gradual tanners

Sunkissed: The best gradual tanners for a natural glow

05 Jul 2024 | |By Hitanshi Kamdar

Getting the glowy summer skin of your dreams is easier than it seems

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While a glass of Pimm’s in a pub garden and al fresco dinners are surefire signs of the sunshine season’s eventual arrival, nothing says summer quite like glowing skin. But with bouts of rain and overcast days putting a dampener (ahem) on summer 2024, earning that gorgeous golden hue can, naturally, be difficult. Enter gradual tanners.

Promising a fuss-free way to transform pale English skin, gradual tanners are the best way to achieve a natural, glowy complexion without the risk of sun damage. Ideal for those of us traumatised by the tangerine tones and streaky legs that come with hastily applied fake tan, think of gradual tanners as moisturisers infused with a subtle tint. Given their relatively low percentage of dihydroxyacetone (DHA) compared to normal self-tans, one application will result in a delicate golden shade that‘s buildable and convincing. Ready to look like a sun-kissed goddess? Here’s our guide to the best gradual tanners – as well as top tips for achieving a smooth, streak-free look.

How to apply gradual tanners

Much like regular fake tan, apply gradual tanning formulas on exfoliated skin for a seamless finish. While you could use mitts for application, you can also get away with using your hands as you would a normal body lotion (just make sure to rinse them afterwards to avoid orange Wotsit-dust fingers).

The best gradual tanners 

Tan-Luxe The Illuminating Gradual tanning lotion

Looking for a quick glow? Tan-Luxe’s lightweight formula is an oil-lotion hybrid that imparts a subtle golden radiance in as little as an hour. Plus, a combination of vitamin E, raspberry seed oil and aloe vera will leave your skin feeling silky-smooth.

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St. Tropez Gradual Tan Watermelon Firming lotion

Looking for a gradual tanner with skincare benefits? St. Tropez’s Gradual Tan Watermelon firming lotion ticks a lot of boxes. The formula imparts a buildable bronze tint while boasting hyaluronic acid and raspberry seed oil to moisturise, soothe and firm the skin. The non-stick watermelon-scented formula is also vegan and cruelty-free.

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Pai Skincare The Impossible Glow bronzing drops

The best option for sensitive skin, Pai Skincare’s The Impossible Glow bronzing drops are made with a blend of hyaluronic acid, sea kelp and vitamin C-rich lemon water to combat pigmentation while delivering a golden sheen. While the original bronze shade is a winner, also choose between champagne and rose gold depending on your skin’s undertones.

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Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning milk

If a trip to the land down under isn’t on the cards, bring Australia’s sun to the capital with Bondi Sands’ Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk. Ideal for novices, the lotion is enriched with vitamin E and aloe vera and easily glides on for seamless application.

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Dior The Self-Tanning gel

Perfect the no-makeup look with Dior’s self-tanning gel. The formula features DHA and AHA lactic acid, which dissolves dead skin cells to result in a dewy and smooth complexion. Win win.

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Self Glow by James Read Endless Summer gradual tan moisturiser

Self Glow by James Read’s Endless Summer gradual tan moisturiser is brimming with natural ingredients that nourish the skin – think shea butter and hyaluronic acid for optimal hydration, apricot oil to enhance skin tone, and vitamin E that will reduce the appearance of fine lines.

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Read more: The best sun creams for summer