Hello children, and welcome to today’s history lesson. This may come as a surprise, but back in the day when fake tan was first invented (yes I am old enough remember it vividly), they were all clear cream formulas.
By that I mean they were like a regular body moisturiser in that they were white but blended in clear, with the colour slowly developing hours later. There were no tinted mousses and no guide colour to know where you’d already applied. The orange streaks were not our fault, we were victims of the system.
Fake tan has come a long way since then, obvs. When I stopped real tanning in my late 20s I started fake tanning on the reg. Nowadays I CBF most of the time but will put tan on if I have a special event or if I have eaten too many wheels of cheese. I have also learned over the years that if I wear fake tan for prolonged periods of time I get really itchy — my skin just doesn’t love the active colourant, DHA. Even natural tans make me itch after a while.
Here, my faves:
As an ode to faux-tan of yesteryear I’m kicking off with a clear formula, but this guy isn’t orange or streaky at all. This formula is vegan and also contains aloe vera and avocado oil to hydrate. I pop this guy on at night and go to bed (with my Qantas pyjamas on to protect my sheets). It does develop into a pretty deep colour though, so be sure to blend really well at ankles and wrists.
More often than not I haven’t had the forethought to plan the use of an overnight tan such as the above, so mostly I panic and pick up this guy the morning of. This is a cream, too, but contains a guide colour so you can see where you’ve put it. Leave it on for one hour for a light tan or three for a deep colour. My sweet spot is just under two hours. I use dispoable kitchen gloves to blend.
In the depths of winter or when I am only really half committed to the cause I will use this gradual tan. Again, I apply at night and sleep in it, but have also used it on just my legs when I decide to wear shorts or a skirt on a whim.
James Read is a tanner to all the celebs in Hollywood and all of his products are bloody excellent, but this one is my fave. As the name suggests it’s a nourishing cream/mask you wear to bed. You cleanse and then pop this on, on its own, to wake up glowy. The colour is subtle and super realistic. When I’m really rich I’m going to hire James and force him to relocate to Australia as my personal tanner.
If you’re super dedicated to a nightly skincare routine, this might be easier for you to incorporate into the mix. You add a few drops of this serum to your night cream to add a subtle glow — obviously the more drops the deeper the colour. This guy is great for tropical travel as the bottle is small and you can also add drops to a body cream as your spray tan starts to fade.
This foam is a game-changer. Instead of scrubbing your skin red-raw before a fresh tan application (we’ve all tried lemon juice at some stage, right?) you apply this clear foam then wait five minutes before showering. It dissolves old tan residue, readying skin for your new tan to be nice and even.
(It’s worth noting that not pictured is two other long time faves, St Tropez Mousse and Bondi Sands Foam. They both offer a realistic colour and are easy to apply with a mitt. I just didn’t have any to include in the picture.)