When I decided to try out supermarket fake tans, I fully expected that my legs would be left looking like an orange patchwork quilt and I’d be forced to wear tights for the foreseeable future.
But it turns out the joke is on me (a St. Tropez devotee) for regularly shelling out more than £30 on my favourite brands when I could be getting the same results for less than £5.
As a serial fake tanner, I slather myself in biscuit-scented lotion at least once a week. But with the cost of living soaring, it’s fast becoming a very expensive habit. So, armed with my mitt, I tried products from Asda, Tesco, Aldi and M&S to see whether the budget bronzers you can pop in your basket with your weekly shop should be snapped up – or left on the shelf.
Asda Self Tan Bronzing Mousse in Medium £2
Much like overfilling your supermarket trolley when you’re hungry, it’s quite easy to go overboard with this tan. The mousse has a consistency like shaving foam that grows and expands on the mitt, taking you from a 50p-sized blob to enough to coat your entire thigh in a couple of seconds – so spritz with caution. I absolutely loved the golden guide colour, even if it did still feel quite sticky when I hopped into bed – a tell-tale sign of what was to come. Post-shower, the colour was nice, just a little more orange than I would have liked. I imagine it would look more convincing on someone with a naturally deeper skin tone. It did unfortunately cling like a fast-fashion bodycon dress to my knees and feet and fade in patches, meaning I definitely did have to hide it under tights. Not the best, but for less than the price of a lunchtime meal deal it’s still hard to complain.
M&S Autograph Tan Self Tan Velvet Touch Tinted Lotion in Light/Medium, £8.50
Colourless tans make me nervous, so I was very relieved to see this one had a guide colour on application. The formula itself is soft and velvety, and left my legs instantly looking like they’d been airbrushed by body makeup. You could definitely go out for the night wearing this, although you’d have to be careful to avoid spills while the colour develops. Learn from my mistakes and don’t jump straight into fresh sheets after applying tan, as you will wake up to what looks like some kind of terrible accident. But sheets that looked like they’d seen things were a small price to pay for the glossy, even tan on my legs. Just don’t use it on laundry day.
Aldi Lacura Self Tan Bronzing Mousse in Medium, £2.99
Aldi has left me sitting on the fence with this one. On one hand, it’s a really lovely product. The soft foam spreads nicely, isn’t at all drippy and there’s enough playtime that you don’t feel like you’re buffing against the clock. It’s not sticky, and barely transfers onto sheets. The hiccup comes when you shower it off and the majority of your new glow swirls away down the plughole. What remained was just enough colour to take the edge off my pale, sun-deprived legs, but not enough for anyone else to actually think I’d used fake tan. Which for some, might be the exact tanning sweet spot they want to hit. The good news is that because the colour is so light, it is forgiving, so there were no streaks or patches to worry about. If you did want to go deeper with the colour, consider re-applying on a second or third night, but just go easy around your knees and elbows. Good for fake tan first timers.
Tesco Palm Bay Self Tanning Foam in Dark, £4
After reading reviews that said this tan didn’t have much staying power, I went for the darker colour to give it the best chance of making a noticeable difference. The formula is light and quite sheer, with a slight grey tinge which initially made my legs look more unhealthy than sun-kissed. It did also nestle into my pores, giving the appearance of very dark stubble, which wasn’t quite the look I was going for. Overnight, there was only a slight transfer onto my sheets, and I was pleased to see that the colour was still there post-shower. The colour is deep and relatively convincing, but it did go patchy around my knees and ankles, and my pores still looked stubbly. Exfoliation did make things slightly better, but took some of the colour with it. Not for inexperienced tanners.
The winner was clearly M&S but overall, I was pretty impressed with the supermarket tans. The mishaps I had were no worse than with more expensive tans I’ve tried, and for these price tags I’d say it’s worth giving them a go – as long as you prep properly first. I’ve also discovered that it’s quite hard to take clear photos of patchy tan, which actually means you don’t need to worry too much about an uneven finish, as it won’t ruin your pictures anyway. Win-win.