Having had some success with gradual tanners, I decided to go further and try out some actual fake tan: Cocoa Brown 1 Hour Tan and Fake Bake Mousse Instant Self-Tan.
The key difference between fake tan and gradual tanner is that fake tan also contains a colour guide, which is brown pigment that gives your skin instant colour in addition to staining your skin brown with dihydroxyacetone. The instant tan colour also means you can see where you’ve applied product, which means it’s less likely that you’ll wake up with unexpected streaks and white patches like with gradual tanner.
Dove Summer Glow Gradual Self Tan Body Lotion (Fair to Medium)
St Tropez Gradual Tan Everyday Body Mousse
Fake Bake Sport Daily Tan
If you’re not confident in your ability to apply fake tan smoothly, or you’re scared of people asking you why you became a super dark tanned glamazon goddess overnight, then gradual tanners might be for you! These contain a lower percentage of dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the staining ingredient in fake tan, so the tan builds slowly over a few applications. (You can read all about how the dihydroxyacetone in fake tan works in this post.) Here’s how they fared:
Criteria: Not too orange is pretty much my only criteria. Getting a decent amount of colour after 2 applications is good too.
Results: All 4 were surprisingly comparable. I used a different tanner on each limb, and at the end they all looked pretty much the same. Fake Bake was a touch darker than the rest, and Dove was a touch lighter (Dove also has a Medium to Dark version which I haven’t tried). Dove and Fake Bake were a bit more yellow, while St Tropez and Bondi Sands are a bit more pink/brown, so they’ll look a bit more natural if you don’t have a yellow undertone.
Winner: Bondi Sands and St Tropez for a more natural colour for people without a yellow undertone, Fake Bake if you want a faster result and your skin works well with yellow.
Ease of application
I like my fake tan to be easy to apply in awkward places (middle of the back, especially!). I want it to spread evenly with minimal effort.
Results: Bondi Sands and Fake Bake are runny lotions, Dove is a thicker lotion, and St Tropez is a foam. The foam was by far the easiest to apply, though the runny lotions weren’t that difficult, especially when I started using a mitt. Dove was the hardest to rub in, but again it wasn’t too bad with a mitt.
Winner: St Tropez, though a mitt makes anything possible.