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9 Amazing gradual tans for a subtle, beautiful glow that doesn’t show streaks or mess

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The best gradual tanning gives skin a radiant, sun-kissed glow that will make people ask “Where have you been?”

Gradual tanning is the best option for beginners and anyone who wants to achieve a consistent, convincing shade. Jules Von Hep, founder of Isle of Paradise and tanning expert, says that gradual tans can be the most effective way to get a lasting glow. The best gradual tan is not one that gives instant color or creates self-tan mousses. It will gradually give you a golden glow and nourish your skin with a moisturizing foundation. Von Hep says, “On vacation, I’ll replace the after sun with a gradual tanning to keep my glow going longer.”

We have a list of the top gradual tans that we tested, regardless of whether you are new to fake tan. Von Hep gives his top tips for applying a fake tan to achieve a flawless blend.

We are spoiled for choice when it comes to gradual tanning. There are many options for self-tanners. We tested many different gradual tans, from various brands, at varying price points to find the best.

The best gradual tan, like the best bronzers is one that blends seamlessly. It adds warmth but doesn’t look too obvious. Each product was tested several times over a period of days. We checked for streaks and patches, as well as the development of each product. We also checked for ease of application, transfer onto clothing and fade.


Von Hep says, “It is important to remember that self tan should always look natural.” Von Hep suggests that you choose a gradual tan shade that flatters your skin tone to get the best results.

  1. Fair skin: “Look for lighter solutions with a lower concentration of tanning agents.”
  2. Medium skin: “Medium-to-olive skin should look for green-based, gradual tans.”
  3. Dark skin: “Darker skin or those with an undercurrent of ash should opt for darker skin tones.”

Von Hep says, “Note that it is possible to be smart here – one layer of medium gradual tanning will roughly equal two layers of light gradual tanning and one coat dark gradual tan will roughly equal two layers of medium gradual tanning.”

The best overall gradual tan

This multi-functional serum for gradual tanning is the perfect solution to bridge the gap between skincare products and self-tanners. It gives skin a natural glow and deeply hydrates it. We are in love. We rank it among the top fake tans we have ever tried, and the best skincare products. We love that the product is lightweight and smooth. It makes applying a tan so easy. This product is a far cry from the messy formulas of old. It’s more like a skincare serum rather than a fake tanning.

We applied a generous amount of the serum to the skin (about 8-12 drops), and then massaged it in with our fingertips. It’s thin consistency makes it easy to blend and cover every area for a golden glow. The results were immediate. Our skin felt healthier and more hydrated thanks to hyaluronic acids. After a few hours the natural warmth began to show through. This product is an all-rounder and gives you a bronzed glow after a holiday.

Luxury gradual tan

Sisley’s luxurious product is the perfect choice if you have been put off by orange streaks or biscuity smells. The skin-loving formula is enriched with macadamia oil and hibiscus flower extract. It softens and moisturizes the skin, while also locking in moisture to ensure radiant results. The skin feels nourished immediately after application. Thanks to the floral scent, it doesn’t smell fake tan (a big tick).

We applied a thin layer to the entire body. (They also offer a facial version.) Finally, we buffed it with the included velvet mitt. One layer is sufficient to get a healthy, sun-kissed glow. Two layers will give you a deeper tan. This cream is expensive but it does give you a luxurious-looking, believable bronze.

Best budget gradual tan

To get a glowing skin, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Garnier’s gradual self-tan lotion is a great example. It gives your limbs a subtle hint of color, but can also be used to give you a “whoa!” effect. It is rich in hydrating apricot oils, which moisturize the skin. We recommend skipping any other body moisturizers and opting for this.

We used a mitt for application. After buffing the cream in, we applied it with a comb. We avoided orange-colored hands by using a mitt. Although the formula can be a bit sticky at first, it quickly sinks in and begins to form. You can choose between two colors (light or dark), and one bottle should last quite a while. One problem? The scent is distinctively fake tan.

Best overnight gradual tan

This formula could work for you if, like us, your preferred method of applying your tan is before you go to bed. James Read’s fake tan formula does not transfer to your bed linens, unlike some other formulas. It has a clear gel formulation that quickly sinks into skin. This allows for a gradual development over the night so that you can wake up with a beautiful golden glow and clean sheets.

To avoid having orange hands and to really buff the gel in, we recommend using a mitt to apply the gel. We tried to apply the gradual tan using our hands before we decided to use a mitt. The results will give you a subtle, warm glow that will attract compliments.

Best mousse gradual tan

This mousse is a great alternative to cream- or serum-like gradual tans. The mousse is lightweight and whipped up so it’s easy to apply (we recommend using a mitt). Once blended in, you can blend it in. We did notice that there is no guide color. This is normal for gradual tanning, but it can be difficult to get used to using mousse.

For a perfect finish, we applied more than enough. The results were amazing. It’s a natural-looking, green-based color that isn’t orange and looks natural. Two shades are available: light to medium for those with pale skin and medium to dark for those with olive or dark skin. This is a great choice for those who want a subtle, yet healthy-looking tan that lasts for a few days.

Best gradual tan for body and face

This Tan-Luxe gradual tan is a cult favorite. This oil-lotion combination glides seamlessly across skin and melts in like butter. It gives limbs a natural, bronzed appearance that adapts to skin tones. It is infused with vitamin E, raspberry seed oil, and aloe Vera. This formula also hydrates, smoothes, and firms the skin.

After trying out a variety of strongly scented fake tan formulas, we were very impressed by the fact that it doesn’t have an odor. It also develops quicker than others – it gives off a subtle glow in just an hour. Your skin will be radiant if you wait for three more hours. This gradual tan is a great option for both your face and body. It’s not cheap, but we believe it’s worth the investment. Sold?

For long-lasting results, best gradual tan

Vita Liberata is an expert on faux tan, and the Heavenly Elixir gives you a glowing glow. The serum-meets-moisturizer is tinted in color which makes the application seamless. We recommend that you use a mitt to apply your product in long circular motions. Although we love the texture of the product, we should mention that it takes quite a few pumps in order to cover the entire body. This means that if you love it as much, you will need to refill the bottle quickly.

Although it took several pumps to achieve a natural, bronzed look, this gradual tan looks like you just returned from vacation. Imagine a golden, olive glow with radiant results. The DHA is slowly released by clever encapsulated technology – increasing your results up to 72 hours following application. There are also powerful skincare ingredients that can hydrate, moisturize and smoothen skin.

Best moisturising gradual tan

You can swap your current body lotion for this Bondi Sands gradual tanning milk. This everyday tanner is ideal for summer. It instantly moisturizes the skin with aloe and vitamin E, while slowly developing into a natural-looking color. This is a great choice for those looking to tan after a holiday or for first-timers.

This was applied every day for three consecutive days. We were impressed by the subtle, yet natural color. This one isn’t streaky like other products we have tried. It also doesn’t stick to dry patches or get clingy despite being used repeatedly. We attribute this to the nourishing formula. We were impressed by the soft, milky texture that sinks into skin and doesn’t feel sticky.

Best gradual tan for legs

It’s summer, which means more skin is out. This serum is a quick and easy way to boost your glow, especially for your legs. This skin-savvy serum, which is powered by vitamin C and shea oil, locks in moisture to give you glowing limbs. DHA is also included to give you a healthy, bronzed glow.

We applied the serum as any other serum. With our hands, we used clean, dry skin to apply it. You can use a mitt to apply the serum if you like. If you opt to use your hands, be sure that they are washed immediately after applying the serum. The instant glow that this serum gives your legs is amazing. We noticed that our legs turned nice and tanned after only a few hours. This serum is now our go-to for all things weddings, parties and holidays.

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