Skip to main content

How to fake tan (properly)

How to fake tan (properly)
Team LF
Writer and expert1 year ago
View Team LF's profile

Whether you’re a fake tan newbie or just need some handy tips to up your tanning skills, we’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to fake tan so you can achieve that gorgeous sun-kissed skin as well as our top tips for a fabulous, streak-free faux glow.

Secret tips for perfect tanning

If you struggle to get your tan streak free and perfect, you may be making some small mistakes which are affecting your glow:

  • Don't apply deodorant or perfume before tanning or while it develops. It can prevent the tan from adhering to the skin and may even turn some tans green.
  • Make sure you allow your fake tan to fully dry before dressing. When you do dress, stick to something that's loose and dark, so it doesn't rub against your skin or show any marks.
  • It is best to apply in the evening and let tan develop overnight. This will give it the best amount of time to full develop (most tans need at least 4-6 hours).
  • When you wash off your tan after it has developed, keep water slighter cooler than usual and resist the temptation to use scrubs or soap; it can fade your tan. Just rinse until the water runs clear.
  • Hair removal should be done 24 hours prior to tanning. Fake tan is prone to sticking into those loosened pores, creating dark dots all over your skin which disrupts your tan often causing it to look patchy.

Check out also our guide to the most common fake tan myths.

Your step-by-step tan routine

  • 1.Find your perfect self tanner

    Find your perfect self tanner
    3 Stars 3 Reviews
    First, you should decide on the type of tan you want to apply. If this is your first time tanning, you may want to opt for a gradual self-tan like the Bondi Sands Everyday Gradual Tanning Milk for subtle and natural colour change. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and want a stronger and deeper-looking tan, then we recommend choosing a dark glowing self-tan like the Vita Liberata Invisi Foaming Tan Water in Super Dark. For different options of how dark to go, the St Tropez Self-Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse gives you full control. Leave it on for 1 hour for a sun-kissed effect, 2 hours for a golden glow, or 3 hours for a deep, dark bronze colour.
  • 2.Exfoliate

    Before you apply any tanning products, it’s really important to exfoliate. We recommend doing this 24 hours prior to tanning. Not only will this get rid of dead skin, but it will also create the perfect base for your chosen tanning products. When exfoliating, it’s really important to pay extra attention to those really dry areas like your feet, ankles, elbows and knees. If you have any other areas that are super dry, make sure to exfoliate them as well. For the best results, we like to alternate between using a gentle but effective scrub like the Mio Skincare Heavenly Body Radiance Salt Scrub or using an exfoliating mitt, like the Bondi Sands Dual Action Exfoliating Mitt, every other day.
  • 3.Moisturise

    5 Stars 1 Reviews
    After exfoliating, it’s crucial that you apply plenty of moisturiser. Fake tan will annoyingly will cling to any dry areas, so you want to make sure you are well-hydrated beforehand. It’s really important to go over and moisturise those dry areas, making sure to leave at least 2-3 hours before tanning, as you could prevent the tan from adhering to the skin. We really like the SVR Laboratoires Topialyse Balm Spray as it’s fast absorbing and doesn’t leave any oily residue and makes it easy to hydrate hard to reach areas. It also provides superb moisturising benefits for the skin creating a perfect base for your tan.  
  • 4.Application

    5 Stars 3 Reviews
    When applying, we suggest using a tanning mitt like the NIP+FAB Luxury Tanning Mitt. Using a mitt ensures that the tan application is as smooth and easy as possible. For fool-proof application, it is best to start from the bottom up. Start with the shins, applying in circular motions and adding more product as required. Applying methodically helps make sure you don't miss any patches. Just be careful around the hands and feet; the best way to avoid orange streaks is to buff any leftover tan from the legs and arms lightly over these. Less is definitely more. As for the back, it really is best to ask someone to give you a hand with getting it all covered.
  • 5.St. Tropez Gradual Tan Classic Lotion ‐ Medium/Dark

    St. Tropez Gradual Tan Classic Lotion ‐ Medium/Dark
    4.75 Stars 12 Reviews
    Achieve a sun‐kissed glow with the St. Tropez Gradual Tan Classic Lotion ‐ Medium/Dark. Easy to apply, the lightweight lotion delivers an instant hint of bronze with a streak‐free finish, while slowly intensifying to leave the body with healthy‐looking, golden colour. Infused with Aloe Vera to soothe and moisturise the skin, the fast‐absorbing lotion develops over 4‐12 hours to leave you with a deep, long‐lasting tan. An innovative Aromaguard™ Fragrance Technology banishes the unpleasant fake tan smell. Suitable for all skin tones, you can re‐apply daily to build your desired depth of tan.
  • 6.Maintain

    3.91 Stars 11 Reviews
    Now you have got yourself bronzed and beautiful, the trick is keeping it even and long-lasting. The main way to keep tan fading evenly is to keep exfoliating gently and moisturising. This will also help keep your skin in tip top condition if you want to top up your tan again in a few days. We find that most tans last for about 5 days, but for an extra long-lasting effect, try out the Vita Liberata PHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan. It really does stay around and is brilliant before heading off on a holiday. To boost your glow, we also love using body oils like the NUXE Huile Prodigieuse Golden Shimmer Multi Usage Dry Oil. It makes limbs looking silky smooth and beautifully bronzed, perfect before a night out.

We have a huge selection of fake tans and tanning accessories on LOOKFANTASTIC, so whatever you are looking for you can find your perfect match.

Enjoy this? Try our best gradual tan or best fake tan for pale skin guides.

Team LF
Writer and expert
View Team LF's profile
Our team of beauty experts cover everything from makeup to skincare, picking out the most effective products from the best brands and latest trends. Stay up to date on everything beauty with the LOOKFANTASTIC blog, and find all your essentials in one place.