going to work with your skin tone, which is a huge bonus. It's all about trial and error. If you're using good products, you're never going to have a huge fake-tan disaster."

Another Australian tanning brand, Bondi Sands, is currently flying off the shelves at Boots, with three products from the brand selling every minute. This one gives a deep, intense tan that's great for darker skin tones.