Your Essential Guide to Applying Fake Tan


With warnings about skin cancer from lying in the sun for too long, many people are turning to self-tanning products in order to get that sun-kissed glow.

However, applying the fake tan is an art in itself. Put on too much in one go and you’ll look like a reject from Jersey Shore. Skip the preparation and you’ll end up with darker orange patches and people will know that you are using fake tan.

To ensure your friends think you have just returned from the sun-blessed beaches of a tropical island, check out our essential guide to applying fake tan:

Which self-tanning products should you use?


Many people have a favourite type of self-tanning product, but each have their own benefits.

Mousses tend to be easier to rub in, whereas sprays are good for those harder to reach places.

Lotions are great for measuring exactly how much product you are using, and creams sink into the skin very well.

As for colour, the rule of thumb is to pick a colour that matches your natural skin tone, and not choose your desired result.

So, if you are fair or light-skinned, choose a light to medium formula, and if you are darker with olive tones, pick a dark formula.

Remember that most fake tans darken over time and will take two or three applications to get to the desired colour.

Preparation is the key to a good fake tan

Before you start putting on any fake tan product, you need to start preparing the skin beforehand.

So, any waxing that needs doing, or leg shaving should be done before the application.

You should first exfoliate the skin which is about to receive the self-tanning product. This is because fake tan sinks into dry areas of skin, and leaves darker patches that look unnatural.

Pay special attention to hard areas such as elbows, knees, ankles and heels.

Make sure you also cleanse your face to remove any dead skin cells with a glycolic or salicylic acid based skin scrub.

Avoid any cleansing product that contains oil, as this sits on the skin and does not allow the fake tan to sink in properly.

When you have fully prepared your skin, dry if off completely, ready for the next step.

Once the skin is completely dry, moisturise with a lightweight cream or lotion around the driest areas, such as the ankles, elbows, heels and knees.

Now you are ready to apply your fake tan.

How to apply fake tan products

Experts suggest using latex gloves or tanning mitts, but I always think that your hands are best, as you can feel where the tan is going.

Starting at the bottom and working your way up, using circular motions, smooth on around a teaspoon of product at a time.

Begin at the ankles and work your way up to your shoulders. Apply the tan to your arms and hands last.

When you get to knobbly areas such as elbows, knees, use a little less tan and just skim over these areas. This is because the tan will settle and look darker and unnatural on the joints.

You should also remember that when you are applying the fake tan, the sun naturally catches your body and face in certain areas. These include along the bridge of your nose, cheek bones, forehead, tops of shoulders, collar bones, and front of the legs.

You should therefore mimic nature and dab a small amount of fake tan along these areas.

Finally, make sure you wash and scrub your hands immediately after you finish.

Final tips for a long-lasting fake tan

Allow the fake tan extra time to dry. So if the instructions state five minutes, wait ten.

Then, brush a talc-free baby powder all over the tan. This ‘fixes’ the tan and stops it from transferring onto your clothes.

Once you have applied the tan, do not shower or take a bath for 6 to 8 hours.

If your tan has a few unwanted streaks or dark patches, you can get rid of these by rubbing half a lemon on the area for two minutes, then just buff the area with a clean towel.

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