Beautifully bronzed without sun damage – the thinking woman’s guide to faking flawlessly

Pale may be interesting, but it lacks bronzed skin’s miraculous ability to mask a multitude of sins. A tan will always make skin appear healthier, eyes brighter, and wobbly bodies five pounds lighter. And for that reason it has become the ultimate beauty failsafe for both men and women.

Its popularity throughout the 20th century has often been pinned on Coco Chanel, who returned from a cruising holiday in the 1920s sporting sunkissed skin and set off a host of imitators, all aspiring to that outdoorsy glow. But in the 21st century our tanning icons look fabulously brown without the benefit of cruising or sunny holidays – they get their tanning fix from expensive salons and state-of-the-art home-tanning products. ‘Greater awareness of the dangers of sunbathing and concerns about premature ageing have changed our perception of getting a natural tan,’ says Judy Naake, the brains behind St Tropez. ‘Fake tanning is now the most popular salon treatment in the country – it’s a year-round beauty obsession.’

This surge in popularity has also seen sales of self-tanners increase by 22 per cent in the past two years. But getting a fake tan to transform lacklustre skin into honeyed perfection demands an expert hand.

Be bespoke
Picking a self-tanner that works with your skin type is the first step to achieving a natural-looking colour. Those with dry skin, for example, should avoid using spray and gel formulations as they tend to contain hefty doses of alcohol to help them dry more quickly, which can aggravate dry skin and turn a tan blotchy. If you have fair skin which tends to burn in the sun, opt for products with a low DHA content, like a moisturiser and self-tanner in one, or a caramel-based product like Rodial, which seems to turn fair skin a wonderfully natural colour. If you’re having trouble finding one that suits you, a good option is to go for a Clarins Get Glowing treatment at one of their skin spas. They cherry-pick the most appropriate of their nine self-tanners and show you how to get a perfect tan, step-by-step.

Prepare your skin
The cornerstone of a flawless fake tan is smooth skin. Any dry patches will spell disaster in the form of blotches and streaks, so always exfoliate from head to toe. If your skin is very patchy, or you need to get rid of the remnants of an old tan, try soaking in a bath of essential oils, then using a body scrub and exfoliating mitt together. Those with sensitive skin will find that using a creamy cleanser along with their mitt will give an ultra-gentle exfoliation. Avoid oil-based scrubs, as they leave a greasy residue on the skin and can stop your tanner reacting evenly.

Attention to detail
This is not the time for expensive, rich moisturisers. A simple, light and easily absorbed cream is what’s called for. Your skin should feel smooth and soft rather than tacky about 20 minutes after application. Only once your moisturiser has been evenly absorbed should you apply your self-tanner. Telltale areas such as wrists, ankles and elbows are most difficult to get right because the skin in these areas is typically drier than the rest of your body. The drier your skin, the more readily it reacts with self-tanning agents, which is why these areas tend to end up darker – and unattractively blotchy. The secret is to treat these bits to a final coating of moisturiser about five minutes before you apply your tan. If you’re using a creamy self-tanner you can also dilute it with moisturiser for a softer colour.

Don’t scrimp
The most common mistake is to spread a teaspoon-sized amount of self-tan over an entire limb, fearing that to use more will turn you a luminous shade of orange. In fact, there is no danger of using too much. Your skin can only react with a certain amount in any one application. So slathering your body with a rich coating of treatment will just ensure that all areas are covered evenly – and that you are totally streak-free. Think along the lines of a cult treatment like Fake Bake where the therapist spreads the self-tanner liberally over the body.

The finishing touch
Make sure you wash your hands and wrists with a cleanser and a flannel. When they are dry, apply some of your tanning product to the top of your hands. Sort out any excess tanner on your eyebrows and around your hairline with a wet cotton bud.

Help your colour fade evenly by buffing skin every few days. Next time you use a self-tanner it will take a lot less effort to get your skin prepped. For a really natural effect, apply fake tan to the parts of the body that would normally catch the sun most.

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