Best overnight fake tan for a great glow in no time

A beach glow while you slumber

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Three Warriors
Ellie Davis13 March 2024
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Don’t underestimate the power of a tan.

The confidence-giving, complexion-renewing properties of a sun-kissed radiance can be transformational, especially when you’re not feeling yourself or after a long winter.

Many of us can’t jet off to a far-flung, more sun-blessed destination as soon as we feel vitamin D levels depleting What we can do, however, is apply a fresh lick of fake tan and the results are almost as mood-boosting.

While the faux glow genre is nothing new in beauty, the category has grown in the last few years. There have never been so many formulations, formats and textures to suit your specific bronzing preferences.

If you’re looking for a quick-drying, hydrating product, tanning water will be your best bet. If you’re hoping for a subtle finish, see gradual tanners. If time is of the essence, there are instant options for a tan in less than 30 minutes flat. Want a more seamless application? Mix tanning drops with your moisturiser. Or if you prefer the time-old classic mousse, make the most of the revamped skin-first ingredient lists.

For those wanting to make their tan work harder, overnight formulations will work their beach-worthy radiance while you slumber, meaning you wake up from your restorative eight hours with a fresh tan and a fresh perspective.

“Most self-tanners need a good six hours or more to react and tan the skin”, says James Harknett, the Global Creative Artist at Three Warriors. “Your skin will only absorb so much of the tanning ingredient, DHA, to give you colour. The strength of the tanning product will determine how dark it goes. So you can leave it on all night and it won’t go darker just because it’s had 12 hours or more on the body before being rinsed”.

Applying before bed is a trick that fake tan enthusiasts have done for many years, but it’s not always been the most seamless method, largely down to patchy finishes and stained bedsheets. This need not be the case.

Harknett explains that the key is in the often-forgotten prep stage: “My tips for the perfect tan start with good old-fashioned body prep. A few days before you plan your application of self-tanner, start by smoothing out the skin with an exfoliating glove. Concentrate on areas that get a build-up, such as under the breasts and on strap lines. These are common areas where tan often clings to heavy. Ensure any hair removal is done well before you tan - 24 hours or more is best for shaving. If it’s a leg of body wax, then make it 48/72 hours. The skin can then renew evenly and the self-tan has enough cells to bind with to allow the tan to react”.

When it comes to protecting your bedding, look to the hue of your tan in question. “Self-tan will only transfer onto bed sheets when the product has a tinted guide colour”, reveals the tanning expert. “This colour is created so you can see where you are applying your tan and washes off the skin with your first shower. If you tan before bed and sleep in it then it normally rubs onto bed sheets, but rinses out on a 30-degree wash. To avoid this happening, opt for a clear application”.

He adds the following for a fool-proof finish:

  • Working in a cool bathroom with no humidity
  • Tan in front of a mirror
  • Before any tan hits the skin ensure your hair is tied back
  • Add a little Vaseline over the brows
  • Remove all your jewellery
  • Throw down a towel, especially if your chosen tan is a mist
  • Moisturise the parts of the body that self-tan grabs, such as the heals, kneecaps, elbows, hands and tops of feet. A little moisture will barrier the skin to allow natural results
  • Start with legs. Bend the knee to open the creases. If you’re using a mousse, round circular motions allow a smooth even and fast application
  • Use the remnants of tan left on your mitt over the hands and feet. Less is more in these areas. If using a tanning mist, three quick short bursts will be enough to give a lovely glow

Shop the best overnight fake tans to give you a natural bronze while you sleep below

James Read Sleep Mask Overnight Gradual Tan for the Face with Retinol

James Read

This hero product from James Read’s tanning collection builds overnight so you wake up with a stunning glow. There is a reason why this is such a cult product. Yes, the tan is even and realistic but the product is so much more than that. It is formulated with skin-nourishing ingredients - like retinol - so your skin is softer, smoother and perfected come morning. Use night after night to build on the colour.

Buy now£29.09, Amazon

Bondi Sands Pure Self Tanning Sleep Mask

Bondi Sands

Australian labels dominate the fake tan market, and Bondi Sands is one of the best. The brand provides a kind-to-skin formula that has been infused with nourishing ingredients so you can get that Bondi Beach-worthy tan without stripping it of its natural oils.

Designed to give a sun-kissed appearance while you catch Zs, the Pure Self Tanning Sleep Mask is made for beginners. You apply onto your skin, maximising the benefits of the hydrating hyaluronic acid, brightening vitamin C and reparative vitamin E cocktail, while also giving a subtle (not orange) tint to your complexion.

The formula is fragrance-free and should not transfer to sheets as there is no guide colour in the product.

Buy now£14.99, Cult Beauty

Three Warriors Aqua Mist

Three Warriors

Tanning becomes a breeze with Oz-import Three Warriors Aqua Mist. The hydrating ultra-fine mist is enriched with Tasmanian water as well as rose oil, aloe vera and Tasmanian olive oil that is drunk up by parched complexions.

Spritz onto your face, hit the hay and wake up with faux glow. The best part is the buildability of the product so you can really control how deep your tan will evolve. Stick to a couple of spritzes and if it’s not as dark as you’d hope by the morning, you can always add more. It begins to develop in three hours.

Buy now£32, Fenwick

St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Water Gel

Tanning specialist St Tropez has created this innovative gel-to-water formula that absorbs instantly into your skin without leaving behind a greasy or sticky residue.

Super easy to apply, pump it onto skin for a long-lasting and believable tan that is a sort of middle ground between water and a mousse. While tanning, it provides 72 hours of hydration and has a lovely tropical scent.

Buy now£33, lookfantastic

Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Water Medium

Isle of Paradise was designed to bring easy and seamless tanning to your home. The formula is both lightweight and super hydrating with coconut, chia seeds and avocado oils. There are three shades; light, medium and dark that work to even out skin tone, colour correct and reduce redness while tanning. The product is easy to apply and will not transfer onto your sheets or drip after a particularly sweaty gym session.​

Buy now£21.95, Sephora

Tan-Luxe The Water Hydrating Self-Tan 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£27.20, lookfantastic

Skinny Tan Tan and Tone Wonder Serum Gradual Tanner

Skinny Tan

If the weather didn’t play ball or you spent most of your activity-filled trip unable to soak up the rays, you can still recreate that summer, sun-kissed complexion with Skinny Tan.

This is a gradual product that hydrates as it goes with the inclusion of glycerine, aloe vera and antioxidants in the formula - and the brand even suggests it has a firming effect.

What we can confirm is that it has a lovely texture that doesn’t feel tacky or sticky. The tan develops with a great colour over six to eight hours and it’s vegan.

Buy now£24.99, Boots

Skinny Tan Coconut Water Self Tanning Drops

Skinny Tan

If the thought of putting anything even remotely associated with that signature tanning biscuit scent onto your face, fear not. Skinny Tan has changed up the bronzing game with its collection of Coconut Water products that extends to tanning drops. While you are adding a deeper tan with every drop, you are also treating your complexion to the nourishing benefits of vitamin E, coconut oil and aloe vera, while smelling coconut and delicious. No plane ride on the cards? No problem. This gives the tropical feeling in a bottle.

Buy now£16.99, Boots

Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bronzing Face Drops Dark 30ml

Coco & Eve

Want to go all out with your tanning? Or using tanning products to even out your skin tone? Coco & Eve has just two colours for its Honey Bronzing Face Drops - Medium and Dark - which are designed to give you a Bali bronze.

It’s a hydrating formula that is water-based with a natural form of DHA complete with a booster so you get a realistic, richer tan quicker than you can say “Which way to the beach?”.

Buy now£22, Coco & Eve

He-Shi Overnight Hyaluronic Tan Balm


Hyaluronic acid takes a principal role in this fake tan from Ireland-born fake tan label He-Shi. The brand is often featured in professional spray tans but makes the process seamless at home by combining the tint with skin-loving components like the named hydration hero.

The formulation is 88 per cent natural ingredients and includes antioxidant-rich Brazilian Millesis to protect the skin barrier, jojoba protein to rejuvenate and almond oil to nourish. Together, these ingredients encourage a more seamless, subtle application without a greasy finish or streaks. It has a lavender scent.

Buy now£22.50, lookfantastic