fake tan tips

How To Apply Self Tan – All The Fake Tan Tips From The Pros

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  • Prepare to give your six-months-starved-of-sun body a convincing glow…

    In a perfect world, our self-tan efforts would be indistinguishable from the real deal. But in the here and now, applying self-tan with zero streaks or patchiness is no mean feat. So we’ve done the hard work for you and asked the experts for their best fake tan tips. Here’s how to separate a good sunless glow from the bad…

    The Best Fake Tan Tips – A Step By Step

    Tip 1: Exfoliate your body

    ‘The biggest mistake I see, is people blaming a self-tan product for turning them patchy,’ says James Read, tanning expert to Rosie Huntington-Whitely and Cara Delevigne.

    ‘Really, dry skin is the culprit because it absorbs extra DHA (dihydroxyacetone, the active ingredient in self-tan). Always exfoliate 24 hours beforehand and moisturise with an oil-free product so your skin is like a fresh canvas’.

     A salt or sugar scrub like is ideal for sloughing away flakes on your body.

    Beauty Pie Soul Providers Re-Energizing Dry Oil Sugar Scrub, £50/members £10.52

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    According to A-list tanning expert James Harknett (aka ‘The Tom Ford of Tanning’), ‘Pay particular attention to exfoliating wrists, ankles, elbows and knees. These are the prime areas prone to colour grabbing.’

     Tip 2: Prep your face

    A scrub is too harsh for your face. For gentle exfoliation, the best cleanser will contain glycolic or salicylic acid, which dissolves sebum and other dead skin cells.

    Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash, £32, Cult Beauty

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    ‘Then rub a piece of ice over your cheeks, forehead and nose prior to applying self-tan to close the pores so they don’t get clogged with formula,’ says Read.

    Tip 3: Choose the right formula for your skin type and tone

    Use a self-tan specifically for the face. ‘The skin on your face has a tendency to go a little darker as your PH balance is higher,’ explains Read.

    Best Fake Tan For Face

    Sisley Self Tanning Hydrating Facial Skin Care, £97

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    Most facial self-tans contain anti-ageing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin and are formulated slightly lighter.

    Be aware of your skin type, too, when choosing self-tans for the body.

    ‘If you suffer from dry skin, opt for a cream as it is more hydrating,’ says Michaella Bolder, St.Tropez’s Tanning & Skin Finishing Expert. ‘Mousses are great for normal skin with no concerns and gels offer oily skin the added bonus of a quicker tan result.’

    Best Fake Tan For Dry Skin

    Clarins Self Tanning Milky-Lotion, £21

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    Best Fake Tan For Normal/Combination Skin

    Isle of Paradise Glow Clear Self-Tanning Mousse in Dark, £19.95, Lookfantastic

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    Best Fake Tan For Oily Skin 

    St Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Gel, £33, Feelunique

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    Skin tone also needs to be considered.

    ‘If you have a fair skin tone and you freckle in the sun, then a red-based tan will complement your colour,’ says Harknett. ‘Olive skin tones and those who tan well on holiday should choose a green base.’

    As for novices? Choose a gradual tan as it contains less tanning agent than regular self-tans.

    Best Gradual Fake Tan

    James Read Gradual Tan Coconut Melting Tanning Balm Face & Body, £30, Lookfantastic

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    You’ll find a run down of the best fake tans for 2020 here.

     Tip 4: Start at the top and work down

    ‘Apply self-tan in long sweeping motions using a tanning mitt. Add a few more pumps of product for each section,’ says Bolder.

    ‘Start from one arm, across the chest, to the other arm and then down your torso. This allows the product to fade more evenly down the legs as opposed to leaving tidemarks of new product around the ankles.’

    When tanning your face, dab Vaseline along your brows and hairline to avoid any slip of the hand developing in dodgy marks.

    Make-up brushes also come in handy. Use a foundation brush to apply the self-tan, working from the inside of the face out, buffing it in as you go.

    Avoid showering for 6 to 8 hours and use talc-free body powder on sweat-prone areas. ‘Dust it under the armpits, around the breast area and the back of the legs to prevent the tan from sweating off,’ says Read.

    Neal’s Yard Lavender & Tea Tree Body Powder, £9.50

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    Tip 5: Invest in a back brush

    Unless your other half is a dedicated co-pilot during every fake tan venture, tanning your back can seem like an impossible mission. Investing in a back spatula will help you to reach those nooks and crannies that are easily missed.

    Bondi Sands Back Applicator, £6.99, Feelunique

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    Tip 6: Do the after care

    This will differ depending on the self-tan formula you choose.

    ‘Work a gradual tan into your skin every day for three days until you reach your desired colour, then take three days break,’ says Bolder.

    ‘Regular self-tan formulas for the whole body should be applied for two consecutive days then again seven days later. Exfoliate after four days to keep the skin surface fresh.’

    Facial self-tan needs extra attention. ‘Due to heavy cleansing and speedier cell turnover, you will need to reapply a facial tan every second or third day.’

    But the golden rule that applies to all of the above is moisturise every day to lock the colour in and encourage a gentle [read: not patchy] fade.

    Drunk Elephant Sili Body Lotion, £17, Space NK

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    Also worth noting: use a waterproof SPF when in the sun as this prevents your self-tan from breaking down.

    Nail these fake tan tips and it’ll leave your friends guessing.


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