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Getting it right is most definitely an art form – had self-tanning been a subject matter at school, I would have started off with a FAIL, but graduated with an A+. Here are my no-fail tricks to achieving a golden glow without sun damage.

fake tan prep exfoliate

If you’re gonna skip this step you might as well not tan at all! You must exfoliate thoroughly, even if your tanning skills are exceptional – you’ll end up with streaks if you have any dry patches. Start two days before, by using a gentle AHA like Zelens PHA Pads on your face and for the body I swear by Ameliorate Exfoliator. TIP Avoid oil-based body scrubs, as the oil creates a barrier that prevents DHA (the tanning agent) from penetrating.

Don’t apply moisturiser pre-tanning as it will dilute the colour. However, if you want a sheerer effect, then do!  Areas where I definitely rub in a bit of lotion are the back of my feet, lightly over toes, my elbows and wrists – because I am always drier in those areas. My preferred body-lotion is Mixa Cica Repair Body Lotion. On my face, I tend to apply the tanner neat or sometimes I’ll mix it in with my Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Serum because it’s super light, hydrating, but not greasy.

For a streak-free result I use a makeup sponge to apply tan on my face – don’t waste your money on a fancy one, I just use a simple triangle-shaped basic sponge you can buy in any pharmacy or drugstore. Start at the centre of the face and work your way out towards the hairline. Really blend well along the jawline and ears – also take it down your neck towards your chest.

Whether I use a mousse, lotion or spray, I will follow the same technique. I never ever apply the product neat, always with a mitt, the best (and trust me I have tried them ALL) is Sienna X Deluxe Self Tanning Mitt it’s satisfyingly thick and velvety soft. I start at my ankles and work my way up each leg, then cover the feet with whatever is left over on the mitt. Then I go over my bum and tummy, followed by my back. Arms are next, then chest and finally I skim over hands very lightly.


fake tan prep moisturise

This is the key step for a beautiful long-lasting glow. I will shower with a hydrating shower gel that doesn’t strip the tan, my fave is Soaper Duper Rich&Creamy Shea Butter Body Wash and I’ll gently exfoliate every 2 days so the tan fades evenly – the best maintenance scrub is Vita Liberata Super Fine Skin Polish Moisturising Exfoliator, it’s oil, paraben and alcohol-free, yet ultra-nourishing and leaves skin baby soft. And the final step is moisturise, moisturise, moisturise – I’ll use my Mixa body lotion or when I’m feeling luxy, I go for Sisley Repairing Body Lotion.

With these tips hopefully you won’t have, but mistakes happen. If you’re left with patches and blotches, you’re best to remove the whole lot and start from scratch. Add a few capfuls of baby oil to a  warm bath and soak for 15 minutes. When you get out, grab a dry washcloth or towel and rub over the patches, they will lift off easily. Alternatively try Bondi Sands Beach Tan Remover – it works a treat for me.

favourite self tans

8 self-tans that truly work

Meaning no patches, streaks or weird orange tone.

Most Long-Lasting:
Vita Liberata Phenomenal Mousse

Best for Oily Skin:
James Read H2O Tan mist

Most Hydrating:
Xen-Tan Fresh Face Tan

Best for a Subtle Glow:
St Tropez Self Tan express Face Sheet Mask

Best for Travel:
Dr Gross Glow Pads

Most Goof-Proof:
Garnier SummerBody Gradual Tanning Moisturiser Light

Best Overnight Tanner:
L’Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze Self Tan Overnight Elixir

Most Bespoke:
Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster


Photograph by Kenneth Willardt