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How To Apply A Fake Tan

Updated on July 18, 2011

Are you like most celebrities, do you go for a fantastic spray tan, where you strip to a pair of paper pants and lets someone airbrush your bodywork rather like a car undergoing a re-spray? Or are you the type who prefers the leisurely approach and applies the tanning yourself? If you're the latter then here are my top tips on faking it to perfection.

Get The Right Tan

Unfortunately, getting the right tan is trial and error. What looks good on your friend may not suit you. If you're new to tanning I suggest you try a gradual tan product to start with as they are a lot more forgiving when it comes to mistakes. They also allow you to build up that natural-looking tan over several days so making the effect more believable to your friends. If you want a traditional fake tan, try a tinted tanning mousse. This has the advantage of being virtually foolproof, is easy to apply as you can see what you're doing and it dries nice and quickly.

Don't Get Orange Hands

When applying your tanning mousse always wear a pair of latex or vinyl gloves to protect your hands.

Patchy Tan Exfoliate Properly

Exfoliating is important to prevent a patchy tan. Exfoliation gets rid of the dead skin cells and provides an even canvas to which a tan can be applied. A patchy tan is usually due to the skin flaking off at different intervals.

  • Don’t use oily products when exfoliating as they can create a barrier that stops the tan adhering to your skin.
  • Exfoliate the day before you tan, rather than immediately before you apply it, this will give you a better effect.

Avoid Wax

Shaving, is best done the day after a tan for the nicest result. If you're waxing, do it the day before. If you do your waxing after the tanning, it will take off the tan. Also, if you don't leave 24 hours between waxing and tanning you can get dark dots on the skin where the tan collects in the follicles.

The Light Fantastic

When you apply your tan use a nice bright room with a full-length mirror. Don't forget you'll be there until your tan dries so ensure you'll have enough privacy for the duration. Most people use the bathroom but unless it's well lit use another location. Try to apply the tan at noon when the sun is brightest rather than using artificial lighting as the color difference can be quite marked.

Accuracy Not Speed

When you apply your tan, work relatively quickly, but don't rush. Give yourself at least an hour. The key to perfect coverage is giving yourself ample time for the entire process, moisturizing, application and drying time. Pick your location, with your full-length mirror, plenty of natural daylight and enough time to do a fantastic job.

Moisturize Moisturize Moisturize

Dry areas of your body will absorb more tanning product making them darker. To prevent this, apply a fragrance and color free moisturizer on all the dry parts of your body that might absorb tan. Areas such as knees, ankles, feet, elbows, wrists, hands, your navel and scar tissue. Why fragrance and color free? Fragrances and coloring can react with and alter the color of your tan.

  • Apply a moisturizer to dry areas to make sure your tan is as even as possible.

Use The Right Equipment

Don't be a novice and use bare hands to apply tan. I always wear latex or vinyl gloves to protect your hands with a mitt on top to ensure you get a streak-free finish. A long-handled lotion applicator will help you reach that annoying bit between your shoulders easily and without having to rely on external assistance.

Work From The Ground Up

To avoid smudging the bits you've already done, work from your feet upwards and do your arms, wrists and hands last. Don't let your tan look like a cheap fake. Make sure you get between your toes and round the back of the ankles, across your ears and under your armpits and into your hairline. Poor tanning in those locations is a real giveaway.

  • If you're a blonde or have grey hair make sure you wipe the tanning of your hair to avoid staining.

After you've tanned your entire body remove the mitt and gloves and apply lots of moisturizer to your nails, across your knuckles and down your wrists to avoid undue darkening. Dot a small amount of some fake tan on the back of one hand and rub the backs of your hands and fingers together and gradually work up past the back of the wrists. Finally, rub the inner wrists together, as if you were applying perfume, to smudge the tanning in those areas.

  • Don't tan the fronts of your hands. These areas don't normally get tanned.

Let It Dry

Letting your tan dry properly is crucial. Your tanning product will tell you how long you should leave it to dry. Mousses generally dry quicker than creams or lotions. It's possible to use a fan or hairdryer on a cool setting to gently waft your body and help it dry. Don't get wet or sweaty for at least six hours after your tan and don't wear anything tight fitting, i.e. clothing or seatbelts. Anything tight fitting can give you some very odd lines in your tan.


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      dfh 5 years ago from London, UK

      Great article and goof info! Thanks