How to find the best self-tanning formula for you no matter your self-tanning skill level

When it comes to self-tanning, it’s not always a ‘one size (read: formula) fits all’ situation. The same way you might customise the coverage of your foundation or opt for a matte over glowy, tanning is not only about the desired colour but also how much time you have, how you want your skin to feel while wearing tan, the area of your body you want to tan or even how much experience you have with self-tanning.

With the weather warming up—and the prospect of sidelining at-home athleisurewear for summer dresses—it was time to revisit some tanning favourites and introduce you to some bronzy newcomers; all of which can be applied in different ways depending on what you’re after.


If you consider yourself a tanning novice, start with a foamy, lightweight mousse formula: the colour guide means you can see exactly where you’re applying the formula with little room for error, plus the whipped texture is easy to blend into skin.

The Elle Effect Tan is a little different to most mousses, as it has a red colour base instead of the traditional green or purple. The red undertone helps to make skin appear more youthful; fun fact, a lot of Instagram’s most popular filters use shades of red to help create a soft, luminous effect. In addition to the warm, bronzy glow this bestows on your limbs, it also keeps them nourished and hydrated thanks to the inclusion of coconut oil and aloe leaf juice. And, it has a gentle rose scent.

Mecca Cosmetica’s Sunless Goddess Tan Mousse isn’t only easy to apply, but after developing it leaves the skin with a natural bronze glow that eventually fades away evenly sans patches. And if you do spot any pesky patches that won’t budge, the brand’s tan remover is a non-negotiable in any tanning routine. Key ingredients in this include Kakadu plum extract and marshmallow extract which help to improve tone, texture and hydration as well as soothe irritation (so if you avoid self-tanning because of skin sensitivity, this is a great option).

The universally flattering tanning mousse from Isle of Paradise offers a natural-looking tan with no orange tinge or questionable scents. It’s packed with coconut, chia seed and avocado oils to give skin a hydrated glow. Plus, the lightweight whipped formula glides onto skin and dries in seconds—once applied, four to six hours of developing time is all you need for a wash of skin-flattering bronze glow. An added feature of this mousse—like most of the Isle of Paradise range—is that it contains colour-correcting technology to help reduce redness and calm skin.

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If you’re a seasoned tanner who knows where exactly they need to tan without the assistance of a coloured formula a gradual tanner is for you. You can build up a bronzed glow day-by-day, and you won’t find any tan stains on your clothes or bed sheets as the colour develops.

Take Isle of Paradise’s new HY-GLO Body Serum: it’s your ticket to gradual glow with a serve of skin-loving hydration and nourishment thanks to the hyaluronic acid and vitamin E. This is a great solution for anyone who feels like their skin tends to be a little on the drier side when they wear self-tan.

Mecca Cosmetica’s Sunless Goddess Gradual Tan can be used in place of your regular daily body lotion if you want build up some natural colour over the course of a few days. Key ingredients include vitamin E to soothe and keep skin feeling supple (perfect for when you’re showing more skin in the warmer months) and jojoba seed oil, which helps skin become more receptive to receive vital nutrients and antioxidants to restore balance. Make sure you wash your hands after applying it all over your body too; it’s sometimes easy to forget this step when you can’t see the colour straight away—but, as it develops, you don’t want to suddenly spot tanned palms!

And what about a nice gradual glow on your face? James Read has that part covered with their H2O Tan Drops. The formula is water-based and can be added to your daily or nightly moisturiser, foundation or serum to slowly build a natural glow. This is a great solution if you have tanned your body and want your face to also look a similar colour without having to apply makeup to match. Customise the colour you achieve by how many drops you use from the pipet—easy!

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Picture this: a last-minute event has popped up, and you want to get your legs out in that new dress you bought during a recent sale. The problem? Your legs haven’t seen the light of day in a really long time. The solution? One of these leg-saving formulas that provide an instant bronzy glow that will have people asking how you have been on vacation.

Take Isle of Paradise’s Disco Tan Lotion (the name alone is appealing in our books): it’s created with hypoallergenic, non-sensitising ingredients and the brand’s signature Oxy-Glow™ which helps skin appear more radiant along with a healthy bronze colour to boot. As the brand states on the tube itself, it’s for those ‘OMG I need a tan’ moments—very relatable.

Drunk Elephants D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops give you a similar effect to the Disco Tan Lotion but for your face and décolletage. With a few hundred five-star reviews, it’s packed with skin-loving ingredients like omega-rich marula, black currant seed oils, fatty acids and unrefined cocoa powder, all of which replenish the delicate balance that supports a healthy barrier function while providing antioxidant protection so skin can defend itself against pollution and environmental stressors. It’s the sunshiny glow (that can be mixed into your moisturiser or daily SPF) without the long-term consequences.

Just like a tinted moisturiser for your face, Mecca Cosmetica’s Body Wonder Tinted Moisturiser helps to even out skin tone while delivering an instant, natural-looking golden tint. It’s quick to apply and quick to dry and will help conceal things like spider veins, scars and pigmentation—all while imparting a soft, streak-free tint for a head-to-toe sun-kissed effect all year round. You skin won’t only look healthy, it’ll feel soft and hydrated because this creamy formula is chock-a-block full of avocado oil, shea butter and hyaluronic acid. Body care is the new skincare, you heard it here.

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