Here’s The Foolproof Way To Apply Fake Tan At Home

Here’s The Foolproof Way To Apply Fake Tan At Home

It’s summer, and most of our clothes work better with a tan. However, many of us are unsure about the right formulations and best techniques to get a natural looking, streak-free finish from a fake tan at home. To take out the guesswork, we spoke to celebrity tanner, James Harknett, to get his tips for really great sun-kissed skin. From the best DIY techniques to the importance of pre-tan prep, consider this your go-to cheat sheet…

1. Remember Body Prep Is Key To A Seamless Faux Tan

It’s the most basic step of all but it bears repeating: if you want your tan to stick around, you need to prep that skin. Applying colour over skin that’s not been exfoliated and hydrated will only fade as the cells shed. The key is to use a gentle scrub (nothing too thick and heavy) and do it either the night before you tan, or on the morning of, so you’re giving time skin to renew again. I also always recommend that shaving should be done 24hrs in advance and waxing at least 48hrs, this then ensures the pores are closed and there’s no residue on the skin, so you have a clear canvas for your tan to cling to. 

2. Make Sure You’re In A Cool Room 

Keeping the skin cool is essential when it comes to tanning so no sweaty patches interfere with the application. Having a cool shower before you apply your colour is also a great way of making sure the tan goes on seamlessly without any stickiness, you’ll just find the tan adheres much better to the skin this way.

3. Always Start From Your Legs & Work Up

To nail your technique, I advise you start by doing your feet and legs first so you then don’t have to bend back down and cause creases and folds. Start by using just a tiny pump of colour and don’t be alarmed if it looks dark, just continue to work fast and buff in as you go until you can see that it’s blended in with zero streaks. Then continue to work upwards using a tanning mitt to keep your hands clean. You can find good mitts everywhere now, Boots have some particularly good ones, my only advice would be to seek one out that’s velvety as they spread colour more evenly so it never looks dirty and they help to give you a more even, satin-y finish.

4. Treat Your Hands, Feet & Elbows Differently

These delicate areas of skin are prone to being incredibly dry, so always barrier them first with an oil-free moisturiser. It’s always the less fleshy parts of the body where the skin is thinner and red – as with scarring – the tanning agent will grab here, so just make sure you thin out the tan with moisturiser. Another key thing is to always massage around the wrists before applying self-tan. The dreaded brown cuff is a big no-go. Our inner arms normally stay a lighter shade, so blend your tanning product downwards toward the wrist for an even fade out that looks natural.

5. Use Your Hands To Master Back Tanning

Tanning the back needn’t be your main struggle. For starters, always make sure you’re standing in front of a mirror and turn yourself sideways, this will really help guide you to get the right and best possible placement. Then try placing two tanning mitts on the opposite side of each hand, then use a tanning mousse and pump gently onto the mitts and wipe on the tan in circular motions with the backs of your hands across and over the back surface. Alternatively, if this is too tricky, it’s worth investing in the Bronzie Back Applicator, a long mitt that disperses the tan with ease across the back and makes light work of getting to those hard-to-reach areas. 

6. Tweak Your Technique For Your Face

When it comes to tanning your face, it doesn’t hurt to have a light layer of moisturiser on beforehand as the DHA tanning agent can be quite dehydrating. I also recommend using a tan with guide colour on your face, as you’ll be able to see where you’ve missed and areas that still need a top-up. Always try and think of the places the sun would hit the face and apply in there, working it in as you would your make-up, underneath eyes, over the jawline and tops of the cheeks. I also recommend wearing a shower cap or turban to protect the hairline and always use a dab of balm there and around the eyebrows to make sure the tan doesn’t stain the hairs. As the face can fade first with make-up removal, try and use a gentle cleanser to ensure you don’t strip the tan – REN’s Centifolia Foaming Cleanser is ideal for this. Avoid make-up removal wipes as they’ll strip the skin cells prematurely, thus removing the colour. 

7. Keep Patchiness At Bay With Powder

Sweat and friction from sports fabrics rubbing against the skin can strip the tan off the body completely. As a spray tanner, seeing roughly 70 clients a week, most women feedback to me that the tan dissolves around the breasts, chest and underarms the most. Sprinkling any form of powder in your sports bra and around the joints (like inner arms) will shield the tan from heat and sweat and prevent any patchiness from forming. It will also protect it during a heavy, hardcore workout. Try Superdrug’s medicated talc for a more intact, less broken up tan. If your tan is looking scaly and feels like a lost cause, it’s likely you’re also dehydrated. Rather than reapply more colour, remove the remnants of the older tan first. Try a long soak with a few drops of Aesop’s Breathless Body Oil which will loosen the dead skin, then you can just use a hot flannel to pull the older tan away for a clean base. Wait 24hrs before starting all over again. 

8. Ensure You Maintain The Tan Properly 

For starters, prolong your tan by cutting out baths and instead opt for quick, cool showers. All that hot water can naturally exfoliate the tan away faster. Finally, moisturise twice a day to ensure you get a more natural fade with no break up or dry patches. I recommend Aveeno’s Daily Moisturiser in the spray can, as this takes the hassle out of moisturising and avoids you having to rub anything in too vigorously. As for topping up your tan, only do this if you have maintained your original colour well. Try an even layer of Fake Bake’s new textured tanning water. Painstakingly formulated to be one of the most hydrating self-tanners on the market, it has no smell and no transference, and simply dissolves on contact. And don’t worry, you can still use SPF without removing colour. Look to Garnier’s Ambre Solaire 30, it can be topped up regularly and will keep your tan intact. 

9. Finally, Do Your Research For The Right Formula

Those of us wishing to tan normally fall into four categories of skin tone. Red, olive, yellow and neutral, and just like make-up, it’s crucial to pick a self-tanner that works with our skin tone to mimic a natural, summer glow. Up until recently most self-tanners have described their products as light, medium and dark. But the question is, what skin tone are these appropriate for? Online research, recommendations and advice from tanning experts will help you choose the right product. For instance, I personally just worked with Sandra Vaughn, CEO of Fake Bake to reformulate a product called GOLD. It’s ideal for brides, fair skin tones, yellow undertones and men – it also knocks out any orangey hues that can be obvious on more yellowish skin tones, in short, it suits-all. Those with more reddish tones, will be complimented by L’Oreal’s Sublime Silky Lotion, as this mimics that vacation-like-glow without that orange/red tone. 

Shop James’ go-to tanning kit below…

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