Self Tanning 101 | FAQ

I'm asked all the time about self tanning - advice on what products to use, how to apply and how to remove. Other FAQ's include smell issues, winter tanning and temporary versus longer term tans and spray tans.

It seems there are a lot of us wary of tanning - probably because of the awful products that were on offer when we were younger. But worry not - self tan will make you look and feel amazing and with the rapid developments in products and techniques in recent years, it's hard to get it too badly wrong anymore.

1. What product to use...

So this is the hardest bit because I've realised after using most of the main brands out there that self tan is like foundation. What suits me won't necessarily suit you - formulation, application, colour and brand will differ on different skins. So you might have try a few to find the right one for you. 
Through trial and error, I've discovered that foam with a good guide colour and applied with a velvet mitt works best for my skin. So if you've got fairly normal skin that's not too dry, foam is probably a good one to start with. It dries fast and you don't usually end up with too much on the glove - some of the liquid ones are tricky to apply evenly.

If you've dry skin, you might find tanning cream a good option though you'll still struggle if you don't treat the underlying dry skin to start with. Be sure to moisturise and exfoliate for a few days before you apply. Look for a paraben free, natural shower gel, consider omega 3 supplements & increase your water intake - dry skin comes from the inside.
Brand wise, my current favourite is Bare by Vogue mousse and I use the dark colour. For me, it's the fragrance that I love - it's gorgeous to apply and the tan smell is minimal (though tan smell can be a personal factor too - the amount you sweat and how cleansed your system is can impact on this. Consider milk thistle extract and again up your water intake if you find all fake tans smell quite strongly)
Others worth trying include He-shi and Iconic bronze mousse - both local brands. 

2. How to prepare...
Everyone bangs on about exfoliation and of course, this is vital to successful self tanning but the state your skin is in generally is more important. If you've got dry flaky skin, exfoliation at best may only mask the problem for a day or two or at worst irritate your skin, so you should treat the source of the problem before adding to it. Get into the habit of moisturising regularly - slather your feet, knees and ankles in hand cream every evening going to bed. Use rich body oils if your skin is very dry. With all the products you use, seek out natural, non petroleum based moisturisers and spend a couple of days really feeding the skin well before you attempt tan for the first time or if you've got especially dry skin. And like I said above, get some Omega 3 and multivitamins to feed your skin from within.

For exfoliation, I use Clarins Toning Body Polisher once a week. 
It's an oil based exfoliator so it moisturises while it works. For this reason, I'd not apply tan straight after this as you'll have an oil residue on the skin. I usually use this 2 days before my tan. Then, the day I want to tan, I use my fabric scrubber to get any old tan off. I got mine from an online shop that's no longer in operation so the closest I can find is on this link. It's amazing at properly scrubbing off every trace of leftover tan. It literally peels it off you, leaving you baby soft and pale. 

Then I use a light moisture lotion on ankles, knees, elbows and hands, wait a moment for it to soak in - then it's time to tan!

PS I should mention tan eraser products here. Bottom line, I'm not a fan as I think they're too harsh on the skin. If you've moisturised during the life of your tan and have one of the scrubby mitts, you shouldn't need to buy a separate eraser product and both the environment and your skin will thank you for this.

3. How to apply....
Stand in front of a mirror in a brightly lit bathroom.
Using a velvet mitt, sweep the tan along your arms first, making sure you work right around the arm so that you don't end up with a white streak along the inside of the arm. Lift your arm up and make sure you've swept along the inner arm right to the armpit. Sweep around the shoulder and under the arm and bring it across the d├ęcolletage. Repeat on the other side, the whole time blending what's left on the mitt up your neck and across your upper back, joining up all the areas so there aren't any white patches. I don't apply tan on my face at the same time so I don't bring the mitt up over my jawbone. I'll talk about facial tanning further down - point 7.

Make sure you have a damp (not wet) facecloth to hand to gently rub any areas that look too dark - e.g. the elbows and if you've a willing child or other half, ask them to help you with your back. It's possible to do your back yourself if you're pretty flexible but nothing beats someone else checking the blend is perfect, especially if you're planning to wear something low in the back.

For the legs, start on the shin and calf with the product, spreading it around these areas until the majority of it is off the mitt, then and only then, sweep it down over the feet and ankles and up over the knees. Same on the upper leg (if you're tanning it too), put the majority of the product on the widest part of the thigh and then blend it downwards and upwards.

Then wait as long as you can before getting dressed - I would always suggest you tan in the evenings and dress in your loosest PJ's. Your tan can then develop overnight as you sleep and you don't have to worry about bra strap marks or rubbing seams.

Next morning, have a quick lukewarm shower with the most gentle of shower gels. Don't go washing your hair etc - you want to just gently lift the excess tan. Pat yourself dry, slather in moisture and wear looser clothes for Day 1. I usually wear a skirt or wide trousers. Skinny jeans or tight socks can still impact on the tan at this stage and give you seam marks.

If you spot any glaring mistakes or streaks, you can try to blend in some new tan on Day 1 but I generally prefer to use Vita Liberata Body Blur in these instances as it helps to disguise the mistakes without adding to them.

4. How to maintain...
Moisture is key - keep it up for the duration of your tan. The chemical in self tanners will naturally dry the skin so this even applies if your skin isn't overly dry to start with. As well as keeping the tan looking as good as possible, the moisture will also make it easier to scrub this tan off when it's past its best.

Use Body Blur to help extend the tan if you need to - it's such a great product to have in your arsenal. It is great as an instant tan also if you'd rather not do your legs with self tan for instance - sometimes in winter, I'll just do my upper body for an event and body blur my legs.
After 4-5 days, you'll be ready to start the exfoliation process's never ending!! 

5. What about Spray Tans?
I used to get a spray tan done a couple of times a year for choir gigs where we wear formal dresses and there's no doubt, they're an amazing way to get the whole body tanned evenly in one go and are perfect for heading on holidays where you'll be showing lots of flesh.  I don't have them done anymore in winter time as you end up hiding the tan for the whole time. They're not for the faint hearted so ask around for a recommendation if you need one! Vita Liberata for me is the best spray tan formulation and the one that seems to be the least problematic so look for a salon that stocks this if you can't get a recommendation.

The same rules apply for preparation and maintenance with a spray tan - if anything, you'll have to be even more vigilant about prep!

6. What about Gradual Tans?
I'm not massive a fan of these unless you're very fair. If you are, they're a great way to gradually build the colour on your complexion. For me, I find by the time enough colour has developed on my darker skin, the tan that went on the first day is getting patchy. Also, because of that drying tan formulation and the fragrance, I don't like using these products every single day. I sometimes use them in the winter when I'm not really exposing much skin but mostly I prefer the instant hit of a proper self tan product, followed by a more gentle daily moisture cream.

St Tropez & Dove (new formula) are generally considered to be the best of the gradual tans. If you like the smell of the Palmers Cocoa Butter products, their gradual tanner comes highly rated also.

7. Facial Tanning
Finishing with the face. Just as with any product, you'd not use on your face what you use on your body, so the same applies to tan. Always use a specialist facial tanner. My favourite is the Tan Lux tan drops in Med/Dark. You add a couple of drops to your own moisturiser and the tan develops after a few hours. The best bit about this product is that you can buy a travel size in it to try for a while. 
The other tanning drop product I'd recommend is from Tropic Skincare. Their sundrops are very effective also and are naturally derived. 

And there you go - hit me up with any other Tanning questions you might have but that's all the ones I had to date answered. Also give me any product recommendations - I could never get round to trying every product out there! I'm a 'find what works for you and stick to it' kind of girl. So do let me know if something works really well for you.



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