As our collective hopes of finally ditching black opaques for a few months are probably rising right now, along with a few reservations about bearing skin that's spent too many months hidden under layers of nylon and wool (well, if you haven't unapologetically spent pretty much the whole winter in crop tops anyway, as I have!), I thought this might be a timely post. As much as I admire the unflinchingly porcelain complexions of the likes of Florence Welch, I have to admit to being a dyed-in-the-wool (or from-the-bottle) fake tan addict. I can manage cold (and alabaster) turkey for a few weeks (see below left), but can never hold out on my golden glow cravings for long (see below right), and have been pretty much permanently bronzed for the last decade, despite retreating to the nearest parasol whenever temperatures hit 20C.
But there are absolutely no excuses for resembling a tangerine, whatever your budget! Over the years, I've tried most of the tanning big-hitters (St Tropez, Fake Bake, L'Oreal, Xen Tan) and pretty much every modality (pro and D.I.Y. sprays, lotions, mousse...) with acceptable, pretty much interchangeable, results from them all, and was resigned to spending £30+ a month on upkeep... until I came across the Cosmo paragraph that changed my life a couple of years ago, introducing me to St Moriz.
£2.99 (saving around 90% on the prices of brand leaders) from Savers, Amazon or TJ Hughes, I find its results equivalent to, or, yes, even better than those of the aforementioned big names, and the bottle goes further too (I use the mousse, having always liked these best for self tanning).
To obtain optimum results using any self tanner, you do need to put a bit of work in though, so I thought I'd share my top tips (to enable you to avoid recreating the Snow White-to-Pocahontas-to-102nd Dalmatian transformation I underwent on my first attempt!).
7 Steps to the Perfect Faux Glow
- EXFOLIATE - This is the most important thing you can do to obtain a natural, even look and maximise your tan's lifespan. Exfoliate your whole body pre-application, paying special attention to hands, feet, ankles, knees and elbows. You can experiment with loofahs, scrubs etc, but I use a good ol' flannel whilst soaking in the bath, then finish off with another once-over in the shower using a (non-oily) body scrub.
- MOISTURISE - Very important, as this is how you avoid orange knees and elbows! Just before you begin applying your tan, moisturise your face, elbows, hands, knees, ankles and feet. Unless you have very dry skin, don't moisturise any other areas of your body, as this will dilute the effect of the tanning agent.
- WEAR GLOVES - And this is how you avoid orange palms! You can buy disposable vinyl gloves cheaply from most supermarkets. Some people prefer to use a mitt, but I don't find that they add anything beneficial to the process or results, and, if you're not wearing gloves too, the tan can still soak through and Tango your hands! Last thing, carefully peel them off, slap on some moisturiser and squeeze a tiny amount of fake tan onto the back of one hand - rub the backs together to spread carefully over both hands and between fingers.
- TIME IT RIGHT - I have been known to go out clubbing after a hasty application, but I wouldn't recommend it - use a wash-off version if you must! After applying a standard self-tanner, you need to wait at least 20 minutes before dressing/sitting down, and 4 hours before showering. If you apply it before bed, be warned that it will rub off on your sheets - I now only buy black bed linen - and it's best to cover up as much as you can (with loose, soft clothing) to avoid any unwanted palm/hair stains in the morning. If you have a lazy day that you can spend wafting (carefully) around in a black maxi dress, great!
- CONTOUR - It will probably take you a while to figure out the perfect application technique and "dosage" for you - everyone's skin is different. It doesn't need to appear perfectly even when wet - this colour is just a guide, not how your actual tan will look - but ensure every inch of your skin has been covered, aside from palms and soles - there's nothing worse than a white armpit! Start with one coat and see how you go - I stick to one or two coats, but it's all too easy to become tanorexic - if people start comparing you to daytime auction show presenters rather than asking if you've been away, you probably need to tone it down! You might want to try using more along the sides of your torso and limbs to cheat a slimmer look. Layering additional coats on over consecutive nights is meant to make your tan last longer. I top mine up with a single coat of Garnier Summer Body the morning after. I never use more than one coat on my hands, feet, knees or elbows though - you have been warned!
- BE PREPARED FOR ONGOING UPKEEP - You should use a rich body moisturiser every day (I like the Jergens range) to maintain your tan, and avoid overly hot baths or showers. Most companies claim that by exfoliating "gently" every few days, followed by a reapplication, you can maintain a perfect tan indefinitely. Personally, I think this is a big fat myth - it's incredibly hard to exfoliate at all without inadvertently revealing any glaring white patches! Mine lasts for around 7 days before it begins to peel off in key areas (neck and wrists tend to come first for me), which I take as my cue for another full body exfoliation a la step 1, before I start all over again. Scrubbing off all traces of tan takes me about 45 minutes - soaking in a hot bath for a few minutes first helps to loosen the topmost layers of dead skin so you don't have to work so hard.
- WATCH THE FACE - What looks great on your body won't necessarily work so well on your face - despite my years of experience, I found it hard to avoid patchiness and clogged pores until I started using products specifically designed pour le visage. Fake tan tends to fade more quickly from the face, but doesn't tend to go patchy - phew! I now use Xen Tan Face Tanner Luxe, which gives great results, is infused with skincare benefits and smells delicious (as do all Xen Tan products actually, one area in which they most definitely beat the competition hands down), and treat jawline up completely separately from neck down, tanning as and when necessary in each case.
Admittedly a commitment, but a tough addiction to beat once you get hooked... I accept no responsibility for any subsequent substance dependence.
Are you embracing pale and interesting this summer, or going for gold?