Institut Esthederm Light Self-Tanning Face Cream £26,


The potions on our bathroom shelves provide an uncomfortably intimate map of our physical insecurities. Yet many of us are far less embarrassed by our arsenal of wrinkle creams and blemish zappers than by that lone bottle of fake tan.

We know that artificial bronzing is the safest kind. And, at this point in the year, what alternative for those with complexions not so much porcelain as dull putty? Still, some of us can't quite shake the feeling that such blatant shamming of what was once a status symbol is a little – whisper it – vulgar.

This is outmoded thinking. Any fool can lie in the sun. Self-tanning (a more genteel term than fake), meanwhile, is truly technocratic. Whether it's an Amy Childs-style shade of gingerbread or the merest lifelike glow – and the suggestions below favour the latter – it's the success of the application that decides whether bottled bronze is something to be ashamed of.

Exfoliate, moisturise and – beauty's favourite verb – blend, blend, blend. Perfect orange deserves more respect than patchy beige.