The best gradual tanners for a healthy summer glow
We review our go-to formulas
Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / October 19 2020
There are three top reasons to use a gradual tanner: a) you don’t want everyone knowing you get your bronze from a bottle so you need a formula that tans you subtly over time; b) a true self-tan is too bold on your skin (fair skin, we know you feel us); or c) you like having control over the coverage and colour.
Most gradual tanners also come with the added bonus of being a moisturiser, too, which makes it a nice addition to any body care routine. And they are great when layered over a darker self-tan to maintain the colour.
We asked our Beauty Crew team and SUPERcrew members to review their favourite gradual tanners. These are their current picks for the best gradual tan formulas.
#10 / Essano Coconut Oil Organic Gradual Tan
A natural, plant-based gradual tanner made with 99.14 per cent natural origin ingredients (20 per cent of which are from organic farming), you’ll love how hydrating this gradual tanner is - as well as the subtle glow it imparts on skin.
The review: “This contains coconut oil, evening primrose oil and cocoa butter so it really moisturises and softens skin at the same time as building a tan. There's no orange tint, it looks natural, and only has a subtle scent. Even just using this once gives a nice glow.” Milan, SUPERcrew member
#9 / Garnier Body Summer Moisturising Lotion
The review: “This is genius in a bottle. Not to mention the price is fabulous but the results are to die for. It's not too oily against my skin but has a perfect texture. I love having this in the summer when I can't tan properly because I turn into a tomato so I just turn to this because it's good for my skin and provides that beautiful bronze finish. In winter I always look like a polar bear and I use this so I look like I just came back from Hawaii or something. It nourishes your skin, gives you your desired colour and comes at a nice affordable price.” Joahanna, SUPERcrew member
#8 / MooGoo How Now Brown Cow Gradual Tanning Cream
If a natural formula is important to you, there are few brands who take the responsibility as seriously as Moo Goo. It also has the added benefit of being made here in Australia. Using their cult Full Cream Moisturiser as the base (read: ultra nourishing), they’ve added a canola oil-based DHA and sugar-based tanning ingredient to gradually tan skin, and is especially great for complexions with pink undertones.
The review: “It’s perfectly hydrating, absorbs in super quickly and the colour gradually builds to the perfect shade, not brown or Oompa Loompa.” Anne, SUPERcrew member
#7 / St. Tropez Gradual Tan Classic Everyday Body Lotion
This one’s for those who like their shade of tan to err on the darker side. It builds to a bronzed shade that looks natural and deep, and the addition of aloe vera is great for soothing sensitive skin types.
The review: “I beyond adore the St. Tropez Gradual Tan Classic Everyday Body Lotion in Medium/Dark. It is a nourishing, hydrating moisturiser with a touch of self-tan, that gives that unmistakable ‘St.Tropez’ glow that I love, whilst leaving your bod both soft AND with a healthy looking radiance. It is enriched with aloe vera, so you get a dose of skin-loving care as well as a long-lasting, BELIEVABLE faux glow that lasts for days (with care and second daily use). And best of all...no horrific tell-tale bronzer to contend with. Apply it at bedtime and wake to a 'just come back from some Greek island' glow.” Jacqui, SUPERcrew member
#6 / Eco Tan Winter Skin Gradual Tanning Moisturiser
Described as giving skin anywhere from a lightly honey-dipped to deeply bronzed tan, depending on how often you apply it, this natural tanning product will give you the hue you want no matter the season. It’s vegan and cruelty-free and keeps skin hydrated while it bronzes.
The review: “The best gradual tanner would have to be Eco Tan Winter Skin Gradual Tanning Moisturiser because it has natural and organic ingredients, it moisturisers so well and gives you a lovely golden tan.” Aneta, SUPERcrew member
#5 / Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Natural Bronze Gradual Tanning Moisturiser
If you want to cut down on products in your body care routine, this one does the job of a self-tanner and moisturiser as well as two seperate products would. The formula is enriched with cocoa butter and vitamin E and is just as good at softening and smoothing skin as it is at covering it in a gorgeous summer tan colour.
The review: “I’ve found quite a lot of gradual self tanners smell terrible, but this one is scented with Palmer’s signature cocoa butter fragrance, which is highly addictive. The colour it imparts on skin is also beautiful - softly bronzed with a healthy glow to it.” Chelsea Tromans, Beauty Crew’s Contributing Editor
#4 / Tan-Luxe The Gradual
A lotion and oil hybrid, you can use this formula as a face tanner, as well as a self-tanner for the body. While it is a gradual tanner, you’ll start to see signs of your new golden tan in as little as an hour after application. This moisturiser also smooths, tones and illuminates skin, leaving it looking and feeling better with every application.
The review: “This is so moisturising, so it's easy and actually pleasant to use every day as you can feel your skin getting softer as well as seeing the tan develop. It can be used on the face and body, and looks natural with no strong, overwhelming smell.” Georgia, SUPERcrew member
#3 / Dove Summer Glow
Subtly sun-kissed and super soft skin are all in a day’s work for this supermarket self-tanner. And you can choose from the Fair to Medium Skin and Medium to Dark Skin formulas for the ultimate believable bronze shade for you.
The review: “My best self tanner at the moment is Dove Summer Glow. It's like a body lotion but it gradually gives my lily fair light legs a subtle glow for the summer months. I love how I actually do two things at the same time: hydrate my skin and get a slight tan. If not happy with the shade, I just reapply some more cream the next day. It doesn't last forever but for those days I want to have a slight tan, this is perfect for me. I don't want to look like burnt toast.” Amanda, SUPERcrew member
#2 / St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Lotion
Giving skin an instant hit of bronzed colour, while also working away in the background to build a longer-lasting tan, you can’t beat the beautiful bronze shade that St. Tropez is famous for. Because the formula is tinted, it’s also great for anyone who finds colourless tanners difficult to use (read: always ends up streaky) because you can see where you apply it.
The review: “This gradual tanner is super hydrating and gives you added glow after just one application. The tinted formulation helps smooth out imperfections and gives you instant skin radiance. It’s a hands-down winner in my book.” Sally Hunwick, marie claire’s Beauty Director
#1 / JERGENS Natural Glow + Firming Wet Skin Moisturiser
Taking prime position in your shower, this gradual tanning moisturiser is made to be applied to wet skin. It glides effortlessly along damp limbs for a super-fast glow-giving solution. It may require a small tweak in your routine, but the summer-lovin' results are worth it.
The review: “If the idea of an in-shower gradual tan delights you but you've yet to find one that meets expectations, I highly recommend giving this guy a go. Not only does it actually deliver a good coat of colour after one use, but it's super simple to use (spread onto wet skin on your way out of the shower and then pat dry with your towel). I'm yet to experience any streaks, which considering how haphazardly I apply it is quite the miracle, plus the smell is addictive – I want to say it's fresh, creamy and caramel-eqsue all at once. But also not in a sweet, gross way. Just try it if you're lazy, please." Samantha McMeekin, Beauty Crew's Editor
Chelsea is BEAUTYcrew’s Contributing Editor. She has a sweet spot for anything that claims to make skin glow and won’t leave the house without a slick of mascara. Chelsea has 10 years of experience as a beauty editor and her words can be found on BEAUTYcrew, Women’s Health, Daily Addict, The Joye and Primped.