Fake tan is on the verge of taking over from sunbathing for the first time - with nearly half of women admitting their glowing skin comes from a bottle.

A staggering 47 per cent said they used spray tans and store-bought products to get the skin colour they desired, with one in five topping up every month, a new survey for Escentual.com has revealed.

Two per cent of women said they used tanning products daily – the same number who admitted their favourite skin colour was ‘mahogany’.

A third of those questioned described a ‘nice natural glow’ as their ideal skin colour, and 46 per cent said they wished they had naturally darker skin.

Despite this, 85 per cent of women questioned by the leading online cosmetics and perfume retailer described pale skin as ‘beautiful’.

Experts believe a combination of torrential rain, recession and celebrity endorsements has helped popularize fake tans – once seen as the embarrassing trademark of cheesy stars like Barry Manilow and Simon Cowell.

Now they appear to be taking over from the traditional summer holiday in a hotter climate.

Only a third of women said they were planning to go abroad this summer. And one in five said they spent no time at all sunbathing while on holiday.

Louise Reed, Head of Marketing at Escentual.com, said: ‘The awful summer weather has meant more of us are turning to the bottle to top up their tans.

‘This combined with the recession means people are economizing and taking less foreign holidays.

‘There is no doubt more and more women are looking to the bottle to top up their tan – rather than actually sunbathing. Apart from the fact we’ve hardly had any sun this year, it’s possible people are busier and have less time to relax in a deckchair anyway.’

Escentual.com has seen sales of fake tanning products soar. Demand for one popular product alone, Clarin’s Self Tanning Milk, has risen by 333 per cent in a month as the skies have stayed grey and the sun hidden. Five per cent of women questioned for the survey admitted spending between £25 and £50 on fake tanning products and treatments every month.

Words by Katy Pearson