Our favourite gradual tanners for a healthy summer glow
We review our go-to formulas
Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / July 01 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.
#13 / 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
#12 / La Mav Bronze Gradual Tanning Moisturiser
There are a lot of great skin-loving ingredients in this formula, including nine per cent organic ingredients, five per cent all-natural DHA, nourishing camellia, macadamia and argan oils, plus magnesium to boost collagen and elastin to tone skin. Then there’s the bronze - which is what we’re all really here for. It’s suited to light to medium skin tones, and starts to develop in three hours; the more you use it, the richer the tan slowly builds.
The review: “A little while ago I made a commitment to use only organic self-tanners on my skin (and made sure my 17 year old heard about my switch) as the formulations have improved so much in recent years. This is my new favourite. It's super moisturising, has a beautiful smell and natural colour and - as a bonus - is infused with magnesium, which helps to soothe sore muscles and promotes sleep.” Adriana Donnola, New Idea and Who’s Executive Beauty Editor
#11 / 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
#10 / 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
#9 / 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
#8 / 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
#7 / 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
#6 / Bondi Sands Everyday Liquid Gold
A quick-drying gradual tanner, we love the rich bronze shade this dry oil builds to. The coconut and argan oil in the formula is dreamy on skin, and helps the formula to smooth evenly over skin for a streak-free tan every time.
The review: “I’m notoriously terrible at applying fake tan, which is why I need a formula that’s super easy to apply, develops gradually and doesn’t cling to any areas with dry skin i.e. my knees, elbows and wrists. And this one from Bondi Sands delivers on all fronts. The formula also blends with my fair skin perfectly. It gets two big thumbs up from me!” Kate Niven, Beauty Crew’s Beauty Writer
#5 / 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
#4 / 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
#3 / 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
#2 / Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk
Hydrating and fuss-free, this tanning lotion is just like applying a moisturiser all over. It nourishes skin with aloe vera, vitamin E and cocoa butter, and the more you use it, the deeper your tan. Too easy.
The reviews: “This is one of my favourite tanning products of all time because the lightweight cream is readily absorbed by skin, and it allows me to build a really nice, believable tan over the course of several days.” Iantha Yu, Beauty Crew’s Beauty Editor
“When it comes to gradual tanners, I can’t go past the Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk. I’ve tried other brands and always come back to this one. It gives my post-winter pale skin a really nice golden glow and is incredibly easy to apply. I just smooth a few pumps onto my skin before bed each night and after a few nights, my skin is perfectly tanned and also very hydrated thanks to the cocoa butter and aloe vera in the formula. I also like to use this one to 'top-up' an existing tan to either delay having to tan again, or make my current tan a bit darker for an evening event.” Isobel Larkin, Beauty Crew’s Beauty Assistant
#1 / JERGENS® Natural Glow® + FIRMING Daily Moisturiser
It firms skin and reduces signs of cellulite, moisturises, gradually coats your body in a natural-looking bronze shade and it’s odourless. Enough said!
The reviews: “I tend to be a bit impatient when it comes to fake tanning, so I don’t usually turn to a gradual, but I was so impressed with how quickly this one works that it’s on regular rotation during my spring and autumn beauty routine. Within two days of switching my morning moisturiser with the gradual tanner, my skin gets a gorgeous natural glow and luminosity – just a hint of warmth rather than the kind of tan you’d have after a summer holiday. As for the smell, I find the scent really neutral, and the colour wears off nice and evenly.” Carli Alman, Beauty Crew’s Editor
“I adore the Jergens Natural Glow + Firming Daily Moisturiser as it gives my naturally pale skin the appearance of having sunbathed for a couple hours, can be layered without being patchy, and never streaks!” Alex, SUPERcrew member
Prefer an instant tan? These are 12 of our go-to self-tanners that we highly recommend you buy.
Do you use a gradual tanner? What's your favourite product?
Main image credit: Getty
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.