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5 Tips for Self Tanning

Updated on December 28, 2013

Summer might be far around the corner but grey skies are no excuse for pale, dull skin, if anything they’re a reason for you to be a little ray of sunshine amidst the cloudy skies. Self tanners have come a long way over the years; it’s not all day old biscuit smelling fake-bake and two shades – orange vs orange-er!

There are not only a variety of shades to choose from but an array of application methods too, from creams to gels, sprays, mousse and show gel. It's all well and good picking the the right can but if you fail to apply it properly you'll be walking the streets like a slice of streaky-tangoed bacon!


When it comes to self tanning it’s all about the pre-tan prep work that really makes your self tan look natural and flawless! Self tans always work and look their best when applied to smooth, fresh skin. Exfoliating will remove any dead skin cells on the surface and boost circulation below the surface, giving your skin a smoother and already more glowing appearance. If you don’t exfoliate before applying the self tanner then your tan will mostly likely start to flake, peel and congeal in places where the skin is rough or flaking off. This is most common on your elbows and knees, so be sure to give them an extra going over when exfoliating!

You’re going to want to exfoliate no less than 24 hours before applying your tan. Use a pre-made scrub with added moisturises to hydrate your skin. Look for oil-free exfoliaters, the oil can create a barrier between the tan and your skin, which means the tan won’t last as long and could go on paler and patchy in some places. Try getting yourself a body brush and dry-exfoliate before showering to help remove stubborn rough patches of skin.


Head to the self-tanning aisle and apply a test swatch to the back of your hand or up your forearm (if you’re going for the arm test you might want to wear a long sleeved top for a few days as the tans develop). You need to give the self tan 24 – 48 hours to fully develop and for any adverse reactions to rear their ugly head!

Asking your friends or beautician for recommendations is a great place to start but remember everyone has different skin, from tone to sensitivity, so what works for them might not work for you. Once you've found your perfect self tan (and it can take some time!) you might want to stock up, just keep an eye on expiry dates (out of date self tans are known to become really smelly!)

Moisturise or not?

If you've got really dry skin, or the odd dry patch here and there (elbows and knees my friends!) then you’re going to want to apply a light moisturiser before you self tan. Don’t overdo it and only apply it where needed, too much and you’ll create a barrier between your skin and the self tan and end up with a patchy tan – not the look we’re going for!

If you can get away with it, don’t moisturise at all – but if you need to, go lightly and make sure you let it all dry in completely (give it at least an hour if you can!) before applying the self tanner!

There are some great moisturisers available to buy with built in tanning agents - two birds one stone!

What's your faux tan shade?
What's your faux tan shade? | Source

Go Gradual

If you’re looking for something more subtle and that you can have much more control over, why not opt for a gradual self tanner? I find moisturisers with a gradual tanner in are great for an even, all over glow, than can be darker when you need it to be or lighter when you’re keeping it more natural and casual. They’re also great pre-summer holiday if you don’t want to be the palest booty on the beach at the start of your trip!

Gradual tans also help to avoid the dreaded oompa loompa look – unless you really like that sort of thing!


Start at your feet and work your way up, using smooth circular consistent motions. Keep the bottle and your hands moving to ensure an even and smooth application. I’d suggest wearing some vinyl gloves too so you don’t over tan your palms! It helps to have a friend on hand too who can do your back too if you’re not feeling stretch-Armstrong flexible to reach around yourself!

Use a separate tanner for your neck and face or just darken your foundation to match the body colour – you don’t want to go out looking two-tone tantastic!

Simple but effective steps, follow them to the letter and you’ll be glowing in no time – and nobody has to know it came from a bottle!

Don't forget...

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