The Best Gradual Tans (So Easy You Could Use Them Blindfolded)

Updated 04/18/19
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The best fake tan gives you gorgeously bronzed skin and an overall glow that is perfect for adding life back into a lacklustre winter complexion. But sometimes you want something that's not so full on, something that's a little subtler for the cooler months. That product is the gradual fake tan. Not only that but during the autumn and winter, we like to hide away and practice a bit of hygge. We want our gradual tan to work quickly so we don't have to spend hours drying off without wearing much.

Also, we're busy people, and we know you are too, which is why we value that a great gradual fake tan can save so much time. The faffing involved with giving yourself a traditional fake tan at home can be fairly time-consuming. What with all the shaving, exfoliating and moisturising, before you even whip out a bottle of your favourite tanning mousse, you end up spending a whole evening attempting to look like you just returned from the south of France.

best gradual fake tans: woman with golden tan
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So when you're in a rush or, quite frankly, just exhausted, you need another way to get that bronzed glow. The beauty of the gradual fake tan is that it skips a lot of the processes involved with a classic fake tan yet ensures you look like you've had a sun-drenched mini break. Even better, it often comes in moisturiser form, making it easier to apply and less likely to streak. Below, we've pulled out a selection of the best gradual fake tan products and why we love them.

best gradual fake tan: Vita Liberata Self Tanning Gradual Lotion
Vita Liberata Self Tanning Gradual Lotion $15
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What it's best for: A natural-looking tan that also offers a daily moisturiser.

Why we love it: No time for all that faffing spending time tanning when you're much too busy with work and other life stuff? Fear not—this one is super easy because you can use it as your daily moisturiser while getting a natural-looking tan.

best gradual fake tan: Tax-Luxe Gradual Tan Lotion
Tax-Luxe Gradual Tan Lotion $22
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What it's best for: The experienced tanner.

Why we love it: Of this tanner, Byrdie Editorial Director Amy Lawrenson says, "This gave me a good hit of colour on first application, and with a couple of days' use, it left me with a pretty impressive tan. It wasn't streaky, and while it had a subtle biscuit smell, it wasn't enough for my boyfriend to comment (and he pretty much always does). The only downside was the lack of guide colour; the joy of a gradual is that you can slather on with reckless abandon with little to no fear of streaks. This didn't streak, but there were some patches I missed because I couldn't see where I had been; not one for beginners or those lacking time."

best gradual fake tan: Omorovicza Glam Glow
Omorovicza Glam Glow $35
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What it's best for: Sensitive skin.

Why we love it: Packed full of ingredients such as jojoba oil and shea butter, this product not only delivers an incredibly natural tan that no one would guess was faked, but it's also brilliant for your skin and helps to improve it while it makes you look glowing in the meantime.

best gradual fake tan: St. Tropez Everyday Gradual Tan Face
St. Tropez Everyday Gradual Tan Face $15 $12
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What it's best for: A glowing face.

Why we love it: There are times when you don't want to tan your entire body but still want to look a little sun-kissed. In steps the St. Tropez gradual tanner for your face. Put it on as a normal moisturiser in the morning and watch your tan develop over the course of the day. By the evening, you have a glow that lasts for at least three days without a top-up.

best gradual fake tan: Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster for Body
Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster for Body $27
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What it's best for: Control over your colour.

Why we love it: There's a reason this serum has bagged many a beauty award. The way it works is that you add a couple of drops of the concentrated formula into your usual moisturiser (there are both face and body versions), meaning you have full control over how dark you want to go. Even better, it's small, so you can take it away it away in your holiday beauty bag to further enhance your tan.

best gradual fake tan: St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Body Lotion
St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Body Lotion $15
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What it's best for: A darker tan that you don't have to wash off.

Why we love it: Elinor says, "While you probably know St. Tropez as being a fake tan rather than a gradual tanner, say hurrah because the brand has just launched a new gradual tanner. Before applying, treat it very much like you would a fake tan, and ensure that you've exfoliated. The good news, though, is that it applies like a moisturiser, and you don't need to wash it off. Make sure you continue to scrub in the shower to ensure it comes off evenly."

best gradual fake tan: Vita Liberata Self Tanning Anti-Age Serum
Vita Liberata Self Tanning Anti-Age Serum $29
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What it's best for: Anti-ageing.

Why we love it: Whoever came up with the idea of combining a self-tanner and anti-ager in one was a genius. The much-loved Vita Liberata (all its tanners are incredible), combines ironing out those fine lines with a glowing tan in one. You can add it to your moisturiser or directly to the skin, so you can make it as dark, or as light, as you want.

best gradual fake tan: This Works Perfect Legs Gradual Tan
This Works Perfect Legs Gradual Tan $38
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What it's best for: A fast hit of skin tone–perfecting colour.

Why we love it: Amy says, "This is my go-to summer gradual tan, and despite the name, I slather this tinted lotion that gradually and subtly develops all over (rules were made to be broken after all). It perfects my skin tone, gives a colour akin to a few days away and is foolproof, thanks to the guide colour. The instant hit of bronze also means you can buff this in on unexpected sunny mornings and your legs look less scary to other humans as a result."

best gradual fake tan: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Natural Bronze Gradual Tanning Moisturiser
Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Natural Bronze Gradual Tanning Moisturiser $4
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What it's best for: Moisturising dry skin and getting a bonus added glow.

Why we love it: This is a subtle tanner but ideal for those with dry skin who want to give it some added moisture. Just reading all the reviews on the Boots website should be enough to persuade you of its merit. Plus, at only £4, it's not going to break the bank.

best gradual fake tan: Xen Tan Fresh Face Tan
Xen Tan Fresh Face Tan $21
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What it's best for: A natural look.

Why we love it: This is great because it's such a subtle glow that builds over time. Essentially, you can hardly go wrong—ideal for beginner tanners. Plus, it's ideal for sensitive skins.

best gradual fake tan: Marks & Spencer Autograph Tan Gradual Tan Medium / Dark
Marks & Spencer Autograph Tan Gradual Tan Light / Medium $8
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What it's best for: A deep tan.

Why we love it: Want to go for a darker tan but don't want to do a Ross? No need to panic for this tanner (which comes highly reviewed) is ideal for building a deep tan over time.

Now to wait for the sun to come out…

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