the simple and subtle way to self-tan

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  • Well hasn’t March been a surprise?! We’ve been treated to warm and sunny days that we typically have to wait until late April for. As we reach for the summer dresses and our best sunglasses, we’re also opening up our beauty cupboards in search of our best gradual tanners.

    These glow-getters are one of the best fake tans for an easy and subtle way to add a wash of colour. It’s often the better option at this point in the year, rather than going for a full-on fake tan that might take you from fair maiden to bronzed goddess overnight, which isn’t always the look you’re after.

    Jules Von Hep, tanning expert and creator of Isle of Paradise, loves a gradual tanner. ‘Gradual tans are the easiest way to achieve a long-lasting glow topped up. I love using gradual tanners on holiday instead of an After Sun to keep my glow going for longer, as well as when I return from holiday.’

    How should you apply a gradual tanner?

    With the majority of them, you can just use them in lieu of your daily face or body cream. With others – like the Isle of Paradise drops – you add them into your best moisturiser. The more drops, the deeper the tan.

    ‘Always wash your hands after application,’ says Von Hep.’Especially palms and in between fingers. Exfoliate prior to your first application, and then a week after to ensure any old tan is removed.’

    How long does gradual tanner last?

    ‘On average you will start to see colour over the course of three days. Once you have reached your desired shade, simply apply on alternate days to maintain your glow.’ Be sure to use a good nourishing body cream on the days when you’re not tanning. This will help the tan last.

    Best gradual tanners 2022:

    St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Body Lotion, £18 | Lookfantastic
    Best for beginners: Because there’s a slight tint to the formula you see where you’re applying, plus it gives you an instant glow.

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    Dove Visible Glow Medium to Dark Self Tan Lotion, £4.50 | Boots
    Best for subtlety: It takes about three to four applications to really get a proper tan. But that’s sometimes better. It’s really nourishing and doesn’t streak.

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    Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops, £21.95 | Space NK
    Best multi-use: Senior Beauty Editor also loves the Isle Of Paradise Drops. In fact, she has written many, many times of her devotion to them.

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    Garnier Summer Body Hydrating Gradual Tan Moisturiser Light, £9.99 | Boots
    Best for every day: This one is most like your typical everyday body cream, it just happens to give you glow too. It smells really summery, rather than the typical biscuity-scent.

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    Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pad Intense Glow, £36 for 20 | Space NK
    Best for skincare lovers: Combines skin-boosting AHAs and BHAs to exfoliate the skin with DHA to give a natural-looking tan. A genius way to add glow.

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    James Read Sleep Mask Face with Retinol, £30 | Lookfantastic 
    Best for waking up glowing: This is a rather clever product that means you don’t have to forgo your favourite fine-line targeting night cream to tan.

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    St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Face Mist, £22 | Feelunique
    Best for the face: We love a face mist here at Marie Claire, we love them even more when they’re a multi-tasker. This face mist delivers a super even tan, it’s lightweight and can even be applied over make-up. 

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    Bondi Sands Pure Gradual Tanning Milk, £12.99 | Lookfantastic
    Best for clean sheets: This super hydrating gradual tanner has a colourless formula, meaning that you can jump straight into bed or clothes without worrying about transfer. The bottle is also made from 100% ethically sourced recycled plastic.

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