Beauty Clinic: how to fake a natural looking tan

Beauty clinic: how to fake a natural looking tan
Credit: Denis Kartavenko

This week on the beauty clinic, Kate Shapland talks you through the most natural self-tans on the market

One of beauty's big triumphs in recent years has been the reinvention of fake tan. Real improvements in formulation and smell have taken it from seasonal joke product to year-round skin buddy. A crafty little name change from 'fake' to 'self' has made it sound even friendlier, implying that more of us are putting it on ourselves, which is a bit disingenuous because, when it comes to whole-body coverage, we are much more likely to leave the job to someone else - with a pop-up tent, a spray tan machine and a good aim.

Still, we have come a long way from potassium permanganate baths (not an urban myth if my fake-tanning initiation in the summer of 1978 was anything to go by) - almost full circle in fact. While the best straight self-tan perfects skin as foundation does, without being so opaque it doesn't look real, its baby sister - gradual tan - is more veil-like and develops so subtly that you genuinely can't mess it up. This is reassuring when you are faced with pasty legs, a hot day and a pair of shorts: gradual tan takes the fear factor out of sunless tanning, and as such it has been the real saviour of the fake-tan market. As long as you exfoliate first and let the application absorb, you will get streak-free sun-kissed skin.

It is as easy as applying body lotion, which is what gradual tan really is, laced with the tanning pigment dihydroxyacetone (DHA). It is still not quite as easy as bathing in tanning solution, but that is on the cards. The latest breakthrough is St Tropez's gradual tan that is activated by water: you apply it in the shower, wait three minutes for it to develop, then rinse it off and dry as normal. Who said pale was interesting?

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Crème de la Mer The Face & Body Gradual Tan Applies evenly and develops into a gentle, convincing tan. £65 for 100ml, Johnlewis.

St Tropez In Shower Tanning Lotion Gives skin a golden, sunny glow, which builds with use. £14.50 for 200ml, St Tropez.

Scott Barnes Body Bling Platinum A refined wash-off tan with soft illuminating pigments that make skin look polished. £27 for 120ml, This is beauty mart.

Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad for Face Smooths the complexion and gives it a light tan. £27.50 for 20 pads, Cult beauty.

Cocoa Brown by Marissa Carter Tough Stuff Body Scrub Removes stubborn old fake tan and primes skin for a reapplication. £2.50 for 50ml, FeelUnique .