Spoiler: we’ve been using our tanning mitts all wrong.
Whether you like your skin to look slightly sun-kissed, or else a totally bronzed beach babe look, self tan is the quickest – and safest – way to fake a holiday glow.
And no matter what depth of colour you choose, or type of tanning formula you use, the key to a that elusive golden glow is all in the application. We’ve spoken to the top tanners in the business to gather some tanning hacks – including a genius way to use your tanning mitt.
So read, remember and get ready for glowing, gorgeous skin.
1. Remove hair and exfoliate
Whatever your hair removal method is, it’s always best to be silky smooth and hair-free right before you tan.
You want to create the smoothest canvas possible, which is why it’s also important to exfoliate. “You need to blitz and buff away all evidence of your previous tan to ensure an even base so your new glow goes on beautifully and looks flawless”, says Carly Hobbs, Sienna X Expert Tanner and Brand ambassador. “Fail to do so and you could get patchy results, with some darker areas.”
If you’re reapplying your tan after your last application has faded but can’t quite shake those stubborn patches, celebrity tanner and founder of Isle of Paradise, Jule Von Hep, offers this clever tip: “Go swimming, the chlorine will soften the tan, then take some exfoliating gloves and scrub in the shower.”
2. Make sure your skin is completely clean
And we mean really clean. Even just a hint of deodorant or perfume can cause disastrous results.
“Deodorant will go green as it reacts with the tan on contact, and while it doesn’t stay green, it’s not a good look”, says Carly. “If you are able to shower pre-tan, be brave and go for a cold rinse to encourage pores all over the skin to close so your tan goes on seamlessly.”
As for perfume, you should remove it and also avoid applying it post-tan as it can mess with your tan’s development. “I was once working with a client on Strictly Come Dancing and each week she’d come in on show day with a huge patch on her neck, it took us weeks to work out that immediately after her spray tan, she was spraying her neck with fragrance which was breaking the tan down as it developed”, shares Jules. “Do not do this! Spritz a hair mist if you need a scent.”
3. Moisturise dry areas just before application
Unless you want to end up with ankles, knees and elbows two shades darker than the rest of your skin, dry areas must be moisturised pre-tan.
Carly recommends focusing on the following areas: elbows, knees, knuckles, between the fingers, inner wrists, ankles and toes. A tan primer is best, as it acts as a barrier to stop the tan from catching.
4. Use a tanning mitt
When asked if a mitt was best, Jules replied, “Yes. A mitt protects the tan from absorbing into the hands but also helps evenly distribute the product.”
The only exception? “If you’re using tanning drops or waters you can rub these in using your hands, just wash your palms with micellar water afterwards. But as a rule, I always use a mitt.”
A great way to make sure the formula is evenly distributed across the whole mitt is to administer it to the base of the mitt (where the heel of your hand is) and fold the mitt in half by closing your palm. This will also make each pump go even further. Another top tip is when applying to the backs of your hands and feet, simply use any leftover residue left on the mitt to avoid unnatural looking build up on those areas.
5. Apply your tan in front of a mirror
If you’re tanning solo, stand in front of a mirror to make sure you don’t miss any spots. “Work methodically from legs, upwards and take your time”, says Carly.
When you think you’re done, twirl back and forth, checking the back of your knees and lift your arms above your head to ensure you didn’t miss the underside.
6. Don’t forget your face
If you choose to tan this area, both Jules and Carly agree that less is more. “Repeat after me, two coats on the body and one on the face”, says Jules.
Ideally, you should use products that are specifically formulated for the face. Jules recommends his Isle of Paradise Self-Tanning Drops: “Mix your desired amount of drops in with your normal face moisturiser (the more you drop the deeper the glow – I advise 2-3 drops). Sweep moisturiser over your skin, massaging in upward motions, and down the neck to the décolletage.”
If you choose not to tan this area, you may want to switch your shade of foundation to match your tanned body, making sure to blend down the neck for a seamless transition.
7. Wear loose clothing while it dries
Wearing restrictive clothes, under-wire bras or anything that rubs onto the skin is a big no-no post-tan.
If you’re going for a professional spray tan, do not show up wearing “skinny jeans, leggings, gladiator sandals or sports bras”, says Jules. “You want loose, floaty, effortless chic garments. My clients who work in fashion always wear jumpsuits.”
“Try to resist anything too sweaty after you tan”, says Carly. A.k.a it’s better to be cold than too hot. If you’re at home, a floaty dress or loose-fitting pyjamas are perfect. And black is always best.
8. Do not shave or wash post-tan
Another important reason to shave pre-tan is because if you do it afterwards instead, you’re at risk of shaving away your tan as the blades tend to pick up any dead skin cells as well as hair. Carly also says to “avoid baths all together so you don’t soak your glow away”. Opt for showers instead.
9. Moisturise one day after your tan, and from there on
If you wish to maintain your glow and ensure an even fade, moisturising is a must.
“A faux tan loves being hydrated, so treat it daily, if not twice daily to Sienna X Radiance Body Balm, which not only moisturises but makes your tan pop and is good for the skin as it’s packed with vitamin E,” says Carly.
Too time-poor to moisturise? “Use your tanning mitt to swipe it on at super speed. It’s especially handy on chilly mornings when moisturising is not the most fun.”
10. Top up with gradual tan
If you really want your tan to last as long as possible, top it up after a few days with a gradual tan.