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How to apply self-tan like a pro

Cheat your way to gloriously glowing skin with our pro guide to faking it, says GEORGIA DAY


Summer is well and truly upon us, which means more skin on show. And if you’re someone who prefers not to bake in the sun to get bronzed, you’ll need to master the art of the faux-glow instead. Luckily, thanks to sophisticated formulas, clever colors and an abundance of expert tips, that’s now easier than ever.

The art of prep

Sadly, a cursory pre-tan body scrub won’t cut it if you want to get the most out of your self-tan. Just a little more preparation will result in a better, longer and more even tan. For color that glides on seamlessly (and stays put), you need to create as smooth a canvas as possible. That means exfoliating properly, removing all traces of deodorant, perfume and makeup, and moisturizing at least 24 hours beforehand to ensure there’s no barrier between the product and your skin. “The biggest mistake people make is not spending enough time preparing their skin for a sunless tan,” says Amanda Harrington, founder of the eponymous sunless tanning brand. “We prep our face before makeup and our hair before styling, so why not prep skin before tanning?”

Personalize your color

A natural tan has nuances of color in certain areas, with the skin on our chest normally a deeper shade than elsewhere, while our legs often take longer to tan. When it comes to faking a convincing glow, emulate that customized color with a brush-style applicator. “Application via brush allows for a precise application and natural-looking finish,” says Harrington. “They can be used to sculpt and shade the body, allowing you to accentuate and define your natural form.” For a cheat’s finish, add an extra pump of product onto your brush at the end, and add extra contour and shading to areas like your collarbones, shoulders and stomach.

Build up for depth

Although you might be spending two weeks on a yacht, chances are you won’t want to fry your skin for the deep, rich tan that comes with it. In that case, it’s all about layering your products to achieve the right effect. “Light layers ensure a longer-lasting and deep-set tan,” agrees Harrington. “The technique comes from painting. An artist paints thin, fine layers that gently build to create color, light and shadows.” Get the same effect by layering your products thinly on top of one another over the course of a couple of days. Just make sure you wash off any residual product from the day before you apply your second layer.

Maximize and maintain

One of the worries with self-tan is ending up with orange palms. If that does happen, raid your skincare cabinet for some glycolic acid. The AHA causes the DHA ingredient in the tan to break down, helping it to lift quicker and look less obvious in the process. Conversely, to avoid your color fading unevenly, you’ll need to take a targeted approach to body care while your tan is on. “When your skin is hydrated, your tan will look more radiant and fade more evenly,” explains Harrington. “But oil breaks down tan, so opt for a hyaluronic-based body moisturizer. Avoid retinol or any enzymatic skincare, too, as these can accelerate the fade time of tan on the face and body.”


The model featured in this story is not associated with NET-A-PORTER and does not endorse it or the products shown