5 steps to applying a flawless fake tan

5 steps to applying a flawless fake tan

Photo courtesy of Alex Bramwell/thinkstock Image by: Photo courtesy of Alex Bramwell/thinkstock Author: Canadian Living


5 steps to applying a flawless fake tan

You know the sun is bad for you, but you just can't resist being attracted to the tint of colour it gives your skin. We understand, but it's important to stand firm and be proactive about protecting yourself from harmful UV rays. And don't think that tanning beds are the answer. A 2009 report has confirmed that using tanning beds before age 30 may increase your risk of melanoma by 75 per cent.

The truth is that the only healthy tan is a fake one. Self-tanners have come a long way from the orange streaks and muddy spots of the past. With our step-by-step guide, the days of waiting for blotchy self-tanner applications to fade are over – you'll be sure to strike golden tones every time.  

Colour index
Nothing's quite as humbling as messing up your self-tanner, but with myriad application types – gradual moisturizers, gels, foams, sprays and creams – now available in countless shades, the process has never been so user-friendly. For the most natural results, choose a formula that matches your skin tone.

Fair skin
Those with alabaster complexions should stick with gradual tanners, says Sabrina Rinaldi, a freelance makeup artist with Judy Inc. They build up a tan over several days and reach their maximum colour after a week. The added bonus is that these products are less likely to leave behind pesky streaks, because the formulas contain lower doses of DHA (the active dyeing ingredient in self-tanners). Rinaldi prefers creams. "You have more control over how much product is being applied," she says. And it's easier to see the areas you've covered, as well.

Medium skin
People with medium-tone skin can choose to build colour over several days with a gradual tanner or choose a more potent, faster-acting sunless tanner. The benefit to using a traditional self-tanner is that the developing time is just a few hours, compared with a full week for gradual tanners. The main drawback, however, is that the application can be a little trickier. When choosing your shade, err on the light side. If the colour is too dark for your skin tone, it won't result in a deeper tan; ultimately, it's more likely to streak, says Rinaldi.

Page 1 of 3 – Learn how to prepare your skin for a sunless tan on page 2.
Dark skin
Sunless tanners are great for people with darker complexions, too; they help even out your skin. Pick a dark shade in a traditional self-tanner (cream, gel or spray), ensuring that it's close to your natural skin tone. If you have dry skin, go with a cream. If you have oily skin, a gel-based product generally works best. 

1. Prepare your skin
Hop in the shower. "Your first step is to exfoliate your skin," says Rinaldi. "Self-tanners turn darker on dry patches," she says. "Exfoliating ensures that your colour develops evenly and looks natural." Use a nonoily body polish to exfoliate all over. If you don't have a scrub, the next best thing is a creamy shower gel teamed up with a loofah. Focus on the driest and roughest parts of your body: your elbows, knees and ankles.

2. Get hydrated
Rinaldi suggests smoothing a layer of oil-free moisturizer onto your shower-moist skin. "Moisturize your skin to make sure that dry patches are covered." You can skip this step if you plan on using a gradual tanner, because those products have moisturizers built into their formulas. 

3. Apply to body
It's always best to start at the bottom and move up. Begin with a loonie-size amount of self-tanner in your hand and, using circular motions, rub it in all over your calf. Rub the product that's leftover in your hand onto your foot, ankle and knee. Rinaldi insists on keeping feet well moisturized. "It will help prevent your feet from getting darker than the rest of your body – a common problem," she says. Repeat with your other leg, then move on to your thighs, torso, back and arms. For even application, Rinaldi suggests starting in the centre of the area you're working on, then blending the product outward.

Page 2 of 3 – Tips for applying fake tanner to your face, plus quick fixes for streaky tans on page 3.
4. Apply to face
Don't be tempted to use the same tanner that you use on your body for your face. Choose one formulated specifically for the face (preferably from the same brand), as it won't clog pores and will be less drying than regular tanners. Rinaldi recommends using a product made for your specific skin type: oily, sensitive or dry. Cleanse, then gently exfoliate and moisturize before you apply. Squeeze a dime-size amount onto your fingers and dot the self-tanner onto your forehead, the bridge of your nose, your cheekbones and the middle of your chin. With the same two fingers, blend toward your hairline and jawline, and down your neck.

5. Set your tan
After applying the tanner, wait 20 minutes before getting dressed to be sure the formula is dry. Self-tanners can easily rub off onto clothing when they're not totally dry. Stay away from formfitting clothing. "Put on a loose T-shirt or bathrobe," say Rindali. Wash your hands with a scrub to remove any tanner residue, as palms and cuticles tend to turn orange if they're not properly cleaned. To prevent nails from getting a faux glow of their own, go to town with a nail brush.

Solving your streaky tan troubles

• Full colour develops two to four hours after applying tanner. If you always get streaks, chances are you're not using enough product or you're using the wrong shade. Rinaldi says it's paramount to pick the tanner that best matches your skin tone. "Women often use self-tanners in shades that are too intense for their skin tones, which can result in streaks," she says.

• If streaks or dark patches develop, dip a cotton ball in an alcohol-based toner and sweep it over the mistakes. This will soften the darker areas.

• "Self-tanner can get darker in your hair follicles if you shave right before you apply the tanner," says Rinaldi. She suggests shaving or waxing a few days prior to application.

• Don't shower, shave, exfoliate or get wet for 24 hours after you apply the tanning lotion. This will help prevent streaking.

• Sunless tans will not wash or rub off; they gradually fade as the outer layer of skin sloughs off in four to six days, says Rinaldi.

This story was originally titled "Oh, Glow On" in the June 2010 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

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5 steps to applying a flawless fake tan