How do you fake tan properly?

Let’s just get it out there from the beginning, shall we? I am pale. Very, very pale. I do not tan. I freckle and then burn. ‘Sunkissed’ is not an adjective you would ever use to describe my skin tone. 

My in-laws over in the UK still find it rather hysterical that I am so white. Before meeting me, they had heard that I swum, surfed, played water polo, belonged to a surf club, and lived right near the beach. I suspect that they expected a bronzed, Summer Bay-Esque gal to hop off that Sydney-London flight but instead were greeted with little Miss translucent.

Compounding my lack of tan is the fact that my husband tans like some kind of bronzed beast. He simply LOOKS at the sun and becomes a lovely shade of gold. This has caused many bitter words to spill from my lips during the summer months, let me tell you. Now that I’m a grown-up though, I have (almost) accepted my skin tone and get far less angry at it than I once did. I even kind of like it, in some instances anyway.

There comes a time though when a bit of color is needed. There is simply no way around it. This is when having a fool-proof faux tan product is essential. I feel somewhat qualified to direct you towards the good ones due to the literal dozens I have tried over the years. Some good, some oh so not good, and pretty much everything in between.

I can now apply a pretty seamless coat of bronze to my skin quickly and with surprising accuracy. I once did this weekly. I now laugh at this idea and have put it into the ‘Things I Will Most Likely Never Do Again’ pile. Faux tanning these days is strictly on an as-needed basis. Holidays, special events, that’s when I hit the bottle.

Here’s how to get a perfect golden glow without a splotch in-sight.

1. Prep your skin – You have no doubt been told this before. I am telling you again. Applying any kind of product to scaly, dry, lizard-like skin will not do anything. Moisturiser struggles to push through the scales, and fake tan gives up halfway and joins the dry patches to perform a merry dance of flaky orangeness. The best way to exfoliate, in my humble opinion? Stand completely starkers in your bath/shower, don a pair of exfoliating gloves and your chosen product and go to town on DRY skin. Start at your toes (not your ankles, your feet need to be smoothed as well) and work your way up. Use little circles over your knees and elbows as they are especially pesky and blotch prone. When you’re done, hop under the shower and thoroughly wash away any residue.

2. Choose your product – My go-to DIY product in the past has always been St Tropez mousse. It has never let me down, and let me tell you, I’ve used it enough times for ‘incidents’ to occur. Lately, however, I’ve moved towards more natural, organic skincare products to try and minimize the level of chemicals I slather all over myself. Enter Eco Tan. Completely organic with an amazing result, I’m a little bit in love. I used the ‘Organic Winter Skin‘ formula (which is their gradual tan) before coming away on holidays, and it worked a treat.

3. Apply your product properly – If you’re starting at your ankles, you’re doing it wrong. Start your tan on your feet. I apply a small amount of product to the middle of my foot then spread it out, working it right down to my toes and right around the sides till I’m pretty much under the foot itself. It may sound weird but feet are one of the telltale spots that will show up your flawless application and make you embarrassed to wear sandals. Once you’re done with your feet, work your way up slowly and carefully. Knees, elbows, and wrists seem to confound many people. Go easy over your knees and elbows and ONLY use what’s leftover on your wrists, i.e, apply to your arms, then spread the last little bits downwards). 

Once you’ve got your tan on, grab some moisturizer, and rub this into your feet. (focusing on the sides of the foot) knees and elbows to dilute the color. Once you’ve done this, squeeze out a little more, and use this from your wrist up, towards your elbow., focusing on the first 10 cm or so of skin. 

By doing this, you gradually fade the color as it makes its way down to your hands, AND you won’t need to apply it to the backs of your hands. Always a dodgy place to apply at the best of times. It also means you won’t have that horrible ‘ring’ around your wrist that occurs when you bring the tan right down and stop abruptly.

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