When it comes to fake tanning, we all want that sun-kissed glow that makes you look like you’ve spent weeks basking in the hot Caribbean sun at some all-inclusive resort. Sadly, that’s not the life most of us lead – as much as we might wish we did – but there’s no reason our skin can’t give that illusion, right?
Follow our 5 step guide for that flawless faux glow, and no one will believe it’s a tan that came from a bottle of Bondi Sands rather than a sunbathing session at the real deal.
1. Choose the right fake tan for you
There are hundreds of different fake tans brands, shades and styles out there, and navigating it all can feel incredibly daunting – but that’s where we come in. There is a process for finding the right tan for you, which depends on wear-ability, your skin tone, making sure it’s not orange-based, how dark you want to go, etc. etc.
First of all, if you’re fairly new to the tan game, or you’re likely to apply the tan in a rush and run out the door, then you need a water-based, clear tan. While they tend to be a little subtler in their colour than the traditional tan, they don’t need to be washed off which makes them much more flexible with your daily routines. Plus, they don’t tend to come with the horrible biscuit smell that has long been associated with fake tanning. The Isle of Paradise Glow Clear Self-Tanning mousse is the best for this, and it comes in light, medium, and dark. You can even get a “tanning drops” miniature version, which is perfect for your face.
Second, you need to make sure you have the right base colour. I know what you’re thinking: “who knew fake tan could be this complicated?” Trust me, I didn’t either, but once you get the routine down it will feel a lot easier promise. To find your undertone, you just need to look at your skin tone and think about how dark you want your tan. If you have pale or pink-based skin, then choose a green-based tan, and if you have darker skin – or if you want a really deep colour – then choose a violet-based tan, which helps balance out the yellow/orange tones. If you’re not sure, or you just want something simple and straight down the middle, then caramel-based tans are the one for you.
Finally, decide how dark you want your tan. You can go for anything from light to extra dark, or for a more natural look, you can even get a gradual self-tan which has the extra benefit of hydrating your skin, and giving you the option to build the tan as much as you want.
2. Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate (and then moisturise)
Putting fake tan on top of dry skin cells or old fake tan is a recipe for disaster; the second you hop in a hot shower, it’s going to wash off instantly. I would personally say the same goes for shaving your legs, but if that’s not for you then you can just skip that step obvs.
Fake tanning is a process that needs planning and the exfoliating step needs to take place the night before. You can do it on the day of if you absolutely have to, but you risk your pores still being open causing those little dark spots we all hate, or it will go patchy if you haven’t moisturised properly. So, always exfoliate the night before, with an exfoliating glove from any local drugstore (get a reusable one, because we’re not here for single-use plastic at Cohorted, and these can just go straight in the washing machine). Then, use a body scrub and then a shower gel – the two-pronged attack here works wonders – in a circular motion with a lot of pressure on your fingertips. The tan will just slide straight off! Then just whip a razor across your legs, and before you jump outrun the cold water for a few seconds to close up your pores.
If you are really stretched for time, you could use a tan remover rather than exfoliating, which is a lot calmer on the skin and won’t leave your skin quite as dry. It works best when paired with an exfoliating glove to make sure you get off all those tricky little spots that just won’t quit, but even if you don’t have one of those it will still leave your skin primed and ready for a fresh layer of tan. B.tan’s “tan go away” is one of the best on the market – and it’s 100% vegan, cruelty-free, and sustainably sourced. We stan.
3. Don’t underestimate the power of a cold shower
During every step of your fake tan routine, if you’re showering, it should be a cold shower. Or, if you can’t stomach that, then at the very least a lukewarm shower. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is when you’re showering off the excess moisturiser on the day of your fake tan (aka just before you tan); the cold water prevents your pores from opening back up again and creating those pesky little black dots that we all hate.
The second time a lukewarm shower will save your life is when you’re washing off the tan after the recommended 8 hours. The colder the shower, the less colour will come off – we have to suffer for our art.
4. Don’t skimp on the tanning mitt
A lot of people think that the focus is all on the tan itself, and you can save money when it comes to how you’re applying the tan. Absolutely not. Your fake tan is only as good as your tanning mitt – just like that eyeshadow blend is only as good as your makeup brushes. Even a fake tan on a budget can look sun-kissed and glowing if you use the right products to apply it. Personally, I use Bondi Sands’ double-sided mitt which smooths the tan on like a dream, and it’s easily found in most high-street drug stores, but I also love b.tan’s mitt – it has a thumb! It’s the little things, but the attention to detail is what really stands out for me with this brand.
5. Use a bronzer brush for feet, hands and face
Okay, so this tip comes from the legend that is FleurHobson on Twitter, who realised that using a bronzer brush in circular motions meant that it the tan actually blended – so no more streaks! It works the same with your face as well, and if you blend to the max it’ll end up looking like you’ve got some tinted moisturiser on your face, which means you can say goodbye to heavy foundation during the warm weather.
Just one thing to note with your hands and feet: always use a medium shade, even if you use dark for the rest of your body (unless you’re using a light tan, in which case stick with that). Your hands and feet will look more natural if they’re a bit lighter. You can stick with dark on your face, just make sure you’ve blended as though your life depends on it. Think about how you would apply your foundation and follow those same guidelines.