How To Apply Fake Tan (By A Beauty Editor Who Knows)

How To Apply Fake Tan (By A Beauty Editor Who Knows)
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Got a patchy faux glow? Tan lines may fade but those Instagram pics will last a lifetime. InStyle’s beauty editor Malena Harbers shares the insider secrets on how to apply fake tan the right way...

Leave tanning for last

Shaving, waxing, mani/pedi – whatever you need to get sorted do it first before you apply self tanner. These treatments will all remove colour if you leave them for a post-tan glam session.

Don’t forget your face

It’s pretty much ingrained in us that we need to exfoliate before tanning to get rid of dry skin. If you’re new to the science behind a faux glow here’s why: self-tanner tends to grab onto flaky bits, leaving you with dodgy dark patches. (And yep, it looks as gross as it sounds). But when we scrub up pre-tanning session, we often forget our face. Body scrubs are too harsh for the delicate skin above our necks so use a Clarisonic cleansing brush instead paired with a salicylic acid cleanser to buff your way to a smooth and even complexion.

Avoid oil unless it’s Vaseline

Oily products will form a barrier on your skin so choose a cream-based body scrub when exfoliating. On the flipside, dot Vaseline along your brows and around your hairline and your cuticles before you apply fake tan to prevent telltale orange staining on these areas and pat a light oil-free moisturiser over larger areas prone to dryness such as your ankles and elbows.

Fix pores with peas. Seriously

Just like dry patches of skin will absorb colour so will open pores. Rub a bag of frozen peas over your legs before you apply self tanner to prevent loads of little brown spots from appearing. The cold will help to close any enlarged pores.

Make sure your skin is dry

No not flaky dry (we’ve covered this above!) but free of water, oil and any other liquid droplets. Even the smallest amount of water can be the culprit of long, patchy streaks.

Mix and match your formula

Not sure what type of fake tan to use? Mousses are typically the easiest to apply and to rub in but sprays are great for getting colour into those hard-to-reach places. It’s best to use one or the other but if you do decide to pair up two types of formulas make sure you use the same brand and the same shade so you don’t end up with a gradient of colour. (If you're new to the fake tanning game, check out our round-up of the best fake tan products and find one to suit you.)

No glove, no love

Always wear mitts or latex gloves to prevent those dreaded orange palms. Use long sweeping strokes when applying fake tan, starting from your feet moving upwards and inwards from your wrists. Rub the colour in different directions to blend it well and avoid any stripes or streaks.

If you’ve got time use it

Similar to the sun, fake tanning looks most natural when it’s applied slowly. So if you want to have a golden glow for a big event start the process three days in advance. Apply a light layer of fake tan on day one and assess how it develops before building up colour with another thin layer the next day.

You can fake it for your face

If, like me, you don’t like to apply fake tan on your face mix a dewy foundation with two drops of liquid bronzer before smoothing it over your face and neck. It will fade naturally with the colour on your décolletage but the trick is to blend, blend, blend!

Invest in a body brush

Have trouble reaching your back? If you’ve got no one around to help (trust me, it’s the easiest method) try this trick: Use a long-handled body brush for exfoliating your back first. Then, put the mitt –covered in fake tan- over the bristles to apply colour down each shoulder and over the middle of your back.

Try this hand job

Getting the colour on your hands just right can be the hardest part of fake tanning. To create a natural looking tan line on your inner wrists apply moisturiser to the base of your palms using a circular motion to blur the line and create a subtle fade where colour ends.

And this is hands down the best trick …

After you finish faux tanning your body remove your gloves and wipe the back of your hands on your lower back. You’ll get a hint of colour without using your palms. Use a cotton swab to clean up any excess tan pooled around your cuticles.

Take a cold shower

When you’re washing off the guide colour keep the water as cool as possible since hot water only encourages fake tan to break down faster.

Draw on muscle tone

Try this backstage trick for super slim, defined pins: post-shower dust a matte bronzer over your legs to create definition. Then, take a shimmery bronzer down the front of your legs only to elongate and slim them down. Do the same with your pre-tanned tummy by dusting bronzer down the sides of your waist to help narrow the area.

Don’t be afraid of mistakes

Gone overboard with the spray can? Don’t fret. Fake tans do have a lifespan of about seven days. If you can’t wait that long, have a steam or sauna. This will encourage the tan to fade faster and more evenly. Need to sort orange palms or streaky legs fast? Check out our tips for sorting the three most common mishaps and how to remove fake tan.

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