Style/ Beauty

The best gradual tan for a believable bronzy glow-up

With the weather in the UK so unpredictable, a gradual tan is one of our best bets for bronzing our skin. The forecast might be more showers than sunshine, but our honeyed arms, legs and face can say “long stroll somewhere warm and delicious” ahead of (hopefully) a summer full of sunshine and summer holidays.

Sunkissed skin (whether real or faux) is a quick win for mood-boosting too, reminding us of warmer days. So, enveloping our body with a post-vacay glow is an easy pick-me-up, especially now we’re loading sun dresses and sandals into our ASOS baskets. 

The trick to a believable bronze if you’re not so hot on the application, is to dodge tell-tale, full on fake tan by heading towards a hint of tint. A believable wash of warmth can take the edge off of milk bottle legs and pale complexions, without looking like a Fanta can.

The most foolproof way to achieve this, is gradual tan. Building up your colour slowly over several days means you can have more control over the end colour. If, for instance, on day three you’re happily bronzed, stop there and revert back to your favourite regular body moisturiser. If you fancy going a little deeper, carry on until you hit your sweet spot.

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Another benefit? It’s easier to avoid stripes. So, if you’re slapdash at applying fake tan and regularly miss bits, a gradual tanner is much more forgiving. If you miss a spot one day, the likelihood is, you’ll catch it the next, which means you can keep streaks to a minimum.

How to apply it like a pro

Application-wise, the same rules apply as with regular tan for the most natural-looking finish. It’s best if you buff away any dry patches with an exfoliator the day before to make sure you have a smooth canvas. And a velvet mitt will help make everything look much more seamless. However, since gradual tans are subtler, you can get away with applying with your hands (just make sure you rinse them after to avoid orange palms). Another good tip, is to sweep the gradual tan over smoother areas like your arms, legs and torso first, before going in on rougher areas like elbows, knees, knuckles and ankles which tend to go darker. “Always start above the ankles (not the feet as these come last) and work your way up to the heart and chest,” recommends pro tanner and Isle of Paradise founder, Jules Von Hep. “Always apply your tan in sweeping motions over the body – never circular – this ensures that product is distributed evenly for the most natural, even looking tan.” As for hard to reach spots like your back, “tape your applicator mitt to a wooden spoon – it works trust me!” says Jules.

The good news is that since lots of gradual tans are built-into moisturisers it help to counteract the drying effect some regular tans can have, leaving skin looking doubly glowy, healthy and hydrated.

Finally, there’s your bed linen and bathroom to think of. The staining and orange plughole that goes into fake tanning can be enough to put lots of us off, but since there’s plenty of clear gradual moisturisers on the market, you won’t have to worry about waking up to the guide colour on your fresh sheets.

Want faster results? Check out our list of the best fake tan and spray tans. Feeling extra pale this year? We’ve also done our research and found the best fake tan for pale skin. Want something for your sensitive visage? Here are the best fake tans for your face.

Here’s our edit of the best gradual tans to try now…

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