In Praise of the Fake Self-Tan

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If it’s a tan you’re after this summer, there’s pretty much only one option: Fake it ’til you make it.

With so many sun-drenched holidays being cancelled, the temperature being too hot to bear, and a day trip to the beach looking more and more high-risk by the day, it seems more people than ever are turning to bronzing products after months of being under strict lockdown.

For sunless tanaholics, it’s business as usual, but what if you’ve never faked it before? How can you ensure you don’t end up covered in brown streaks or – worse – colored tangerine from head to toe? To answer the question, Savoir Flair asked three tanning experts to offer their advice on how to get a subtle glow at home, and suggest the best products for beginners who want to go faux.

Here, eight things you need to know before self-tanning for the first time.

1

Shave or Wax in Advance

“Hair removal treatments can strip your color away prematurely, so always complete them prior to tanning,” says Sienna X founder Nicola Matthews. “And wait a day or so, to allow your pores to close up and prevent a dotty finish.”

how to get a fake tan
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2

Exfoliate and Moisturize

“Extra dry spots can soak up more tanner, resulting in a patchy finish,” says Matthews, so exfoliation is essential.

“Using exfoliating gloves or an in-shower exfoliant that doesn’t contain oil, buff your skin to remove any dirt and dry skin,” says Boots beauty specialist Charlotte Horne.

“Rub a small amount of moisturizer or tanning primer over particularly dry areas, such as the knees and elbows,” Matthews adds.

3

Remove Make-Up and Deodorant

“Some of the ingredients in cosmetic products act as barriers to fake tan and can prevent it from latching onto the skin properly,” Matthews says.

“Therefore, bare skin (that’s free from fragrances, antiperspirant, and make-up) is the perfect foundation for fake tan application.”

4

Use a Tanning Mitt

“Always use a fresh or clean tanning mitt,” says St. Tropez tanning and skincare expert Michaella Bolder.

“Use four pumps of your chosen tanning product on your mitt, and start by gliding slowly in a long sweeping motions over the arms – but leave your hands out to start with. Work your way down the torso and onto the legs, still using long sweeping motions, and adding a few more pumps of the product when needed – the key here is more product on the mitt rather than less, as this allows a smoother fluid application and even coverage.”

5

Apply to Hands and Feet Last

“Wash and dry your hands as soon as you have finished, then use any residual product on the mitt to swipe over the backs of your hands and your face,” says Horne.

“Remember to get the gaps between your fingers and the creases of your knuckles.”

6

Leave Time for the Tan to Develop

“The best time for fake tanning is when you have plenty of time to let it develop uninterrupted – overnight is always a good idea,” Horne says.

Wear loose clothing while the color develops, Matthews adds: “Take care to avoid strappy tops, tight underwear, and jeans, as these can cause tan marks and lines.”

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7

Wash Off the Guide Color Carefully

Whether it’s a one-hour express formula or an overnight tanner, you’ll need to wash off the guide color, rinsing with lukewarm (not hot) water until it runs clear.

“When drying, pat your skin dry to prolong your glow and follow up with a rich moisturizer to protect and prolong your sun-kissed skin,” Matthews says.

fake tan
Photo: Courtesy of @rosiehw
8

Moisturize to Maintain Your Color

“A healthy skin condition will keep your tan lasting longer,” Bolder says. “Using a nourishing shea butter moisturizer every day will keep the skin in good health while maintaining your glowing tan.

“Taking cool showers and using oil-free shower gels – and no direct oils – will also help to maintain your tan for longer.”

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