The Tan Commandments: A Complete Guide to Self-Tanning

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Fake Tan Tips
Photo: Courtesy of @GigiHadid

If the words “fake tan” conjure haunting memories of high school beauty blunders or visions of Nicole and Paris circa The Simple Life, think again because today’s self-tanners are pretty much foolproof. Not only will they leave you with a golden hue without that infamous tinge of orange, but they actually smell good – as opposed to that off-putting ‘biscuit’ scent.

And while all this means that fake-tan faux pas are almost impossible to make, investing in a top product and knowing what to do with it is key. To give you a helping hand, Savoir Flair has devised an easy-to-follow tan timeline to guide you on your way to golden gorgeousness. It’s time to fake it ‘til you make it.

24 Hours Before

The fake-tanning process should start at least one day before, as ensuring skin is smooth, soft, and hair-free beforehand makes for flawless application. Step one? Scrub up. Exfoliating will remove dry, dead skin that – if left untouched – can cause patchiness and fake-tan flaking. Not ideal. Use a gentle but effective exfoliator and focus on areas where dry skin can build up, such as your elbows, knees, hands, and feet. Always follow up with a nourishing moisturizer to keep your skin soft and hydrated. Dryness is not your fake-tan friend.

Next up: hair removal – whether that’s through waxing, shaving, or plucking – because once you’ve applied your fake tan, your hair is staying put. Otherwise, you’ll literally wax it off, which seems a little counterproductive. Give yourself at least 24 hours in advance for any hair removal as your skin needs time to calm and heal afterwards.

4 Hours Before

If your skin is particularly dry, moisturize at least four hours before applying your tan. Your skin needs time to fully absorb it as any surface oils or grease will cause streaks. Everyone should apply a little moisturizer to the aforementioned dry areas at this time as they need a little extra tanning TLC. Also avoid using perfumes and deodorant – these can also mess with how your tan is absorbed.

Tan Time

It’s crunch time. The golden rule? Befriend a tanning mitt. The secret of tanning gurus everywhere, a mitt prevents muddy hands and ensures even coverage. Another top top: wear latex gloves under your mitt as product can seep through the sides. Apply your tan with sweeping movements, rather than circular, to ensure that your product is evenly spread. Hands and feet are the first areas to give away your tan secret, as this is where people often go wrong.

To avoid telltale patchiness, use the tan residue left on your mitt and gently glide it over hands and feet after you’ve applied product to the rest of your body. If you’re fake-tanning your face, keep a pot of Vaseline at hand. Fake tan loves to stick to hair and cause dark marks, so dabbing a small amount of Vaseline on your brows and along your hairline helps you be more vigilant when bronzing your face. It also ensures that tan won’t stick if you do brush over hair by mistake. For a softer shade on your face, mix your fake tan with your usual skin cream before applying.

The Tan Commandments: A Complete Guide to Self-Tanning

Vita Liberata ‘Tanning Mitt’


Look Fantastic


Right After

Don’t wash your hands! You’ll end up with brown arms and white hands, which is never a good look. Avoid washing them for a minimum of two hours – this is when wet wipes/hand sanitizer comes in handy. Ensure your tan is touch-dry before getting dressed and wear loose, dark clothing. Otherwise, your clothes can get stained and your tan can develop in patches. Avoid anything that might make you sweat, be it working out, braving the outdoor heat, or eating spicy food. You’ll sweat your tan right off if you do.

The Next Day

Once you’ve showered off your tan (the exact time you need to leave it on will depend on the one you use, so read the label carefully), you can officially go mad with your moisturizer. Keeping skin hydrated is key to ensuring your tan stays flawless, and it will help it last longer too.

4 Days After

No one wants their tan to fade out in patches or flake off, so gently exfoliate your body again four days after you applied it to help create an even fade. You can then start the process again to keep your tan topped up.

Now Shop Our Edit of the Best Self-Tanners

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