I Never Sit in the Sun, But These Gradual Tan Products Keep Me Looking Bronzed

April 24, 2020 at 06:30AM

There is nothing I love more than sunbathing. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true. The feeling of joy that I get as I lay outside, sipping on a cooling spritz as my skin soaks up all of the vitamin D truly can’t be beaten. And boy have I taken advantage of every minute of sun that’s come my way over the years. However, about a year ago, as I hit my mid-twenties, years of sun damage started to catch up with me. I started to notice creping on my forehead, pigmentation across my cheeks and spider veins on my nose, and I knew the reason why. 

From then onwards, I refuse to sit in the sun for prolonged periods of time, and for the few minutes I do sit out, you better believe I’ve slathered every inch of exposed skin in SPF50. The problem with this is, however, that I love being tanned. In fact, when I’m not looking my most bronzed and sun-kissed, I really don’t feel like myself. And this causes issues, especially considering I’m really not a huge lover of fake tan.

Don’t get me wrong, as much as I love the feeling I get when looking in the mirror after I have applied fake tan (Bondi Sands Aero, I love you), the fuss and hassle of applying super dark formulas is just too much. Luckily for me, over the past year or so, the amount of products that aim to deliver a natural-looking, bronzing glow with minimal fuss have skyrocketed.

A far cry from the famous Johnson & Johnson Holiday Skin gradual tanning lotion of yesteryear, new and improved formulas contain a whole host of seriously impressive skincare ingredients and leave behind a subtle, yet convincing, golden glow. So, for the gradual tan products I use to help keep my tan (and spirits) topped up all year round, keep scrolling.

This is the newest gradual tan to join my collection, but it’s also the most exciting. I’m already a huge fan of the super hydrating (it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid), lightweight Super Glow face serum. Not only does it give a natural-looking, buildable glow, it also plumps and firms as it works. Now, it exists for the body. It’s so good that I actually feel bad for all of the other gradual tans. 

I’ll admit that when this product first launched I really couldn’t get to grips with it. You apply it to wet skin, wait for a few minutes and then rinse. I didn’t really like standing around cold in the shower waiting for it to do its thing but I have to admit that the results are truly wonderful. If you really like a full-impact finish this one probably isn’t for you, but if you’re all about subtlety I think it’s worth a shot.

Brand new from celebrity tanner James Read (he’s responsible for Rosie HW’s beautifully bronzed limbs FYI), these tan drops give the most beautiful gradual glow. Not only that, but they’re also jam-packed with skin-loving antioxidants. 

From the brand responsible for my favourite fake tan formula of all time, it’s safe to say that this gradual tanning oil lives up to its name of “liquid gold”. If you’re more a fan of light oils than heavy creams, this one is definitely more for you.


Where as so many more affordable gradual tanners build up to a deep shade of tangerine, this light formula from Dove is up there with the best for those with paler skin. 

This tinted facial moisturiser has remained in my everyday routine more or less since it launched. While the body cream is also wonderful, this lightweight but deeply hydrating moisturiser gives skin a healthy dewiness like no other.

This has been my go-to for a night out for as long as I can remember. It does deliver a gradual tan but it also has an instant tint that is almost like subtle body makeup. I slather a thin layer over my legs just before I head out for a total confidence boost and to unleash my inner J.Lo.

Isle of Paradise produces some of the very best tanning products out there. However, it’s no secret that their fake tans pack a serious punch. This stuff, however, is great for those that prefer to build up their intensity. Plus, it’s formulated with light-reflecting particles for amped-up luminosity.

An old colleague of mine who was a self-confessed fake tan fanatic swore by this dreamy balm for achieving the most failsafe gradual tan. Not only can the balm texture be easily built up, it is also enriched with 100% coconut oil for ultimate nourishment.

Out of every single gradual tanning lotion I have ever tried, this is the most joyful to use. Not only does the bottle look pretty on the shelf, it has a beautifully fresh smell (without any hint of tan-scent) and leaves skin feeling supple and soft. Plus, within a couple of hours it develops into a natural-looking bronze suitable for even the palest of skin tones.

If you like your beauty products to come with a little bit of a spa experience, listen up. This gradual tanning lotion from Decléor adds a bit of luxury to an otherwise mundane beauty chore. With extract of vanilla from Tahiti and magnolia essential oil, the melting formula leaves behind the most bronzy of glows.

Lightweight but still super-nourishing, this gradual tanning milk gives an even, streak-free finish and smells like summer in a bottle.

It’s affordable, it’s trusty and if you ask me, you really can’t go wrong. It might not be the most luxe product out there, but it’s definitely one of my all-time favourites.

This stuff is skin perfection in a bottle. A few pumps onto either leg gives the most even, long-lasting sun-kissed finish.

Better known for being pretty much the best body makeup out there, this version of Vita Liberata’s cult Body Blur actually had a tint that lasts for up to a week. This is one of those products that I will never not own a bottle of. 

Next up, this body care range is my secret to soft skin, and it smells unbelievable

Author Shannon Lawlor | Whowhatwear
Selected by CWC

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