16 Self-Tan Tips From Celebrity Tanner James Harknett

16 Self-Tan Tips From Celebrity Tanner James Harknett

Having bronzed anyone who's anyone in the world of showbiz, celebrity tanner James Harknett is the man in the know when it comes to creating a streak-free glow. We spoke to the man himself to get his top self-tan tips – including what to do (and not to do) before and after a professional spray tan, his best advice for brides and how to get a flawless finish at home…

1. Get Your Timing Right

Most people having a spray tan for an occasion or just before a holiday have it two days before, but the day before is fine too, as most spray tan formulas take around eight hours to develop to their full potential. Just ensure that you shower away all the guide colour before the event – some brands, like market leader Fake Bake, have express formulas that can be washed off in an hour or so.

2. Do Your Research On Brands 

With so many professional brands on the market it can be challenging to know what one to go for. It’s worth doing some online research and asking friends and colleagues for recommendations, but also remember that everyone’s skin reacts differently to certain brands. For instance, St Tropez may warm the skin tone and leave a sun-kissed glow, where on others it could be a richer and darker tan. While Fake Bake has four unique formulas, including the new Flawless Glow (created with brides and first times tanners in mind) designed to give different results.

4. Remove Hair Ahead Of Time

Ensure hair removal is done in time to allow the skin to renew and pores to close. Shave a good day or so before, or wax two days before so that any residue from the wax can be exfoliated away in time (any wax left on the skin can work as a barrier against the tan as it clings to the skin). Waxing or shaving after the tan is a no-no – it would remove the tan in patches.

5. Switch Up Your Body Lotion

Once your tan has developed and you’ve showered away the first layer of guide colour, start to moisturise your skin daily – after every shower is ideal. Try and avoid oils, as this can loosen the colour prematurely. Instead, opt for an aloe vera-based lightweight body lotion that can lock in the colour – this will ensure your tan’s longevity, allowing it to fade naturally like a real suntan would. It also keeps the skin supple and nourished, as the DHA in fake tans can be drying. 

6. Always Use SPF

Remember, a spray tan adds no protection to the skin. Once you have your glow, make sure you use a high-factor SPF in the sun daily. You’ll still tan as normal through the spray tan. 

7. Don’t Be Afraid Of Tanning Your Face

If you’re new to tanning, just try a quick spritz of colour to the face and go from there. Or if you don’t fancy a tanned face, your tanning therapist can dust a gentle glow to the neck and blend down the body. You can then tan your complexion at home with your own facial self-tanner, or by using own make-up regime accordingly.

8. Exfoliate Any Patches

Areas that can start to patch are normally around the neck and chest. Use a hot flannel to fade away the patches before applying a light top up. Another option is using a wash-off instant tan to layer up and blend in the colour – this is most effective on legs. To help avoid patches developing, sprinkle a little talc or mineral powder where the skin can rub against fabrics such as bras and activewear. In warm weather you can also add some under your breasts and arms and in the inner elbows. 

9. Avoid Hot Baths

To keep your tan on for the longest possible time, avoid bathing and stick to warm – not hot – showers. Gently pat the skin dry with a towel afterwards, rather than rubbing the tan.

10. Use The Right Language 

If you have very pale skin and are wary of self-tan, request the lightest tanning option and ask for, “a subtle dusting on the face”. Explain that you want a ‘glow’ and a look of ‘well-being’, rather than a dark holiday colour.

11. Use A Fail-Safe Formula At Home

My advice for would-be self-tanners who are filled with trepidation is to use a formula with a tinted guide colour – this allows you to see where you’re going. Mousse and liquid tans are by far the safest option for an even colour, and they’re fast to apply too.


12. Prep Skin Properly

Exfoliation is best the night or morning before application. Avoid any oils and moisturiser on the body before the tan too, as you want your skin to be clear of all products. Your tanning therapist will gently moisturise dry areas of the skin that tan can often grab onto like elbows, ankles, hands, knees and feet. If you’re self-tanning at home, the same rules apply – the biggest mistake I notice for self-tanners at home is tanning on top of moisturised skin. This can cause streaks as it thins the tanning agent out in certain areas.

13. Use The Right Tools

Fake Bake’s luxury tanning mitt is ideal and can be used time and time again. Just put it through a 40 degree wash each time and it’s good as new. 

14. Take Care With Hands & Feet

Tanning hands, toes and ankles can be a tough one for many. My top tip is don’t apply your tanning product directly to these areas. Blend a little tan with moisturiser and spread gently over the feet and hands. Less product will leave a warm, natural colour on these delicate areas. 

15. Give Your Spray Tan A Boost

 An at-home gradual tan is an ideal booster four or five days into your spray tan, especially on holiday if you’ve stayed out of the sun. Just one even application of a gradual tan such a Creme De La Mer’s Soileil De Mer will boost the glow and keep you bronzed for days. 

16. Fade Unwanted Colour

If your spray tan appears to have taken too dark, don’t worry. Have a good few hot showers and if you have time take a long hot soak, this will fade it down. There’s also now the option of the Tan Eraser by Tan Luxe – simply spritz onto the body to help fade the colour. Just avoid it on the face.
Visit JamesHarknett.co.uk

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