In my world, everything looks better with a tan. I have tried to embrace the whole alabaster thing, honestly I have, but it’s just not happening. Instead my sun-starved feet look like they’ve been unearthed on an archaeological dig. I’m more Tony Robinson than Dita Von Teese.
With my next sunbathing opportunity still quite a distant prospect (bar a few days in Cornwall. Exactly) there’s only one thing for it and that’s to fake it. But, as I’ve learnt over the years, a seamless and subtle fake tan is an illusive proposition indeed. I mean, who wants to accessorise their brand new J.Crew shift with bloody great swathes of orange running up their shins? Not me. So yes, there are risks. I accept that, but if you hone your technique, the possibilities are endless.
From the off I’m putting it out there: if you like the idea of fake tan but have a laissez-faire approach to beauty, a DIY self tan is probably not for you. Better to pay a professional to do it properly for you than waste money on a pricey fake tan applied poorly. You’ll be pissed you spent the money and still ended up orange.
But for the undeterred, I present to you my ninja guide to tanning:
A soft flannel
Your chosen self tan
Nail brush and soap
The patience of a saint
Step one is all about the prep. Dry, patchy skin is a magnet for fake tan so exfoliating thoroughly before you apply is vital. I cannot stress this enough. But DO NOT use an oily scrub, it will coat your skin and stop the tanning ingredients penetrating properly. My best method to date is to use a wet flannel and gently buff my skin while in the shower, concentrating on the areas where fake tan cock-ups present most often: the ankles, knees, armpits and wrists. If you need to shave or epilate (awkward silence) do it the day before. I find a completely smooth surface creates a sort of slip-sliding bronzing havoc.
Step two Now you are smooth and buffed to within an inch of your life, massage a small amount (50p size for each side should do it) of oil-free body lotion to the areas around your heels and ankle bones, between your toes, your knees (front and back) around your wrists, the inner arms (if you’re a real stickler like me), around your armpits and from your neck down into your collarbones. These are like the seams of your tan, where tidemarks are most likely, so a thin layer of moisturiser does wonders to fade out the pigment and prevent those god-awful tea stains.
Step three Apply your tanner in stages, starting from your feet upwards. Some people like to use gloves; I personally don’t but I do scrub my hands like a beast after the whole ordeal is over to stop staining around the nails.
A quick note on tanners here: the one I hands-down favour is this Perricone MD one, but sadly it appears to have been discontinued in the UK. One thin ‘coat’ gives a very subtle colour so I build it up over a week applying on alternate days until I reach the desired shade. I also rate Xen because their colours aren’t orange based, so you end up with much more of an olive-toned, grown up tan. A friend of mine who never looks orange also rates this bargain one called St Moriz, which proves that you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune either.
Work the tanner into your skin in thin layers, like you would a body lotion. Tinted lotions help because you can see where you’re applying, but my Dr Perricone one is cream coloured so I am just very mindful to make sure I’ve covered every last patch. Then massage around all the ‘seams’ to make sure you’ve blended the tanner into the moisturiser for diffused, natural-looking edges. NB. I’m loathe to tan my face; apart from giving you a flat, one-dimensional complexion, it also turns any blemishes or dry patches orange. Much better to get a realistic sun-tanned effect with tinted gels and bronzer, in my opinion.
Step 4 Wash your hands with warm water and soap and scrub all around your nails with a brush (unless you used gloves, that is). But, to avoid totally white hands, squeeze a tiny amount of tanner onto the back of one of your clean, dry hands and just rub the back of your hands together to blend it in. That way you’ll avoid a rave-era white gloves effect.
Step 5 Put on loose, dark clothing and allow to marinate for a good 3-4 hours. If the smell offends you (I have yet to find a truly scentless one), tan in the evening, sleep on it and then shower in the morning for the same effect with less of a biscuity aroma.
Step 6 Emerge as a subtly bronzed goddess and prepare for compliments of the ‘you look so healthy’ (not ‘you look so orange’) variety.
Photography (products): Bella Binns