Tans On Trial

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Stylist Team
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Say the word "self-tan" and a minefield of beauty faux pas spring to mind, from stained hands to streaking and a lingering potent scent.

But the ability to create a beautiful sun-kissed look in time for summer need not be so painful - which is why we at Stylist and our publisher ShortList have nobly committed ourselves to the cause, by roadtesting all the latest self and spray tans.

Peruse the list below to see the results, with details from smell to texture and ease of application analysed by our team of fake bake devotees. Bring on the gorgeous glows...

Picture Credit: Getty Images

Saint Tropez Natural Self Tan Milk, 10/10

Reviewed by: Lucy Frith, Sub Editor

Smell: I was very happy when I realised this had a floral, lavender-like smell. A welcome change from biscuits. 8/10

Texture: It was light and milky, wasn’t greasy or sticky and dried really quickly. 9/10

Ease of application: The spray made the body tan easy to apply and the pearlescent face cream absorbed well into my skin without being too greasy. 8/10

Colour result: I was surprised that I got a very natural looking tan and no streakiness whatsoever. 9/10

Overall impression: I loved it and would definitely use it again. The overall result is very subtle and not as orange as other tans I have used. My skin also feels smoother since using it, which may be down to the fact that it is milk-based and aimed at people with sensitive skin. I know sometimes you feel like you have to say this, but I would genuinely recommend it and was very impressed overall.


Clarins Delectable Self Tanning Mousse, 9/10

Reviewed by: Gemma Painter, Marketing & Promotions Manager, ShortList

Smell: Lovely summer holiday scent when in pot and very little if any smell when on skin. 9/10

Texture: Lovely smooth whipped mousse. Fantastic to apply. Felt very luxurious! 10/10

Ease of application: Very easy to apply. I used a tanning glove to ensure I did not get orange hands, but could easily apply from pot to skin without a glove, no problem. 10/10

Colour result: Great tan – I looked like I had actually been on holiday and there was no streaks. No oranges in sight! 9/10

Overall impression: I loved this product. I loved smelling it and applying it to the skin – it was a real treat! You do not have to use a lot and the texture and makeup of the product is so good I did not need to use my normal moisturiser. The only downside is because the mousse is white, you cannot see if you have missed any areas or applied too much until the cream has taken action.

Dior Self-Tanner Natural Glow - Face, 9/10

Reviewed by: Anna Hart, Acting Features Editor

Smell: Smells like a classy pot of face cream, no tell-tale tanning aroma at all. 8/10

Texture: Perfect gel-cream consistency. While it's moisturizing enough to apply straight after you've cleansed and toned, it doesn't leave your face greasy or shiny.You genuinely could apply it in the office and allow a natural tan to develop throughout the day at work, without prompting any comments from colleagues. Particularly recommended for oily or combination skin; this won't break you out. 9/10

Ease of application: The consistency makes it really easy to use (a peanut-sized dab should do your whole face) and the light tint to the product itself means you can keep track of where you've applied it, without looking like you've just had a fight with a bottle of Worcester sauce. 9/10

Colour result: A natural, sun-kissed glow, more bronze hues than terracotta so wonderful on blondes. Another plus: it fades evenly, rather than leaving patches or streaks. Possibly a bit too subtle if you're after a real change, but it's advertised as their "natural glow" range and certainly delivers on that promise. 8/10

Overall impression: A fabulous all-rounder, highly recommended for oily/combination fair skin. Another plus: it fades evenly, rather than leaving patches or streaks.


Dior Self-Tanner Natural Glow - Body, 9/10

Reviewed by: Anna Hart, Acting Features Editor

Smell: A standard Dior perfumed cosmetic scent, more akin to a body moisturizer than fake tan. A tad old-fashioned, perhaps, but it's a major bonus that it doesn't have the tell-tale cheap biscuits whiff. 8/10

Texture: Gel-cream, perfect consistency. 9/10

Ease of application: Really straightforward, goes on smoothly, no residue or stickiness, dries in just over 5 minutes. 9/10

Colour result: A classy bronze, not remotely terracotta. Possibly a bit light if you're after a dramatic result, but perfect for fair-skinned ladies or if you've got a special occasion the day after application. 8/10

Overall impression: Not cheap, but If you believe that life is too short to spend twenty minutes naked and flapping your arms around in the bathroom, this is the tanner for you. Going on smoothly and evenly, this gel-cream dries to the touch in just a little over 5 minutes, leaving your legs sunkissed and with a slight shimmer.


Sienna X Airbrush Tan, 8.5/10

Reviewed by: Stephanie Wood, Assistant Editor (Online)

Smell: Post-application I struggle to catch even a slight whiff of tan, although my sister tells me she can smell me whilst sitting next to me, but concedes that it’s not the usual bad fake tan smell. 6/10

Texture: During application, it simply feels as though I’m being blasted with air, although it’s actually a fine mist. Once the airbrushing is over, the tan dries quickly and feels natural. 8/10

Ease of application: My tanner, Ava, recommends a ‘sun-kissed’ 8.5 or a ‘holiday glow’ 10 for my fair skin. (The deepest shade is 18). She then powers up the spray and starts the application, getting me to pose in various positions to ensure an even application all over my body. There are some moments when I feel a little awkward, but Ava is professional and friendly, and makes the whole experience quite relaxing. 8/10

Colour result: The colour is just as promised – a golden glow that suggests I’ve just returned from somewhere sunny. The only area that implies my colour isn’t au naturalle is the inside of my wrists. 9/10

Overall impression: Overall, the treatment is quick (I was in the treatment room 20 minutes max), easy and achieves great, natural results which I’m told will last 4-5 days. At £50 a session, it’s not necessarily a weekly option, but a great pre-event treatment.

£50 for 30 minutes at Urban Retreat Harrods and selected salons nationwide

St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse, 8.5/10

Reviewed by: Gaby Patterson, Fashion Intern

Smell: The smell was pleasantly surprising compared to other fake tans and was fresh instead of musty. 9/10

Texture: It was a mousse, so quite light and not at all sticky. 8/10

Ease of application: It was fairly easy to apply but you have to wait four hours to wash it off which was a bit inconvenient. 7/10

Colour result: The colour result was very natural, i.e. barely visible so next time I would layer up a few times. 7/10

Overall impression: All in all this was a good fake tanning product, particularly for those who are after the sun-kissed look. The neutral smell was a big plus.


Clinique Face Tinted & Body Tinted Lotions, 8/10

Reviewed by: Lauren Smith, Online editorial assistant

Smell: The body lotion had an unpleasant, metallic scent as soon as it came out of the tube, which lingered even after I had put it on. My boyfriend wouldn’t come near me all evening – but by the next morning the smell had gone. The facial tanner was far less offensive! 2/10

Texture: The body tanner had quite a thick, gloopy texture that wasn’t too greasy, and was easily absorbed into the skin. The facial gel felt a bit heavy/greasy when I put it on, but was fine after a few minutes. A little goes a long way… 7/10

Ease of application: Both were incredibly easy to apply – and come with strict instructions for tanning novices like myself. Just squeeze out of the tube and moisturize on to your legs, and avoiding elbows and the backs of your knees (typical patchy spots). 8/10

Colour result: The facial tanner gave a really subtle glow – you can see the results pretty quickly which helps to identify any patches you’ve missed. I did have slightly orange eyebrows though. The body tanner developed into a natural, golden brown, with no streaks, but I did have a few patchy areas – a few minor blotches on my elbows and ankle. 9/10

Overall impression: If it wasn’t for the scent, I would wholly recommend Clinique for first time self-tanners. I didn’t slather it on particularly carefully, but was left with few streaks and a nice natural colour. My legs looked particularly bronzed and allowed me to go without tights. I’ll be using it again before my holiday to Barcelona – but will have to banish the boyfriend from the room first…

Face Tinted Lotion, £16, and Body Tinted Lotion, £16,

Vita Liberata Intense Silken Mousse, 8/10

Reviewed by: Lucy Foster, Associate Editor, ShortList

Smell: No discernable smell at first but while the colour developed, the traditional biscuit scent did appear. It wasn’t offensive but it does go against the marketing which promises no odour whatsoever. 6/10

Texture: A loose mousse that turned quickly to a thin liquid when applied to the skin. It was tinted too, so you could see where you were going. 8/10

Ease of application: The liquid texture is a bit sloppy if you’re used to creams but it does make it easy to blend. And on the plus side, it doesn’t dry so quickly you’re left with patches. BUT, you do need to apply with mitts. My palms were an alarming shade of orange afterwards and no amount of scrubbing could shift it. 8/10

Colour result: It said that sallow skin would turn a deep tan shade so I was prepared for full-on Essex. Thankfully, it was far subtler than suggested and gave a smooth, even coverage that was more akin to a weekend in France rather than two weeks under a sunbed. 9/10

Overall impression: A really easy-to-use formula that give a natural glow – a good choice for regular use. Although you’ll need to apply on an evening and let it develop overnight as the tell-tale scent will give your tan’s origin away.


Famous Dave's Gradual 10 Self Tanning Lotion, 8/10

Reviewed by: Anna Hart, Acting Features Editor

Smell: Unlike most self-tans, gradual or not, this wasn’t cloying and had a light, fresh scent which reminded me of summer getaways and sun tan lotion. 8/10

Texture: Lightwight, and non-sticky, it had the consistency of a hand-cream and seemed to lack the usual oiliness found in self-tans. It felt more like a moisturiser and put paid to some dry spots on my knees and elbows. 8/10

Ease of application: The pump action makes this a lot easier to use than a tub or a squeezy tube. It glides on smoothly and absorbs quickly like a really brilliant body cream. As the cream is white, it is tricky to work out where you’ve already applied it though. 8/10

Colour result: Really impressed by the colour I got. I’m very pale, so most self-tans jar with my skin tone. Not this one, it was a warm glow, with a hint of sunkissed gold. 10/10

Overall impression: Having avoided self-tan for most of my adult life, I may now be a total convert. The overall application experience was great, and the colour was spot-on. I’d be a bit wary of adding any more than two applications in a one-week period, but it’s ideal for the taking the edge off white legs.


Sienna Extremely Natural Self Tan, 8/10

Reviewed by: Gracie Leeman, Beauty Assistant

Smell: The strong citrus smell goes a long way in disguising the normally unappealing scent that most fake tanning products obtain. 8/10

Texture: Due to the thick chocolate-sauce texture it is mandatory that you moisturize particularly dryer areas such as elbows, knees and heels. By first applying Sienna’s cool creamy moisturizing balm, the process was made a great deal easier. 7/10

Ease of application: The treacle thick lotion was a bit of a pig to apply, which initially gave a streaky bacon appearance, but ultimately dried into an overall rich even golden tan. 6/10

Colour result: It's natural, olive, instant colour gives you a well-polished tan that lasts you up to two weeks. 10/10

Overall impression: This product is not for the faint hearted, as application is tricky. However, experienced fake tanners will love the results as it leaves you with a sexy deep bronzed appeal. Fair-skinned and freckled need not apply.


Fake Bake Tanning Body Butter: 7/10

Reviewed by: Clare Ferguson, Art Editor

Smell: It was quite strong, I was a bit self-conscious other people could smell it. 4/10

Texture: It was creamy and thick, making it a little harder to spread around evenly. 8/10

Ease of application: It came with gloves which was useful in avoiding getting stained. 7/10

Colour result: Use it if you like a stronger colour, as I did. It's maybe a bit too deep a shade for winter but lovely for this time of year. 7/10

Overall verdict: Really moisturising and a nice shade, you just need time to make sure it's all even on application.