Spring has sprung and it’s finally warm enough to shed some layers.
If this seems an unwelcomed prospect due to your sun-parched complexion, trusty fake tans promise the bronzed skin of a Bondi beach babe even during the depths of winter. Whether you’re an instant mousse addict, a gradual lotion fan or partial to the odd spray tan, fake tans have you covered (quite literally).
But many of these products aren’t suitable for face’s sensitive skin. Even those that are safe for use can be too heavy, dark or streaky.
This is where facial tanning sprays enter the stage. With all the coverage of a regular tan, these lightweight formulas are specially developed to be gentle on the skin. Featuring spray nozzles that evenly coat the face without the need for tanning mitts or the risk of wotsit fingers, they offer a hassle-free alternative to regular fake tan.
So, how do they actually work?
The active ingredient in tanning products is dihydroxyacetone, also known as DHA. Facial tanning sprays are no different in that they still rely on this ingredient to offer a gradual tan that develops over the following ten hours.
The main difference, however, is their consistency. Tanning sprays are lightweight, viscous formulas. This prevents them from clogging up pores and causing breakouts on our delicate skin. Because our faces are usually a lighter shade to our bodies, facial tanning sprays also contain slightly lower levels of DHA to achieve a naturally toned face.
According to Jules Von Hep, Co-Founder and Creative Director of tanning brand Isle of Paradise, this makes it easier to control the shade of the tan. “With facial sprays, the more you spray onto the skin the deeper the tan will be,” he explains. “Faces that have too much self-tan on them look unnatural – think glowy, natural, effortless skin.”
How do you apply them?
For a smooth and even tan, Von Hep advises: “Ensure the face is cleansed thoroughly. Exfoliating will help deliver a uniform skin tone. Splash the face with cold water to close pores and tone/serum as normal (note AHAs and retinol cannot be used with self-tan).
“At arm’s length, hold the water from your face, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Mist the face like you would any other face mist. Afterwards, take a cotton bud and wipe your eyebrows, and use a dry face cloth to buff your ears.”
To avoid this last step, it’s a good idea to use a towel headband that helps you to also avoid the hairline. He recommends to also brush your teeth prior to applying your tanning mist because otherwise toothpaste can collect at the side of your mouth and remove tan. The beauty entrepreneur also keeps his in the fridge for an extra refreshing spritz.
As with regular tan, most brands offer different shades, but there are also different formulas designed for different skin types. Whether your skin is sensitive, oily or dry, or you’re prone to breakouts, there will be a facial tanning spray to keep you looking effortlessly sunkissed all year round.
Shop the best below
Isle of Paradise Night Glow Self-Tan Face Mist
Founded in 2018 by Jules von Hep, this youthful brand has taken the tanning world by storm. The Night Glow face mist comes in a cute and compact mauve bottle and is specially developed for gradual overnight use.
Isle of Paradise’s facial tanning spray features a higher percentage of DHA than others on this list, so it offers a deeper glow, but the organic formula means you don’t have to worry about nasty additives.
The unique oil and water bi-phase mist combines jasmine and argan oils with a hyaluronic acid and glycerin base, so you need to shake the bottle well before use. Calming ylang ylang and lavender oils help you relax into a blissful slumber. You’ll emerge in the morning brilliantly bronzed.
Buy now £13.95, Boots
OSKIA Adaptive Tan Mist
Skincare brand OSKIA uses bio-active ingredients that promise healthy glowing skin. The Adaptive Tan Mist is a super fine spray that helps prolong existing tan while adding a little extra colour. Its bronze boosting effects can last up to ten days.
OSKIA’s USP is the unique tri-phase formula which, as well as using organic DHA for a longer lasting tan, will boost the skin’s own melanin production for a natural and protective tan.
With a subtle fragrance of jasmine and mint, and bursting with vitamin C, E and A, this tan promises to improve your skin’s health as well as brightening complexion. Although it’s on the pricier end of the scale, with added pea peptides, amino acids and pro-vitamin B5, it offers a luxurious experience.
Buy now £57.00, FeelUnique
St Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist
A cult classic in the tanning sphere, St Tropez’s products will have you looking like you spent a long weekend in the namesake South of France location. The tropically-scented Purity Bronzing face mist has the finest mist of all on this list, which means a more evenly distributed tan. The formula is suitable for your hands and feet too, so you’ll have a streak-free tan all over.
With hydrating hyaluronic acid and rich antioxidant hibiscus extract, skin is left refreshed and radiant. While it only comes in one shade, St Tropez’s tan tailors to your skin tone for natural-looking sunkissed skin.
Vegan friendly and free from parabens, sulphates and phthalates, you can rest assured this tanning mist will work wonders on your skin without feeling drying.
Buy now £22.00, Boots
James Read Rose Glow Tanning Water Mist
Tanning expert James Read always promises salon-worthy products and his Rose Glow Tanning Water Mist is no exception. Infused with sweetly scented organic rose water, a natural ingredient worshipped by beauty buffs, this tanning spray promises anti-ageing properties and will reduce redness.
Control your tone with daily application and once you discover your desired shade, simply top up two to three times a week as required. There’s hyaluronic acid, witch hazel and vitamin E in there too, which will keep skin looking fresh and hydrated. James Read recommends daytime application with this mist - it works just as well as a primer under makeup or as a setting spray over the top.
Buy now £20.00, Amazon
UTAN Jamie Genevieve X CBD Tanning Water
UTAN has teamed up with beauty influencer Jamie Genevieve to produce the world’s first tanning water infused with CBD. Enriched with cannabinoid extract, the lightweight mist promises anti-inflammatory benefits to calm the skin. Paired with the natural soothing fragrance of anti-bacterial Scottish lavender, you’ll be lulled into a CBD tanning stupor, making it great for use before bed as the final step in your skincare regime.
The colourless formula can be used to gradually build to your desired tone, and a finger-shaped dent on the atomizer makes it easy to get a firm spray, minimising the risk of getting tan on your fingers. It’s a particularly powerful spray too, so one spritz should do it.
Buy now £18.00, lookfantastic
Tan-Luxe The Water
Tan-Luxe’s clear tanning mist is infused with a blend of vitamins B, C and E to give you a healthy and radiant glow as well as a beautiful tan. Containing raspberry oil, a natural sunscreen known to boost collagen production, as well as super hydrating aloe vera, this water-based formula delivers natural ingredients that your skin will love.
The mist is very fine with this one, so apply liberally. We found it was the fastest drying though, and as it’s suitable for use on the rest of your body too, this makes it perfect for those busy weekday mornings. There are two shades to choose from but the tanning effects aren’t as intense as others on the list, so it’s best suited for paler complexions.
Buy now £33.00, lookfantastic
St Moriz Professional Clear Complexion Face Tan Mist
There’s a reason affordable tanning favourite St Moriz has named its facial tan the Clear Complexion Tanning Mist. Containing aloe vera and vitamin E to hydrate the skin, your face will be left feeling smooth and clean after use.
It’s specially developed for oily or spot-prone skin, so is ideal for those who are breakout-prone due to the inclusion of salicylic acid that is known to clear clogged pores and reduce inflammation and redness.
While suitable for both morning or night time use, we think the fresh and invigorating scent of this tanning spray makes it best for waking you up in the morning. The undertone of this face tanning mist is more of an orangey-pink, so best for warmer skin tones.
Buy now £7.99, Boots
Amanda Harrington Illuminating Bronzing Face Mist
Amanda Harrington’s bottle has an ultra-fine atomizer to evenly spritz the illuminating face mist across the skin. Infused with CQ10 and collagen to help keep skin youthful and firm, and hydrating hyaluronic acid to prevent dryness, this facial tanning spray will quickly transform tired and lacklustre skin.
Enriched with green tea and avocado extracts and with a slight shimmer, you’ll be left with a post-holiday glow (minus the jetlag). There are three shades to choose from that are suited to different skin types. Amanda Harrington recommends blending the product in with a brush, but don’t worry, the tanning spray comes with protective tanning gloves.
Buy now £30.00, Space NK