Talk about timing: what with the blazing bank holiday and that rare hot weekend we had in April, Sun Awareness Week which starts on Monday, couldn’t have been better planned.
We’re nutters when it comes to sunshine with 35% of us getting sunburned while in the UK and 46% sunburned on foreign holidays. You’d have thought we’d have learned our lesson: wrinkles, sun damage, pigmentation and at worst skin cancer are all caused by sun exposure.
But it seems we’re prepared to flout the rules (not complicated: cover up, use sunscreen) in order to get a tan. Which seems crazy, given that there are so many amazing self-tanning brands from market leading St Tropez to specialist brands such as James Read, and social media hit Vita Liberata.
Here’s our guide to faking it, from perfect prep, to a pro-finish.
1 Shave, wax, epilate and exfoliate the night before – skin needs time to settle down before you apply self-tan.
2 Apply to clean, dry skin. Lightly moisturise heels, knees and elbows first as skin in these areas tend to be darker and drier and will grab onto colour, resulting in an uneven tan.
3 Use a tanning mitt – it’s the professionals’ choice hand applied tans. Not only do you get a smoother finish, it protects hands from staining and helps control application, especially mousse, which can tend to go on in a blob. You don’t need a tanning mitt with a mist tan (although I always use one after for a quick sweep over to ensure even application). An unusual product such as James Read Coconut Melting Tanning Balm comes with its own protective gloves for application. I generally find that products applied with a mitt dry faster – not sure why, though I assume it’s because you’re not over applying and the sponge mitt spreads product evenly.
4 If you’re doing your whole body, map it out in sections, starting with the lower then upper legs, front, arms, so that you don’t go over any area twice (a risk if you’re using an untinted product). For the back or any hard to reach places, pop a wooden spoon inside your mitt, secure with an elastic band and use that to apply.
5 Do hands and feet last and only use what’s left on the mitt – these areas often come out darker so you only need a sparing amount of product. If you want to go darker, you can apply more once colour has developed.
6 For a deeper end colour result, dry off then apply a second coat.
7 Take time to dry off properly and if you’re getting dressed, leave off the underwear if you can and wear something dark, and loose. To stop colour from wearing off in any areas where skin comes into contact with skin, apply talcum powder (under the boobs, behind the knees, between the legs, under the bum and in the crook of the arm).
8 If you’re using a wash-off tan (which gives instant colour but won’t last after you’ve washed it off) such as Vita Liberata Body Blur, which comes in two shades, Latte Light and Latte, most of the above rules apply but remember also to wash your hands well after use.
9 Maintenance. The experts say you should exfoliate regularly so that your tan fades evenly but I disagree – I’ve never had a patchy fake tan and I rarely exfoliate and I want my colour to last as long as possible, so why would I be going rubbing it off? The skin naturally sheds the upper skin cells so your self-tan will fade like a natural tan. But you can exfoliate if you want to… However, what you must do to maintain colour is moisturise regularly as this keeps skin hydrated and supple.
10 ALWAYS use a sunscreen as self-tan offers no sun protection.