One of my most viewed posts of all time, is a poorly written and photographed guide to gradual tanners from April 2012 - yes really! As it is so outdated and I have picked up more knowledge along the way, I thought now would be a great time to re-visit the subject.
Q. What is a gradual tanner?
A. Unlike a typical self tanner, a gradual tanner works over a number of applications to subtly tint the skin with a soft and naturally tanned effect. As you apply it daily and over a period of time, you have complete control over the intensity of the tan. This makes it ideal for beginners, those with fair skin and of course those who simply prefer a subtle approach to self tanning. Gradual tanners also help to prolong an existing tan.
Q.What is the best way to apply gradual tanners?
A. In most instances, gradual tanners have the consistency of a body lotion. As a result they are more nourishing and less prone to drying the skin out. As they do not offer a guide colour, preparation and application is key. You want to ensure that you create a flawless application each and every time. I recommend applying gradual tanners, much how you would any other self tanner - on dry skin and by using a tanning mitt. By doing so you will forgo staining the palms of the hands and of course minimise the risk of a patchy tan. Exfoliating before application will also ensure that you have an even and smooth canvas to begin with.
Q. How often should I apply gradual tanner?
A. This is entirely up to you; I must warn that as gradual tanners aim to be subtle, it will more often than not take more than one application to see any change of skin tone. Personally I apply gradual tanner daily, until I reach my desired tone (normally four days does the trick) and then top up the colour every three days or so to prevent fading. I also exfoliate nightly during the whole process to ensure that the product fades evenly.
Q.What if application goes wrong?
A.Yes it may be less likely due to the slow and steady approach but hey it can happen. The good news is you have a few great and effective options : a bath with lots of bath oil (in a pinch body/baby oil works just as well). The oil and the heat of the water, helps to somewhat remove the tan - combine this with a body mitt and/or body polish and you should remove the bulk of the tan. You can also go swimming - the chlorine within the pool softens the tan, or you have the age old combination of sugar, lemon juice water and a body mitt - buff all over, rinse clean and repeat if necessary.
Q.Which are the best budget friendly gradual tanners?
A. The world truly is your oyster, gradual tanning products are everywhere and that includes the aisles of Boots, Superdrug and if in the US the drugstore. My personal favourite budget finds are: Dove Summer Glow Nourishing Lotion (£2.62) and Palmer's Cocoa Butter Natural Gradual Tanner (£3.79), which is especially wonderful for dried out skin. Another great find, that I especially find compliments light olive skin tones is St. Moriz Gradual Self Tanner (£4.99).
Q.Which are the best luxury gradual tanners?
A. I fully recommend St.Tropez Everyday Gradual Tanner (£14.50) and St. Tropez Gradual Tan in Shower (£14.50). Both offer a light and entirely natural sun kissed glow that develops and wears well. It easily my favourite brand to call upon, when a sunless tan is required. St. Tropez Gradual Tan in Shower is a must for anyone who struggles to find the time to tan, as it is applied on to damp skin while in shower. So clever.
Q.Which gradual tanner would you recommend for pale skin tones?
A. The aforementioned Dove Summer Glow in Fair to Medium is the perfect choice, not only is it readily available but as it develops into a golden, yellow toned tan you don't have to worry about turning orange overnight. Fake Bake Lux Golden Bronze Gradual Fair (£25) offers the same light, golden tan but is quicker to develop (in terms of application) and wears a little longer too. You also can not go wrong with Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster for the Body (£26) - this product turns any body lotion into a gradual self tanner and again provides a very natural albeit light tanned effect to the skin.
Q.Which gradual tanner would you recommend for medium skin tones?
A. One last Dove Summer Glow recommendation, I promise but as a medium toned gal I swear by and use Dove Summer Glow in Medium to Dark. This is one of the few effective gradual tanners I have found that works well for already tanned or deeper complexions, I use it to blend out natural tan lines in the summer and to add a little warmth to my skin in the Winter months. As I said I swear by it. I'm also a fan of Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk (£11.99); a little deeper in colour, compared to your average gradual tanner yet still garners a natural effect, making it ideal for medium to deep skin tones.
Q. And the best gradual tanners for the face?
A. As the face is easily the most stressful area of the face to tan full stop, if all goes wrong other than sporting a balaclava it's a case of grinning and bearing it. More often than not, I simply opt for a deeper toned foundation than tanning my face. I have on occasion been known to apply Olay Complete Everyday Sunshine Moisturiser Cream with sunless tanner SPF15 in Light. Not only does it gently tint the skin over the period of a few days, it also moisturises and offers SPF protection too. If you have a favourite every day facial moisturiser and don't want to mess around with new textures etc, I recommend Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster. Much like the body version, you simply add a few drops to your moisturiser of choice and enjoy the added hint of colour. I must stress with the facial area, less is more when it comes to self tanning. Unless you have a naturally deep complexion always purchase the lightest option and build gradually.
Q.Can your skin still tan/burn when wearing a gradual tanner?
A. Unless your chosen gradual self tanner contains SPF the answer is yes, you can burn and tan. Most self tanners, gradual or otherwise offer no protection against the sun. If you are worried about being the palest on the beach, or by the pool this Summer by all means slap on some self tanner just be sure to apply SPF when in the sun. If you naturally tan, self tanner will not hinder your ability.
If there is anything I may have missed out in regards to gradual tanner and you'd like me to answer it, please leave your question below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.