Beauty Queen

In 30 years' time, nostalgic clip shows about the Noughties are bound to look back at our national fake-tanning obsession with utter bemusement. (Assuming, that is, that nostalgic clip shows haven't been consigned to the dustbin of history as well.) After all, the ritual of rubbing orange dye into your skin for 10 minutes twice a week only to be accompanied by a greasy smell of moulding Rich Tea biscuits wherever you go is, objectively, quite bizarre. And that's the best-case scenario – one of my crack team of fake-tan testers ended up with feet that stayed terracotta for a week and leopard-print mottled patches. (Animal print might be in this season, but on clothes, not skin.) Equally there is a serious time commitment involved. I have a friend who has been known to turn down invitations because it is her fake-tanning night. And that isn't an "I'm washing my hair" line, she really is hitting the bottle.

Despite all these hazards, however, the lure of a glow without the risk of skin cancer and the certainty of premature ageing is often irresistible. So which products are the closest to the real thing? My favourite of this year's new self-tans are those in Estée Lauder's Bronze Goddess range. They come in rather fabulous Seventies bottles that recall the heady days when sunbathing in olive oil, not to mention smoking and drinking, were all considered good for you. I like the Golden Perfection Self Tanning Lotion for Face (£20) and the Body Milk (£20) versions best, which if you rub in as if they were moisturiser, give an even, medium-bronze glow, and last for about four days without going patchy. Xen-Tan's Face Tanner Luxe gives an impressively olive rather than jaundiced hue, but you need a bit of skill to blend the quick drying, tinted lotion (£18.95, Lancôme's Flash Bronzer Self Tanning Face Gel (£20.50) and Dove's Summer Glow Beauty Body Lotion (£4.99) are also safe-bet products which will give a subtle – and virtually foolproof – glow.E