Donna Bartoli

With summertime upon us, I know so many of us are keen to rush out into the sunshine with a bottle of factor 15 SPF found in the bathroom cabinet from our holidays back in 2019. With the temperamental amount of sun we have in the UK, it’s easy to forget just how harmful UV rays can be. I always say, prevention is better than a cure and once you step out in the sun, the changes to your skin are essentially irreversible. UV light penetrates deeply and can cause premature aging of the skin, eye damage and harm to the DNA of skin cells which can cause skin cancer.

So, the question remains – is a self tan the only safe tan? By choosing a self tanner over a real sun tan, you’re already limiting 100% of the potential UV damage. Self tanners can provide a sun-kissed glow, that you can control. With all the different types, formulas and shades of self tanner on the market, you’re guaranteed to find a product that works for you and your skin.

I’ve put together my top list of self tanners that’ll have you waving goodbye to itchy, inflamed sun burn and hello to a gorgeous glow.

glowing skin is always in

Tanning Mousse

A tanning mousse is definitely the best way to go if you prefer a quick, streak free dose of tan. Mousses are commonly available in a variation of shades from Light to Ultra Dark; depending on your desired result and existing skin tone it’s imperative you choose the shade carefully. Super dark mousse self tanners are harder to maintain if there is a vast contrast to your usual skin tone, if you want that ‘undetectable’ tan then I’d suggest going for a medium shade if you have a paler complexion like me.

One of my favourites is Amanda Harrington Illuminating Mousse in Natural Honey, this tan contains a whole host of skin friendly ingredients such as Hyalurinic Acid and Aloe vera to deeply hydrate and Q10 that will smooth and firm.

In order to get the most out of a mousse tan, ensure that you exfoliate thoroughly before applying, otherwise the tan can cling to dry patches and give you that classic ‘tiger bread’ look. Not so chic.

If you’re looking for something that is brilliant but quick then the James Read Express Glow20 is another go to of mine. It’s an express mousse and gives you an all over glow in 20 minutes, it’s formulated with Vitamin C and Hyalluronic acid so expect brighter more hydrate skin from this one

Tanning Water

If you’re a fan of a more natural result without any of those possible tell-tale fake tan signs (the orange fingers, biscuity smell…) then a tanning water may be perfect for you to get your ideal bottle bronze. Typically more lightweight and packed with skin-loving ingredients such as coconut oil, avocado oil or even hyaluronic acid that will leave your skin looking soft, smooth and tanned.

I suggest trying the St Tropez Self Tan Purity Water for a no-fuss glow, this tan will have you wondering why you ever sat in the British sun for hours when a golden glow was only a bottle away.

Gradual Tanner

With limited up-keep and easy to apply, gradual tanners are a great way to keep your skin moisturised while also maintaining a natural bronzy glow. Typically, gradual tanners don’t have as much colour pay off as a mousse or tanning water, but that’s what makes them so great! You can completely control your shade of tan which makes them perfect for beginners or if you prefer a more natural result.

A top pick for me at the moment is the Tan Luxe The Gradual tan which is buildable, lightweight and skin nourishing. I’ll definitely be using this to top up my tan this Summer (if we have one in the UK!) as it give such a natural, even finish.

Facial Tan


Tanning your face is one of the most vital steps of any fake tanning routine and yet it is definitely one of the most challenging. A good facial tan will help to give that seamless, natural glow just like a real sun tan. However, typical mousse tans and some water based alternatives can leave your face patchy, dry and cause a lot of breakouts due to the heavy ingredients that are needed to fake tan your body. As we know, the skin on your face is A LOT more sensitive than the rest of your body and therefore it will need a different formula and ingredients to perform best.

One of the best ingredients to look for in a facial tanner is Hyaluronic Acid as it will hydrate your skin making it softer and more radiant. The Sisley Paris Self-Tanning Facial skincare is a pricey but great option for facial tanning, it contains a blend of plant-based actives and antioxidants which protect the skin as well as offering a boost of hydration and an all over natural sun-kissed glow, there’s no fake tan smell with this one either, it’s my luxury pick and you’ll thank me for it.

Another favourite and one that not only tans but exfoliates the skin are the Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads. Just like the Alpha Beta Daily Peels these little pads are soaked in AHA’s and BHA’s to buff away dead skin and clear clogged pores along with a time-released gradual tan, it’s a win win for me

So there you have it, my top self-tan picks that’ll have you beach bronzed in no time! However, if you are determined to venture into the sun this year, my best advice is to apply SPF every few hours, especially if you’re swimming or sweating. Make sure to bring a hat and keep hydrated too. And remember, self tan is always waiting for you at home, just in case!