Fake tans: the golden rules

IT’S that time of year again. With the prospect of unveiling bare legs and arms for the summer weather, many of us are heading straight to the self-tanning counter. (Not least the cast of ITV2’s “The Only Way is Essex”, whose collective mahogany glow hit new levels at Sunday’s TV BAFTA awards.)

But self-tan doesn’t all have to be about tangerine extravaganzas, as Pippa Middleton demonstrated at the royal wedding this spring, sporting a gorgeously subtle glow which many pundits speculated was down to a swift expertly-applied spray tan, rather than sunbathing sessions. (She prompted a nationwide rush on self-tanning products in the process. Debenhams reported a whopping 219 per cent sales increase after the nuptials.)

“Fake tan, done well, can be a fabulous confidence boost,” says Nichola Joss, self-tanning expert at St. Tropez, and personal spray tan artist to Kate Moss, Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johanson, among others. “It makes you look and feel healthier but without any of the sun damage. You look more toned. It’s also great for special occasions like weddings or the red carpet. Celebrities like it because it gives them an even skin tone and subtle glow under lights and close-up photography.”

It helps that there’s now an incredible selection of products out there. Gone are the days of gloopy smelly lotions. St. Tropez (www.St-tropez.com) has emerged as the market leader for its bevy of seamless tanning products, removers and suncare. Then there’s newbie Sun-believable (www.sun-believable.com) which has been racking up celebrity fans. Fake Bake (www.fakebake.co.uk) is a firm Hollywood favourite. Meanwhile, Johnson’s Holiday Skin (www.johnsonsbeauty.co.uk) is still a highstreet bargain staple.

So, how to get that look without streaking or overdoing the “Essex” effect?

PREPARATION
“Skin is like a canvas. If you prepare it properly it will take the tanner much better and stay on longer,” says Joss, who advises full exfoliation of skin, hair removal, and a good all-over moisturise before beginning application. “Wait for a couple of hours after you have removed hair as skin is still sensitive.”

APPLICATION
“Tanner is likely to collect in areas where you have dry skin and hair. Apply extra moisturiser to elbows, knees, ears, and eyebrows before you put on the product so it doesn’t absorb too much,” says Joss. After that, says Joss, if you’re applying by hand, use a self-tanning mitt (such as St. Tropez’s polishing glove). “It makes the tan go on more evenly and deeper in to the skin.” She adds: “Leave your hands, feet and face until last using only the remaining tanner left on your mitt to apply. That way it’s more subtle.” Finally, use a makeup-removing wipe to get excess tan from palms and ankle skin. “Just to tidy it up,” says Joss.

PROLONGING THE BRONZED EFFECT
“To extend the life of your tan, moisturise every day. You can top it up with gradual self-tanner too,” says Joss.

PICK THE RIGHT SHADE
“If you have fair skin, don’t go for something strong. Always pick something a only couple of shades darker than your natural skin colour,” says Joss.

AND, SHOULD THERE BE A DISASTER . . .
“There are two options. You can use Tan Remover up to four hours after applying. Or, take a bath in St. Tropez Tan Detox Oil, which gently removes tanner from skin,” says Joss. “Always do fake tan two days before a special occasion so you can fix any problems.” Voila! Instant summer skin.