Skip to main content

Which fake tan is best for my skin?

Which fake tan is best for my skin?

With thousands of different tanning products on the market, it can be hard to know which fake tan is best for you.

Fake tan products on the modern market vary hugely in price, quality, and ingredients, and with modern marketing techniques, it can be hard to filter between the gimmicks and the tanning solutions with high quality ingredients.

Most people will just buy a product they regularly see in social media or one that’s endorsed by a celebrity they know.

But the problem with these products is that they are mass-produced and unfortunately, they’ll often contain cheap ingredients that aren’t good for your skin, so they’re certainly not the best fake tans.

The other problem is they can be made using decent ingredients but in such a way that the tan isn’t “optimised” for your skin, and it will therefore not last as long as it could (More on this later).

The fact of the matter is everyone’s skin is unique, and so you should bear this in mind when selecting a self-tanner. For example, dry skin requires more moisturising ingredients, whereas oily skin requires more ingredients to help the solution rub in.

Some people have sensitive skin, so they should avoid certain artificial fragrances and cheap parabens.

In this article, we’ll go over the things to consider when you select a tanner, and the ingredients which can help you achieve your goal of having that long lasting golden glow!

Skin type

Whilst different tanners have a wide range of ingredients, there’s one ingredient they’ll all have with no exceptions. This ingredient is Dihydroxyacetone (DHA).

This is the stuff that makes your skin colour change due to the Maillard reaction. We’ve written an article here on how DHA works.

Unfortunately, as it changes the colour of your skin, it also dries your skin out which can cause some problems, especially if you already have dry skin.

To counteract this drying effect, most tanning products have moisturising ingredients added in. Adding these moisturising ingredients yields several benefits.

Firstly, it means your tan lasts longer.

When your skin dries, it also starts to exfoliate. If you’ve applied fake tan and it starts to dry your skin out, your skin will start to exfoliate. This means that the skin (that has just been tanned) has already started to come off.

Not only that, but your skin doesn’t exfoliate evenly.

In fact, it exfoliates in patches which leaves your newly tanned skin with white blotch marks!

Therefore, it’s important that you choose a fake tan which contains a lot of high-quality moisturising ingredients. The following ingredients are common ones to look out for:

  • Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera)
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Glycerin

However, there is a flipside to this. If you have oily skin, then any products with a lot of moisturising ingredients may not absorb particularly well into your skin. This is because the oil on your skin forms a barrier which the tanning solution struggles to penetrate (Water and oil don’t mix!).

In a tanning solution, this means the DHA can’t penetrate your skin and can sometimes run, forming a streaky tan!

So, if you have oily skin, you should also be looking for ingredients that help your tanner absorb into the skin. Below are some common examples:

  • Isopropyl Myristate
  • Caprylic Capric Triglyceride (Coconut oil and Gylcerin)

Coconut oil in fake tan

Another issue with oily skin is acne breakouts.

A common type of ingredient which can cause acne breakouts in oily skin is called Comedogenic Emollients. The most common of these are Coconut oil and Avocado oil (Thankfully Caprylic Capric Triglyceride is non- comedogenic).

If you have oily skin then it’s best to try and avoid these as they can clog your pores and increase your risk of getting breakouts in the areas you’ve applied your tanner. Below are some alternatives which won’t cause an acne breakout:

  • Jojoba Oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Squalene

Skin sensitivity

This is a problem which spans the entire beauty industry. When trying a new cosmetic product, you never really know if it will irritate your skin or not.

This is just because some peoples skin is more sensitive than others, and with the vast array of ingredients you’re rubbing onto your skin, it’s hard to really pin down if a particular ingredient is irritating it.

But there are some common culprits who are much more likely to cause irritation than others. These tend to be the artificial chemicals, including Parabens that are put into products to preserve them.

Artificial chemicals are much cheaper so you'll often find these chemicals in the cheaper brands.

So if your skin is known to react to new cosmetics products, you should try to avoid the cheaper brands. It will probably cost you around $10 more, but it would be worth it to avoid any rashes or irritation.

Normally, you can start to get good quality tanning products in the region of $25 so you don’t have to break the bank!  

Other common culprits of skin irritation are artificial fragrances.

Many brands put fragrances in their products to mask the awful biscuit tanner smell. But often these artificial fragrances are the chemicals which cause irritation in users with sensitive skin.

If you have sensitive skin, we recommend you avoid using tanners with fragrances at all costs. There are brands on the market which don’t have any fragrance, and they are a lot less likely to irritate your skin.

Not only that, but there are still ways to cover up that strong tanner scent.

We wrote this article on tips and tricks to hide the smell of self-tan.

Skin tone

The final point to consider is your skin tone.

There are over 110 different skin tones. But it’s impossible for brands to make products for all these tones.

Instead, experts use what’s called the “Fitzpatrick scale” to help identify which skin type you are. We explain more about the Fitzpatrick scale in this article.

The scale divides people into 5 categories based on their typical features. These 5 categories are listed below.

Not only can the scale be used to determine how resilient you are to the sun’s rays, but it can also be used to help you choose the tone of your tanner.

Generally, if you have white and pale skin which burns easily in the sun, then you aren’t going to suit an Ultra Dark tanner.

Similarly, if you naturally have very dark skin, it doesn’t make sense for you to apply a light tanner as it probably won’t even darken your skin.

You can use the scale to determine your skin type. Below is a quick guide to help you choose which tone is for you:

Skin Type 1: Light
Skin Type 2: Light
Skin Type 3: Medium
Skin Type 4: Medium
Skin Type 5: Dark

Obviously, this is just a guide and you can easily go for a lighter or darker tone. But this is a great guide for beginners who what to err on the side of caution.

Not only can the Fitzpatrick scale be used to choose your tone, but you can also use it to choose the brand. This is because some brands focus on much darker tones.

You’ll know this because it will either explicitly state it on their product, or they won’t have a “light” tone in their collection.

If you have a light skin tone, it is recommended to stick to the lighter products as this will keep the tan looking natural. If you go too dark, it can start to look unnatural, and this is when the dreaded “orange” look can start to appear!


The bottom line...


Overall, it’s hard to select a product when there’s so much choice out there, and with the standard brands on the market, it’s impossible to really know which fake tan is best for your skin.


Even if you know the biggest brands inside and out, how do you really what your skin type is and whether these fake tans match your skin?


At Unreal, we formulate self-tanning products for individuals by asking them questions about their skin, and creating a unique formulation based on their answers. This means that your fake tan is “optimised” for your skin.


Take our free skin quiz by clicking the button below, and we’ll send you a free personalised tanning booklet. Inside you’ll find even more information and tips on the ingredients your individual skin needs for a longer lasting, healthy glow.



Continue reading

How does self-tanner work

How does self-tanner work

Instructions for applying your Unreal Customisable Tanning Mist

Instructions for applying your Unreal Customisable Tanning Mist

How to get fake tanner off - 8 ways to remove fake tan

How to get fake tanner off - 8 ways to remove fake tan


Alice McKeown

I fit in the l or ll which is the light but I’m also a mature women with dry skin. Which tanning product would be best suited for me? Thanks!

All comments are moderated before being published.

Your Cart

Your cart is currently empty.
Click here to continue shopping.