Fake Bake Flawless review: We tried the popular self-tanner

Fake Bake? More like faux glow!
Katie Jackson
By Katie Jackson

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I'm no storm chaser, but I definitely have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than getting a natural, even tan. The golden California girl look just isn't in my Montana-made DNA. When I do get some color, however, my confidence skyrockets.

Naturally, I didn't want to show up looking like Casper's long lost cousin at my recent mini high school reunion in the Dominican Republic. I also didn't want to spend money on a spray tan that would only last a few days.

Instead, I decided to try this affordable Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tan Liquid. I've heard horror stories about even the best drugstore self-tanners — but could something with over 6,000 verified Amazon reviews and an average 4.3-star rating leave me looking like an Oompa Loompa with stained sheets?

Fake Bake Flawless Self-Tan Liquid

What is Fake Bake?

The biggest difference between Fake Bake and other self-tanners seems to be the ingredients. Fake Bake advertises that its "naturally-derived tanning agents" won't turn your skin orange the way some other self-tanners do. The main ingredient is dihydroxyacetone, which is derived from plant sources like sugar cane and sugar beets. There's also no moisturizer in the product, which the brand says helps the formula absorb quickly.

Katie Jackson

It shows where it goes

I've always used lotion self-tanners that gradually darken over time. I've also gone to spray tan booths where it takes at least six hours to see any change. But what I immediately loved about Fake Bake is that it's more like a stain — it literally shows where it goes. It's nice having a clearer idea of what the end result will look like as I apply it, so I know if I need to add another layer. The box also comes with everything you need to get started: the tanning liquid, gloves and a mitt for application.

Katie Jackson

While the product looks really dark at first, it actually goes on a lot lighter when you start to spread it. In fact, Fake Bake says it's designed for all skin tones. In other words, I didn't need to guess if I was a fair or medium before buying the bottle.

Katie Jackson

My goal is to get at least 10 all-over tans from this 6-ounce bottle. If I was paying for 10 spray tans at my local tanning salon, that would set me back at least $200 — and that's before I factor in the time and expense it takes to drive there and find parking.

It came off, and it came out

Katie Jackson

I followed the directions on the package, which said to apply the tanner — after showering and exfoliating — before bed. Since I sleep on white Sheets & Giggles eucalyptus sheets (they're $140 but worth every cent), I was worried about staining. If this spray tan fail happened to Kate Hudson, it could definitely happen to me.

While some of the tanner did come off during the night, it also came out in the wash. I just used Tide on a regular cycle and my sheets looked as good as new.

Fake Bake? You mean faux glow

More importantly, my body, at least color-wise, looked better than ever. I say better than ever because for the first time in my history of tanning — indoors or outdoors — my tone was even. I didn't have any streaks or spotty patches around my dry knees, elbows and ankles.

Katie Jackson

I also didn't look like an Oompa Loompa. My "tan" was definitely the best on the first two days of my Dominican Republic trip, but I still had noticeable color — and a boost in confidence — by day five. It's worth noting that those days included getting a moringa oil massage, paddleboarding in the ocean, riding slides at a waterpark and at least six showers in between.

Katie Jackson

Within hours of meeting up with my old high school friend (less than 24 hours after application), she complimented me on my tan. Surprisingly, she didn't ask what product I had used. This leads me to believe she assumed my newfound color came from my recent move to Arizona. But it didn't. It was 100% Fake Bake, or as I prefer to say, "faux glow."

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