Let's talk prep for the face when you want to use a tanning product. I really recommend keeping your skincare routine minimal and I like to use the product overnight so I wake up with that lovely, warm glow. Of course you need to have freshly-cleansed skin and I recommend exfoliating a couple of hours before you apply the product to your skin just to ensure you're working with the smoothest canvas possible. I personally love the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner* | £31 | full review | because it's hydrating and smoothing and has a bit of substance and hydration, so when I'm going with a streamlined routine, it packs a bit more in than your typical exfoliant.
The only other thing I reach for is a simple, fluid, softening moisturiser and the Bondi Sands Sweet Dreams Hydrating Night Moisturiser* | £10.99 | full review coming soon. This is formulated with hyaluronic acid to draw water into the skin and squalane, a plant-derived but skin-similar oil to take care of any dry patches, and the formula is pretty simple. The texture is lightweight and fluid, making it the perfect vehicle for drops that are designed to be mixed with a moisturiser and then applied. It's also perfect for using underneath a tanning product to ensure it applies smoothly and evenly and doesn't look like too much.
I have to start with the first self-tanning product I ever really tried: the Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops* (Medium) | £19.95. What's really good about this product is that it's totally customisable. That could be intimidating for some, but honestly: I'm of the mind that if you're not sure, you can always go for less and see how you get on (it's always easier to build it up over a couple of days than it is to try and tone it down if you go too far!) I add around about 4 drops of this to something like the Bondi Sands moisturiser I spoke about for an initial application and this adds a gorgeous natural glow to my skin by morning. It's like that 'just caught the sun' look of an afternoon in the garden without risking any sun damage. I was honestly so worried that this would emphasise texture or cling onto dry patches in an unflattering way but it doesn't at all and it looks so natural! You can build it up over the following nights too if you want to look like you've been basking on holiday. It can also be used on the body but I honestly don't think this little bottle would last very long used in this way!
If you want to take the mixing and guesswork out of the equation then I also really enjoy the Bali Body Gradual Face Tan Hydrating Cream* | £28.95. This combines your gradual tan with a light but moisturising base which includes ingredients like shea butter, sweet almond oil, fatty goodness and aloe. It comes out like a light lotion but all of that good stuff will ensure your skin is soft, smooth, moisturised and you don't have to worry about any patchiness. Again, when you apply this the first night, you'll notice a healthy glow by the next morning and from there it's really up to you how often you want to incorporate this into your routine, but it's not a product you need to worry about going overboard with or looking orange after the first use. This is very noob-friendly!
Another option is the James Reed Overnight Sleep Face Tan* (Light / Medium) | £25. This is a clear gel that I apply before bed over the top of my moisturiser after having exfoliated. One pump works really well for me to get a natural, sunkissed look, though do bear in mind that this is the lighter shade and I have more of a medium skin tone, so if you're very fair: that might not be the case for you! It's really nice as a quick one-step when I want the full glow right away rather than building it up with a product like the Bali Body moisturiser. It goes on evenly and doesn't cling or look patchy; it's a really natural look.
When it comes to body tanning, I cannot emphasise enough: USE A MITT AND IF IN DOUBT, APPLY LESS! The mitt is to avoid it looking patchy and uneven but also to avoid the 'fake tan hands' effect. I personally use the Isle of Paradise Tanning Applicator Mitt* | £4.99 | and apply the product to the mitt if it's a cream, foam or lotion before spreading it over my body.
The first body product I tried was the Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Body Butter* (Medium) | £17.95 | and you don't need to moisturise before using this one, so it's great if you prefer a one-stop-shop. I squeeze a generous amount onto the mitt and really take some time to work it in so it goes on evenly (I do this before bed, as it's the most practical option for me). It has a nourishing base of plant oils, glycerin and fatty ingredients with a nice gradual tan built into it. I apply it a little less liberally than I slather on my usual body butters and this creates a nice, natural, even, streak and patchy-free glow. If you want to build it up then definitely go in with it a few times a week but I really think this format helps keep things nice and natural-looking. It also doesn't transfer.
To take things to the next level in a way that's still not too scary: try the Tan-Luxe Super Glow Body Hyaluronic Serum* | £31. I use around 4 pumps per limb (as a rough guide) applied with the tanning mitt and really worked into my skin. This comes out as a super-light serum with hyaluronic acid in it to draw water into the skin, though I actually still tend to apply this over the top of a light layer of my body lotion. It still works extremely well like that and delivers me a pretty noticeable bronze from first application without being patchy or streaky and it's totally transfer-proof. Out of all the products in this post: I think this bottle will last me ages!
Last but not least, for a different kind of application, I also really enjoy the Tanologist Self Tan Water* (Dark) | £12.99 | which I use with their Atomiser Spray Bottle* | £10.99. I use around about 3 spritzes per limb (applied in the shower), massaged in with the mitt and I have to say, I was a little worried with it being an express tan that it might develop in a way that looked orange or patchy, however it doesn't at all! It's more of a 'I've been on a beach holiday' look but it doesn't cling around my joints or look like. too much, it's perfect for getting your legs out after a long and rainy few months! The only thing with this one is that it does have that 'buscuity' scent, whereas I think the other body formulas here mask that a little better, however: for the price, I can't complain and it doesn't transfer or get messy to apply.
Do you use self tan? What are your favourite products?