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9 best instant fake tans

These are the creams, sprays and mousses you need to get a sunkissed complexion, whatever the weather

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Whether you like a healthy golden glow or deep olive skin, a tan can make you feel more confident and look healthier. And a fake tan is the safest way to do it. 

Gradual tanners often build up the most even colour, but if you haven’t got the time or just can’t be bothered, there are lots of great instant tans on the market. (In fact, the majority aren’t literally instant, but develop in a few hours.) 

Instant tans generally divide into two categories: ones you simply apply and leave, and ones you need to rinse off after a few hours to reveal a lighter colour underneath. While the former may seem like less effort, the latter allows you more control over your colour – the longer you wait before rinsing off the guide colour, the darker your tan will be. And don’t worry, as the colour doesn’t rinse off every time you shower either. 

You shouldn’t use shower gel or any products when rinsing off the guide colour, and it’s really important to exfoliate the skin and moisturise before applying the tan. 

We recommend using a tanning mitt to save your hands from revealing your tan in fact is not the result of two weeks in the Bahamas but rather is straight out of a bottle. 

No one wants to look bright orange (well, it would appear one high profile politician does), so you need to choose your tan wisely. Here is our pick of the best.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

1. Arbonne Liquid Sunshine Tinted Self-Tanner: £36 for 118ml, Arbonne

This fake tan is quick to use as it requires no rinsing. A caramel-colour cream, it has a citrussy smell and there’s no waiting around for hours for it to sink in. It’s moisturising and vegan-friendly too. Just a few hours after application, a noticeable, natural, even and impressive colour develops. It’s great to apply on the morning of an event for a boost. It’s pricier than your average high street fake tan, but worth it. This is one you can leave on after application.

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2. Ambre Solaire No Streaks Medium Self Tan Body Mist: £10.99 for 150ml, Superdrug

There’s no need to wash off this dry body mist and you don’t even have to rub it in, making it very quick and easy to use. It sinks in quickly and the colour develops after about one hour. It’s quite subtle after just one application, so it’s great if you just want a light glow – more a sunny weekend in Norfolk than a fortnight on the Algarve. The only downside is that it has quite a classic fake tan smell. 

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3. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Natural Bronze Instant Tan: £8.99 for 250ml, Feel Unique

With its soap dispenser-style bottle, this instant tan is really easy to use. It’s a brown cream that smells of delicious cocoa butter and feels nourishing when you rub it in. You’ll notice a change in colour in a few hours, but it won’t make a huge difference – more of a healthy glow than anything else. 

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4. South Seas Tahitian Tan Mist: £20 for 73ml, Strip

This tan has a lovely coconut vanilla scent. As you simply let the mist fall on to your body, it’s fun and really quick to apply. The slight trouble is that you can’t feel much and thus it’s hard to tell where you’ve sprayed the mist – your body may feel slightly tingly afterwards though. It’s another one that doesn’t make a huge difference after just one application, but is good for a subtle tan. 

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5. ModelCo One Hour Tan Express Tan Mousse: £14.49 for 200ml, Look Fantastic

This mousse has a lovely sweet tropical scent and is tan colour so you can see where you’ve spread it and check it’s evenly rubbed in. You’ll instantly see colour on your skin, which will continue to darken the longer you wait before showering. One to three hours is recommended depending on how deep a tan you want. After rinsing, this mousse leaves a non-streaky tan and natural colour. It’s important to exfoliate in the days afterwards though or else it may fade quite patchily. 

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6. Sunkissed Rapid Tan Mousse: £3.99 for 150ml, Superdrug

This tan both looks and smells like chocolate mousse, and who wouldn’t want to cover themselves in a delicious dessert? Squeeze just a little and a lot of mousse comes out, and you have to rub it in quickly so as not to get streaks. It sinks in incredibly quickly and although it might look a bit streaky before you rinse, the colour is a lot more even after showering. Given four hours to develop, you’ll reveal a noticeable, flattering colour – and at this price, it’s hard to argue.

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7. Fake Bake Flawless Coconut Tanning Serum for Face and Body: £29.95, Feel Unique

This rich, dark serum looks almost like treacle. It has a delicious coconut smell and a little bit goes a long way, which is a good thing at this price. The box also contains handy gloves to help you rub it in thoroughly without staining your hands. You don’t have to wait around for the serum to sink in, but you have enough time to rub it in evenly before so can be applied in a less rushed and less stressful  manner than some of the other tans. It’s recommended to leave the serum for four to six hours to develop, and after just four there was a noticeable but subtle colour change.

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8. ModelCo Tan Airbrush In A Can: £14.49 for 200ml, Superdrug

This is another from ModelCo, but we thought it was worthy of inclusion. To apply this fine spray, the brand recommends putting a sheet or towel down on the floor. Not quite a mist, you’re not meant to have to rub it in, but we found you needed to – it’s important to shake the canister well first, too. The spray is a delicious sweet vanilla scent and it’s quite fun airbrushing yourself. You need to wait slightly longer than some of the other tans for it to sink in before dressing – about ten minutes – and the tan then develops in four to eight hours. We slept in ours and although it stained our pyjamas a bit, it rinses off to reveal a lovely, natural, non-streaky colour. 

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9. St. Moriz 5 in 1 Tanning Mousse: £7.99 for 200ml, Superdrug

This is a very light, foamy mousse with a sweet, fresh fragrance. It’s easy to rub in without creating streaks and sinks in in minutes. It actually leaves the skin feeling really soft and nourished too. Leave on for four to six hours – or overnight – for the colour to develop and then wash off. This tan doesn’t leave the most dramatic colour change but you could of course go for the darker shade. The colour is nice and natural though.

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The Verdict: Instant fake tans

Although Arbonne Liquid Sunshine is more expensive than the others, this fake tan is convenient, easy-to-use and effective. Job done.

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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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