Summer is approaching and the shelves are being stocked with fake tans already. Know the good from the bad and the ugly with a little help from Barefaced.

Don’t end up like Ross from Friends.

What is self tanner

These “tans in a bottle” contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which gradually stains the dead cells in your skin’s outer layer. Mousse, cream, gel, tinted, clear, spray, gradual, instant, cheap or expensive – there are endless options of fake tans to choose from. It’s really down to personal preference as to which you pick as all are easy enough to apply with a bit of practice.

Pick a tan

First pick your formula. Tinted tan is by far easiest to apply as you can see exactly where you are putting it, which also means you get an immediate effect of a lovely tint. There are a selection of different shades to choose from – fair, medium, dark -this means you go by which shade you naturally are. Don’t be tempted to go a shade darker in attempt to get a ‘better’ tan because it will most likely end up looking fake and a natural tan is not only nicer, it’s also easier to maintain.

Then there’s the gradual tanning moisturisers. They are tricky because you cannot see where you apply them, so could end up streaky, and you can over-apply because you don’t see immediate results and turn a nasty orange colour by mistake.  To quote Elle Woods, ‘whoever said orange is the new pink, was seriously disturbed’.

The pros for these is that they do build up gradually so if you aren’t sure how you will like your tanned look then this could be for you, and if applied carefully and sparingly then the end result is a lovely sun-kissed sheen.

If you don’t want the commitment of a tan and only want it for the weekend, then wash-off ones are perfect for you. You can choose matte or shimmer ones, Rimmel usually is the best shout for these.

What puts a lot of people off self-tans is the smell. It’s been described as biscuits oddly enough and while some of them do have a distinct odour shall we say, tanning formulas are being redesigned constantly and so the smell of them is getting less and less off-putting.

Prepare your skin

With any type of self tanning, you’ll get better results if you exfoliate your skin with a scrub or loofah before the tanner is applied. This evens your skin tone and removes dead skin cells, giving you a smoother ‘canvas’ on which to tan. It will also mean dead skin cells won’t flake off straight after applying, so your tan won’t go patchy and blotchy.


Ask a friend to help you apply self-tanner to spots you can’t reach, like your back, for even results all over. And be sure to wash it off of body areas that normally don’t tan — like the palms of your hands and soles of your feet — otherwise, they’ll just look dirty.
You might also check out salons that offer airbrush tanning. Airbrush tans may look more like a natural tan with more even results. With an airbrush tan, a salon technician will hook up a DHA solution to a spray compressor and spray the tan onto you. Your eyes, lips, and nose will be covered to protect them during the process, which takes anywhere from about 5 seconds to 1 minute. A few hours after the application, you’ll start noticing your new, safe tan.

After care

The “tan” lasts until these skin cells slough off, so exfoliating or vigorously washing will make the colour fade faster. Typically, these “fake bakes” last from several days to a week.

And with both types of sunless tanning, you’ll still need to wear sunscreen when you go outdoors to protect you from the sun’s rays. Fake tans don’t generate melanin production, so they won’t protect you against sunburn. But the upside is that you get the warm glow of a tan while you keep your skin beautiful for years to come.

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