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The Beauty Memo

Beauty’s most asked questions: how to achieve a great faux tan

To answer your most burning beauty questions, we seek out the world’s leading experts and ask them to share their knowledge. Responsible for tanning and contouring the best bodies in the business, A-list tanner AMANDA HARRINGTON shares her fake-tan tricks with DANIELLE FOX


Do I need to prep my skin before tanning?

The biggest mistake people make is not spending enough time preparing their skin for a sunless tan. We prep our face before makeup, our hair before styling so why not prep the skin before tanning? Tanning is no different and this gives the best results. Start by exfoliating to remove dead skin cells, so that the tan will blend and be absorbed more evenly. Focus on rough spots like elbows, knees, ankles and heels – fake tan notoriously collects around these areas. If you need to get a wax or a manicure, touch up your hair color or shave your legs, do it before applying a sunless tan, as all of those treatments can remove self-tanner. For your face, use a cleanser or a pad with glycolic acid to remove dead, dull skin. And avoid anything oil-based on your face or body because it leaves behind a residue that causes streaks.

Should I moisturize before applying the tan?

The most common cause of a patchy tan is dry skin, so it’s crucial to – especially problem areas (wrists and hands, elbows, knees, ankles and feet) immediately prior to self-tan application. While this may seem obvious, always wait at least 10 minutes after showering until you are fully dry. Dab a lightweight lotion around your nostrils, knees, elbows and ankles to keep them from turning dark or orange.

What is the best way to apply tan?

With clean hands (or wearing gloves), smooth on sunless tanner in circular motions – personally, I like to use a brush. I can brush, buff, blend and stipple tint into the skin allowing me to enhance the bone structure and to create a strong and sculpted finish. The brush gives me more control when I am contouring the body, as well as buffing the tan deeper into epidermis. This ensures the tan is more even and streak-free, lasts longer and fades better. Use approximately one teaspoon of product at a time. Start at your ankles and work your way up to your shoulders to prevent any marks when you bend over – and save your arms and hands for last. Remember to always apply tanner in a cool, dry area to keep yourself from perspiring, as humidity, water, and sweat can break down the self-tanner.

How can I work out which faux tan is best for my skin tone?

It can be difficult to find the perfect shade for your natural coloring – base colours and DHA (the tanning agent) vary between different brands. I recommend going for a mist or a mousse, as these tend to be lighter and adapt better to your skin tone then a cream. I created my skin tints to reflect each natural skin tone and base colour, so that when you apply the tan, it doesn’t sit lifelessly on top of the skin but instead elevates your skin. For fair skins with cool undertones – that’s bluish or pink, maybe freckly – go for Natural Rose. For skin that tans easily, Natural Honey has a more natural yellow or peach undertone, while Natural Olive is formulated for much darker skin tones that can go gray or ashen.

How do I know which tan ‘texture’ is right for my skin type?

A mousse formulation is perfect for a larger surface area, such as the body, and a mist works particularly well for the face as it is lightweight enough to wear. A lotion or tanning oil is the most hydrating for the skin, and a spray is the closest effect you’ll get to a professional spray-tan. Gradual tans are great for beginners and first-time tanners, while instant tans are great for a non-committal color.

What is the best way to rectify a tanning mistake?

If your tan is a bit patchy and needs a quick fix, grab a product made with glycolic acid. Glycolic acid helps to strip your tan without harming your skin. If you’ve had a bad spray-tan or manual tan by a therapist and you find it’s too dark, sit in a hot oily bath and soak; then, get out of the bath and brush the skin upwards with an old towel. This will lift the top layer of tan off. Repeat again the next day if necessary.

How can I make it last?

When your skin is hydrated, your tan will look more radiant and fade more evenly. Oil breaks down your tan, so opt for a hyaluronic-based body moisturizer and avoid retinol or any enzymatic body and skincare, as these can accelerate the fade time of tan on the face and body. Keep your skin really hydrated with an oil- and fragrance-free moisturizer, use morning and night, and reapply with a low level DHA – such as gradual tan – every couple of days to keep up an even and luminous glow to skin. And don’t forget the face, which is more regularly washed – you might want to reapply so that the color stays consistent from head to toe.


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