The best tanning waters that won’t transfer, stain sheets or ruin clothes

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  • Goodbye tanning mousse, hello tanning water…

    Spring is here, however it looks like we may have to wait a little bit longer for the sun to make an appearance. Although the British weather might not be helping us with our tan, there are lots of products on the market to achieve a natural, sun-kissed look all year round.

    If you’ve read our guide to the best fake tan, you’ll know that there are a range of different formulas available. As much as we love a mousse, we don’t love having to wash our sheets every time we apply it. If you’re an avid fake tanner, you will know that these products can transfer onto just about anything, and we’ve lost count of the number of clothes and crisp white bedding that we’ve had to replace.

    Luckily, tanning waters have taken the market by storm over the past couple of years. These clear formulas promise a perfect tan, without the mess. Sound good? We took it upon ourselves to test out the most popular brands and give you our honest opinion on each one. Keep on scrolling to see our top picks, and find out all about how tanning waters work…

    What did we look for when testing the tans? We wanted tans that were easy to apply, weren’t going to transfer and that gave us a gorgeous glow for Spring and beyond. Another key factor? Whether they had that dreaded fake tan smell or not.

    Ecommerce Writer Grace Lindsay testing the tans in this roundup

    The best tanning waters to buy now:

    1. Bondi Sands Pure Self Tan Foaming Water Dark, £15.99 | Lookfantastic

    “The Bondi Sands self tan water is different to other clear tans thanks to its foamy formula. Like all clear alternatives, I found it took some getting used to, but I didn’t notice any streaks or orange hands, despite the tan being – yep, you guessed it – clear. If anything, the foam texture made it slightly easier to apply – it’s a thicker texture, so I felt like I could feel where I was applying it more. I liked the colour – it gave me a soft, natural, sun-kissed look – and I didn’t notice the standard biscuit-y after smell when I used it, which was a big win for me. Plus, I didn’t notice any orange residue or staining on my bedsheets or clothes.”

    “Fun fact: it’s actually no rinse, so you can go about your day without planning in when you need to shower. And a top tip for you (I learnt the hard way): hold the bottle upside down when opening and applying, as I found that if I didn’t, the foam came out as more of a water, making the process more difficult.” Ally Head – Health Editor

    2. TAN-LUXE The Water Hydrating Self-Tan Water Medium, £24.65 | Feelunique

    “The Tan Luxe tanning water really is as simple as spray, buff and go. Unlike other tanning products, this water smells surprisingly nice, and it dries instantly meaning you can put it on in the morning without worrying about your clothes. I tried the tan at night, and woke up with no fake tan smell, no transfer onto the bed sheets and a healthy looking glow.”

    “As there is no colour to the water, be careful when buffing it everywhere as it can be easy to miss a few spots (as my arms will tell you). I stopped using fake tan because I couldn’t deal with the stress and the smell, but this has converted me.” Dionne Brighton – Trainee Writer

    3. Isle of Paradise Dark Self-Tanning Water and Refill Bundle, £33.90 | Lookfantastic

    “I love this tan as no skill is needed when it comes to applying. It is available in three colour correcting shades, so you are spoilt for choice. The dark tanning water is powered by purple pigments, to counteract orange undertones.”

    “You can also purchase refillable pouches and even a tan mister to get that spray tan effect from the comfort of your own home. It doesn’t transfer and the scent isn’t overpowering. What more could you want?” Katie Thomas – Senior Beauty Editor

    4. Bali Body Face Tan Water, £26 | ASOS

    “I was sceptical about trying a tanning water on my face, as my skin can often react to different tanning products. However, after trying this, I can’t imagine my beauty routine without it. All you have to do is pop a bit on a cotton pad and rub it into the skin. The results? A healthy looking glow and hydrated skin. No irritation in sight.”

    “My one tip would be to make sure to blend it down your neck and onto your chest for the perfect finish, as otherwise you might be left with a slight contrast.” Grace Lindsay – Ecommerce Writer

    5. St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Mousse, £31 | Cult Beauty

    “I’ve been a fan of St. Tropez products for years, so I was so excited to try out their bronzing water mousse. This tanning water came with a tropical scent that lingered on the skin in the best way possible. The application was a breeze and it dried in no time at all.”

    “I popped it on in the morning and by the afternoon I felt ready to hit the beach. I would say that this tan definitely gives more of a sun-kissed glow rather than a deep colour, but it’s perfect if you are looking for a more natural finish.” Grace Lindsay – Ecommerce Writer

    6. Dior Bronze Liquid Sun Self-Tanning Water, £45 | Feelunique

    “If you want a super natural-looking tan, then this is the one for you. I was so impressed by the mist as it applied evenly on the skin. I’m not always the best at applying fake tan however I did not have to worry with this product.”

    “It gave a silky finish and the colour developed throughout the day. Personally, I loved the way it looked after just one application, however I’m sure you could build the colour up over time if you wanted. An added bonus? The bottle looks beautiful on display in my bathroom.” Grace Lindsay – Ecommerce Writer

    7. Sienna X Gradual Clear Tan Mousse, £19.99 | Superdrug

    “Out of all of the tans I tried, this one definitely had the best scent, with notes of peach, pear and nectarine. It was so good that my flatmates even asked me what perfume I had used! When applying, the water turned into a mousse, which made it a lot easier to blend into the skin.”

    “I applied the tan at night and woke up to fresh white sheets and a healthy looking glow. If you want a deeper colour, I recommend reapplying this the next day.” Grace Lindsay – Ecommerce Writer

    What are tanning waters?

    Tanning waters often come in the form of a clear spray, and can be used both on the face and body for an all over glow. According to Lookfantastic, tanning water “blends water, skin-loving vitamins and active tanning ingredients to hydrate, soften and tan your skin in one step.”

    “As they are so lightweight, tanning waters absorb so quickly into the skin and do not clog your pores or feel heavy on the skin making them perfect for all skin types.”

    Most tanning waters will develop over a couple of hours, and won’t transfer onto clothes or bedding, meaning you can apply them pretty much anytime throughout the day. Easy, right?

    How to apply tanning waters

    Each tanning water will most likely come with individual instructions, however it’s often a case of spraying over the skin before lightly blending with a tanning mitt. Of course, it always helps to prep the skin before. We recommend exfoliating your skin and applying moisturiser to any dry areas such as elbows and knees before applying.

    So, there you have it. If you are looking to try out more fake tan formulas, don’t forget to check out our round ups of the best instant tan and best gradual tanners. We’ve also got a guide on how to remove fake tan, too.

    Research by Georgia Rhodes

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