It seems to happen every year. I long for the warmth of summer then, boom, it will suddenly appear without warning. Cue frantic calls to arrange a last-minute pedicure and a quick layer of fake tan to camouflage any pasty limbs. But, with literally hundreds of formulations to choose from, how do you know which fake tan is right for you? Fortunately, I’ve done the hard work for you. So, I am here to guide you through the myriad of self-tanning lotions on the market!

fake tan exfoliation prep work

The prep

First things first, you need to be a little bit prepared if you want to achieve the best result. Be tactical and start by blitzing any hair removal ahead of time. Need a wax? Make sure you book an appointment at least two days before and shave a day before applying fake tan, too. This will give the pores time to close and provide a good base for your tan application.

Exfoliating well is vital if you want a smooth and flawless tan. Plan to slough off any dry skin with an exfoliator, paying extra attention to elbows, knees and ankles. Again, if you can remember to do this 24 hours before you intend to whip out your self-tanner, you will get the best results. I like Sienna X Polishing Body Scrub, £11.95, because of the extra fine texture. The mix of shea butter and sweet almond also leaves skin beautifully smooth and soft.

In the days before you fake tan, it’s also best to avoid any heavy body oils or lotions. There’s a chance they will leave a barrier on the skin and result in a patchy application. A good tip is to take a cool shower just before you apply your gradual tan. This will help to wash off any product and cool you down because warm skin can lead to a mottled result.

The application

DHA – dihydroxyacetone – is the key ingredient inside a self-tanning product. Derived from plant sources it works by causing a chemical reaction with the amino acids in the surface cells of the skin. The result is a temporary darkening effect which varies depending on the percentage of DHA used. Most fake tans contain a ‘guide’ which means the lotion is tinted to help you achieve an even application. Even experienced self-tanners will generally use a tinted tan to stop any streaks, coupled with a tanning mitt.

fake tan Velvotan Mitts

Oh yes – a tanning mitt! If you’re serious about faking a sunny glow you need to invest in something like the Velvotan Mitt, £3.99. It will stop you staining your hands which is always a no-no (and leads to gasps of horror the next morning). But a handy tanning mitt will also help glide the fake tan over the contours of your skin like a pro. Worried about blending your hands and feet? Remember my motto that less is more. Try diluting your self-tanning lotion with a few pumps of moisturiser so the tone is lighter and more natural. Don’t forget to extend into the creases between your fingers and toes. Then wipe over your cuticles with a dry cotton bud so the tan doesn’t cling to any dry skin. Hey presto, you’re done.

fake tan young beauty by the pool

My tanning menu

Tanning drops: Crystal Clear Beach Glow Tan Drops, £29.99

Looking for the best face tanner? Simply mix two-or-three drops with your day or night cream and you’ll have a beach glow 45 minutes later.

Tanning milk: Decleor Aroma Confort Systeme Corps Gradual Glow Hydrating Body Milk, £33.75

I swear by this as the best fake tan ever! A gentle moisturiser that slowly builds a natural glow, you can happily use this all summer long.

Instant tan: Bondi Sands GLO Matte One Day Tan, £9.99

Short on time? This instant formula gives skin a luminous, bronzed finish until you decide you want to wash it off later. Thank you!

1-hour liquid tan: Fake Bake 60 Minutes Self-Tan Liquid, £26.95

For the quickest glow ever try this tanning gem. It creates a golden tan in one hour, a bronze tan in two hours and a deep colour after three.

10-day mousse tan: St Tropez Self Tan Classic Watermelon Infusion Mousse, £31

Really easy to use and thankfully free from any fake tan odour. This promises long-lasting golden colour that fades evenly, which is why it’s St Tropez’s best-selling 10-day tan.

fake tan woman wearing shades and sun hat in pool

Two-week tan: Vita Liberata pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan Medium, £37.50

You will need three applications, but this has ground-breaking technology to help your tan last four times longer than normal. It fades nicely too. Result!

Budget tan: Ambre Solaire No Streaks Bronzer Light Self Tan Body Mist, £7.79

An apricot infused spray tan which is great to use on limbs when you need holiday colour in just a few hours. It dries super quickly and leaves a subtle, summery scent.

fake tan after-care Woman applying some lotion onto her legs.

How to keep your fake tan going

The DHA used in gradual tans can also be very drying on the skin. Hydration is vital if you want to eek that fake tan out for a few extra days. If you’re spending time in the sunshine make sure you drink plenty of fluids to stop dehydration. After a shower, always slather on a generous amount of body lotion to stop skin drying out and to lock in the colour. Try a light aloe-vera body lotion which will give sun parched skin a hydrating boost and stop your fake tan rubbing off. Try Dr Organic Aloe Vera Skin Lotion, £7.99, which as well as being budget friendly, does the job very well too.

If you get any patches around your neck and chest, try using a hot flannel to help them fade away. Then apply a new, light layer of tan over the top so you can carry on looking bronzed and flawless.

Maybe it’s time to evaluate your summer skincare regime…Read my expert guide on Summer skincare now.