A Guide To The Best Self-Tanners For Mature Skin

Fake tan is the one beauty product that has a bad reputation, conjuring up an image of streaky, orange skin, especially as we age. But it’s time to think again. New formulas and textures, some careful prep and the right technique mean you can nail a gentle glow, whether you’re after some pre-holiday colour or you just want to look a little healthier over the summer. Here we share nine of the best products, plus the experts’ top tips for flawless application.

All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however we may make commission on some products.

The Spray…

Tinted Tanning Mist, £13.33 (was £20) | Vita Liberata

Tan brand Vita Liberata has launched a new mist. A must-try for tan novices, the spray lets you build up the colour or dial it down depending on your preference. Start with just a gentle misting, then layer it up over a few days to increase the intensity. The tan builds quickly, so you can see where top-ups are needed relatively easily. It’s also seriously hydrating – some mists can leave skin feeling tight and dry, but this one uses aloe vera and hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture and keep skin smooth. A summer essential.

Available at Boots.com

The Mousse…

Express Bronzing Mousse, £33 | St Tropez

Offering fast, reliable results, you can leave this tan on for up to three hours to develop to your desired colour. For example, those with lighter skin tones are best leaving it on for an hour before rinsing off for a natural glow; whereas those with deeper skin tones, or anyone wanting more colour pay-off, should leave it on for a couple more hours. We’re big fans of the non-sticky, easy-to-apply foam formulation and signature St Tropez scent that’s coconut-y and warm.

Available at Boots.com

The Hydrator…

Self-Tanning Hydrating Skin Care, £94 | Sisley Paris

If you suffer with dryness and flaky skin, this velvety cream is for you. Full of macadamia oil and glycerin, it offers intense hydration, soaking up parched patches instantly. Nourishment aside, we love the soft colour it lends limbs gradually – think fresh from a holiday with unbeatable luminosity. Never cloying or overbearing, the texture is light, so you won’t be left sticking to your bedsheets or clothes. It’s an investment, but a worthy one given the  benefits it offers.

Available at LibertyLondon.com

The Mask…

Sleep Mask Tan Body, £35 | James Read

This product is colourless, so you never have to worry about any tan transference. Even though you can’t see the colour or trust its intensity, believe us when we say that, come morning, you’ll have an even golden colour. It completely avoids that orange-y fake tan look we fear, while ingredients like hyaluronic acid, red algae and aloe vera keep moisture levels topped up and prevent that tight, dry feeling we often associate with self-tan. Massage it on and sleep in this overnight for impressive results when you wake up. You’ll find it lasts at least three or four days before fading evenly.

Available at Amazon.co.uk

The Cream…

Ultimate Gradual Tan, £22.40 (was £28) | Amanda Harrington

We love this gradual tan at SheerLuxe. A three-in-one, it hydrates, primes and tans the skin, while ingredients like hyaluronic acid and collagen visibly smooth and firm. One application will give you colour within 24 hours, so it’s easy to see whether you want to amp things up further or stick with the colour you have for something more subtle. For the best results, use your hands to massage it in, starting from your feet upwards in circular buffing motions. We love the tiny light-reflective particles which give limbs a subtle, youthful sheen, too.

Available at LookFantastic.com

The Lotion…

Total Glow Bronzing Body Lotion, £34.99 | Elemis

If you want just a hint of something rather than full-bodied colour, look to gradual body tints like this one from Elemis. Use it once a week to keep a natural glow ticking over. It will be just enough to keep skin looking healthy, while also maintaining a focus on your body with hydrating ingredients like elderberry seed extract and red algae.

Available at LookIncredible.co.uk

The Serum…

Super Glow Body Hyaluronic Self-Tan Serum, £26.25 (was £35) | Tan-Luxe

This silky serum is one of the most reliable options for creating a golden, hydrated tan. Loved by industry insiders and experts alike, it comes with a host of skin-loving benefits. The lightweight texture absorbs fast too and is easy to blend out for minimal streaks. Work it into the skin well – as you would a moisturiser – for flawless, natural results that last at least five days. Expect an olive-toned colour, while hyaluronic acid plumps skin up with moisture for a smoother, firmer appearance.

Available at LookFantastic.com

The Quick-Fix…

Instant Tanning Gel, £22 | Clarins

Brimming with fig extract and aloe vera, this silky tanning gel hydrates and softens skin, while providing a soft hint of colour. Lightweight in texture, it applies just like a serum, so you get a smooth glide and even results. The colour is lighter than others on this list, but that’s ideal if you’re someone who prefers a gentle bronzed effect, rather than a full-on tan. Plus, if you do want to go darker, it’s easy enough to layer up without it streaking.

Available at Boots.com

The Drops…

Gradual Tanning Drops, £24 (were £30) | Balance Me

These lightweight drops are some of the best – and easiest – that we’ve come across. Mix them into your regular face cream or body lotion to achieve a gradual tan that suits even the palest complexions. They’ve also been repackaged so both the pipette and glass bottle are completely recyclable. Effective and guilt-free. Before applying any fake tan to the face – including drops – protect your brows with a little Vaseline. It’s also worth using your finger to pat in tan gently around your eyes to get an even blend.

Available at LookFantastic.com

6 Takeaway Self-Tan Tips


Always Invest In The Right Tools

“For accurate application, a foam tanning mitt is still by far the best when it comes to applying your tan at home. A great tip is to disperse either your mousse, liquid or lotion in long sweeping motions over the body. This helps you get a more balanced and natural finish towards the wrists and ankles, as the tan is thinned out by that point. Another great tool is a make-up brush, which you can use to apply tan in those delicate areas. We all know self-tanners love to grab on and turn darker around the knees, elbows and feet, so the light touch of a brush is ideal." – A-list tanner James Harknett

"Don't be afraid to use a brush. You probably apply the rest of your make-up with one so it's no different. It will allow you to drive your product into the nooks and crannies of your skin (especially your face), leaving you with fewer tell-tale tanning streaks around areas like your chin or nose." – Make-up artist & A-list tanner, Amanda Harrington


Opt For Two Coats

“With all tans, apply two coats to the body and one to the face. Starting at the ankles and working your way up means that your tan will be dry enough to apply a second coat after a couple of minutes – just start again from the ankles up for the second layer. Then, use what’s left on the mitt to apply tan to your hands and feet; and remember to wipe in between your fingers and over your fingernails with a damp cloth or make-up wipe afterwards. Lastly (my favourite trick of all), hang a towel on the back of your door and rub your wrists onto it. This helps remove those pesky tell-tale tan lines. As a rule, whatever you do on the body, halve the amount you then apply to your face: for instance, two layers on the body equals one layer on the face.” – Jules von Hep, professional tanner and creator of Isle of Paradise


Exfoliate First

“Prep is vital, and this includes exfoliation. Once any hair removal has been well timed, exfoliate all over the body on the morning or night before application. REN’s Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm is brilliant at shifting dead skin cells and providing a smooth, even base that’s ready for colour.” – James


Pick Your Moment

“Always try and apply your tan after you shower, ensuring skin is dry, make-up free and all deodorant is washed off. Post-shower, our skin’s cells are more hydrated and will therefore absorb tan more evenly for a longer-lasting colour. Do it in front of a mirror, too, in a well-lit area for seamless coverage. It’s also key to avoid using any oils prior to tanning, so avoid massaging or moisturising your skin too heavily the day before – it can act as a barrier, unless it’s mixed with tanning drops.” – Jules


Prevent Streaks

“If you’re using a tan with a guide colour (one where you can see the colour appear on application), apply it to the body first and check for brown lines. Any brown lines mean you’ve overlapped the layers of tan, which means no streak. Any paler lines on the skin will mean a streak and therefore will need an extra sweep of the tan on top. If you’re using a clear tan, spray it liberally until the skin is visibly wet. The skin should gleam all over with no matte finish at all on the skin – if you spot any matte patches, spray on more formula in that area. Rub in with your palms until your skin feels almost touch dry and don’t forget to wash your hands after. Once you’ve finished, buff off any excess.” – Jules


Use The Sunbathing Technique

“The best way to think of where to apply – and where not to – is think about where the sun would hit your skin if you were sunbathing. You would probably tan everywhere, except for your palms, soles, wrists and hairline. Common areas that people miss include the middle of the back, inner thighs, outer arms, armpits and under the breast – so keep these in mind.” – Jules

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