Getting The Perfect Self-Tan


Whether you have a naturally paler complexion or are unable to jet away to warmer climates, self-tanning products will be your saving grace for faking that sun-kissed glow this summer and beyond. Self-tanners (like most other beauty must-haves) have come a significantly long way and no longer need to be associated with that unwanted ‘tangoed’ look. If you’re a frequent tanner or an inexperienced first-timer, much of the battle is about finding a formula and shade to suit your skin type and tone. It’s time to say goodbye to streaky disasters, stained bedsheets and that distinct smell with our fool-proof guide to mastering self-tanning.


How To Prep Your Skin

As with most good things, preparation is key and when it comes to self-tanners, it can be the difference between an even and long-lasting finish and a streaky fail which fades in patches. Firstly, any shaving or waxing should be done prior to tanning – ideally 24 hours before or longer to ensure your skin has a chance to calm down and for your pores to close. Nobody wants those unsightly dark spots which occur when tanning product collects in open pores. A blast of cold water right before tanning will help to prevent this further.

A good all-over exfoliation will help to rid dead skin cells on the surface, leaving behind a smoother base for the tan to be applied to; try dry brushing or an in-shower exfoliating scrub. Post-shower, steer clear of oil-based products and moisturisers as these can lift the tan off the skin and cause streaks and patches. Instead, rub a lightweight moisturiser in drier areas such as the knees and elbows as they are prone to colour grabbing and can turn too dark.

How To Decide Which Self-Tan To Use

From gradual overnight creams and serums to instant mousses, gels and foams, it can be a minefield when it comes to choosing the right texture. The formula you choose should ultimately depend on your skin type. For those with drier skin, you’ll need moisture and something with added hydration, so a tanning oil or gel is wise. Mousse or lotions are best for oilier skins as they dry instantly. If you’re new to the tanning scene, opt for a gradual one. “It’s much easier to apply over a couple of days to deepen your end result than to try and scale back if you’ve applied too much,” says Marc Elrick, founder of Tan-Luxe.


When it comes to the shade, pick something based on your natural skin tone and the desired colour you are hoping to achieve. “Self-tan reacts with amino acids on the skin’s surface so if you’re pale-skinned and opting for a really dark shade, it isn’t going to look as natural,” explains Marc. “Choose your tan like you would your makeup; you wouldn’t wear the wrong shade of foundation so the same philosophy apples when choosing your tan.”

How To Apply Self-Tan

Always call in the help of a tanning mitt when it comes to the application as this will give a smoother finish which blends into the skin better. A mitt will also guarantee your hands are kept stain-free. “When applying, work evenly in long, sweeping strokes starting from your feet and moving upwards and inwards from your wrists,” advises Marc. Try to be quick with your movements and be extra careful around your hands and feet. Use a lighter touch with your mitt here when you have some remaining product left. Be sure to look at the developing time on your tanning product and plan accordingly. Gradual tans can be applied both morning or night but those with a developing time often require being slept in.

If last minute plans arise, instant products like Vita Liberata’s 10 Minute Tan will save the day with no risk of transfer or staining. What’s more, there will be no nasty surprises after the development stage as you can see exactly where you are putting it. If you do become a victim of a dreaded disaster – fear not. Tan-Luxe’s Glyco Water Exfoliating Tan Remover works to effectively remove tanning products so it’s worth having in the bathroom just in case.

How To Prolong Self-Tan Wear

The short answer? Moisturiser – and plenty of it. The secret to maintaining your tan is to treat it like you would a natural sun-tan and keep your skin as moisturised as possible to help promote a subtler fade and prevent it from going patchy. “An aloe vera-based moisturiser used morning and night will keep the tan hydrated but if you are worried about losing colour, try topping up with a gradual product,” adds Marc.

How To Self-Tan Your Face

Tanning your face can feel daunting. Even experienced tanners should take extra caution and opt for gradual formulas in a mist or spray as they help to evenly distribute an ultra-fine layer over your face. Use these at night on clean skin and be sure to lift your chin as you mist down your face in a slow zig-zag movement. If you’re still not confident in your abilities, customisable drops are for you as there really is no going wrong.

“I’m obsessed with our face (and body) drops as they are my favourite way to achieve a really natural-looking tan. I call this system ‘tailor-made tanning’ as it gives you total control and complete customisation,” says Marc. Simply pick your shade (light/medium or medium/dark) and mix it with your usual moisturiser – adding more or less drops depending on the desired intensity. These easy-to-use drops will slot straight in to your existing skincare regime but just remember to wash your hands. Orange hands will be the only thing to blow your cover that that tan isn’t yours.