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The best facial self-tans | Sali Hughes


Facial self-tans are a great way to pare down a makeup routine for summer, when heavy foundation looks excessive and feels foul. They’re particularly handy if you suffer from uneven skin tone, rosacea or melasma that becomes more prominent around now, as the darker tint has a more unifying and camouflaging effect than thick makeup, minus any of the associated sweaty, streaky discomfort. Their drawback, for me, is that the vast majority of gradual tanning moisturisers don’t contain any sun protection at the time you’re most in need of it, and least likely to want to layer gloopy moisturisers to melt and merge in the heat.

This is why Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster for Face drops (£20 for 15ml) remain the (forgive me) gold standard. Instead of further basting summer skin, one merely shakes one to three drops (one is perfect for my deathly pallor) on to a favourite serum, face cream or sunblock, mixes together and applies as normal. The result is a believable tan that lasts a couple of days.

M&S’s version, Self Tan Luxe Facial Oil, is vegan, bargainous (£9.50) and comes in a bigger, 28ml bottle, but the dosage is harder to control. Ignore the application instructions, is my advice. The product is excellent, but its consistency too runny to massage in without waste. Instead, I just mixed a few drops into my own moisturiser and got a streak-free, natural-looking glow, minus any dribbling or mess.

Simpler still are Dr Dennis Gross’s Alpha Beta Glow Pads (two colour densities, £30 for 20 – expect to use a couple a week). These have the significant benefit of simultaneously exfoliating and tinting the skin in the sweep of one small pad, cutting the need for any preparation and all but eliminating the risk of streaking. I find they work brilliantly if the face is left for a minute post-application, before proceeding to serum and sunblock; I can generally see the results in under two hours.

If even this feels like a job too many in the morning, just slap on an overnight gradual tanner before bed. James Read’s Sleep Mask (£25 for 50ml – should last several months) remains the best. Apply the milky gel after night-time cleansing, wash your hands, and wake up to a realistic, well-rested glow. Whichever you use, don’t forget your neck.

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