Fake tan has flummoxed me from a young age. I've tried them all. Drugstore to high end, tinted moisturiser to full on dark lotion, nothing seemed to work for me. Primarily, the smell gets to me. It seems to linger long after the guide colour is washed off. Tans can be too orange, too dark, too pale or wear off hideously. But I think, finally, I've got it down.
Step 1: Exfoliate and shave
You know the drill, slough off those dead skin cells to give your tan the best foundations you can possibly give. Exfoliating will also give you the closest shave possible so go for it. My favourite combination is a exfoliating glove teamed up with Garnier's Ultimate Beauty Oil Nourishing Scrub, which seems to retain the moisture in the skin while giving a deep cleanse. If you are doing this a while before you tan, slather yourself in moisturiser as you step out of the shower to give you the best possible start to your new tanned life.
Step 2: Prep
Make sure your fingers and toes are painted with a clear polish to prevent yellowing, maybe even go under the tips of long nails to prevent tan from discolouring them from beneath. Add a little moisturiser to the dryer parts of your body; we are talking knees, elbows, ankles, toes, hands and the underarm area. This prevents the tan from catching too much and looking patchy. My favourite moisturiser for the job is old trusty E45 Moisturising Lotion, in a pump bottle which is far easier to dispence when you have tan all over your hands than a squeezy bottle.
Step 3: Tan
Try your hardest to tan at night after you've brushed your teeth so you can avoid water at all costs. My ultimate top tip in this guide is to get a double sided tanning mitt. Primark do a great inexpensive one for £3, and it is so very worth it. I currently use He-Shi Express Liquid Tan all over my body. Once you get past the name, it builds to a beautiful olive colour, fades nicely and the smell doesn't linger. It amazes me how little this tan actually smells. I apply this all over my body, doing one layer, allowing it to dry and then applying another. When I want to be extra dark for a special occasion I will reapply the next night as well to bump up the colour. On difficult areas such as feet I don't go straight in, but put a dot of colour onto the tops of my feet with the dirty side of the mitt, then swap it round to the clean side of the mitt to blend the colour. This gives the most natural blended out effect and is perfect for people who can be slightly heavy handed, like me. The technique is also useful for hands, making sure to blend throughly into knuckles and the edges, and for any areas of your body you feel needs more blending but don't want to increase the colour of the tan. Use the cleaner side of the mitt like a rubber, to blend out edges. If you have dry skin like me, after you finish applying your tan, put some E45 onto the cleaner side of the mitt and rub a little over your feet, hands and areas which always go too dark to lighten them up.
Step 4: Development
I usually apply this at about 10pm, go to sleep and wake up to colour! I wash it quickly down the drain in the shower, and go all over with, you guessed it, E45! From then on I try to moisturise after every shower I have and exfoliate at around the 3 day mark. The tan will generally last on me for around 4-5 days before a top up is needed, where I repeat the process all over again.
Step 5: The Face
Always the trickiest and most risky area when tanning, you can go two ways. I often go in with what's left over on the dirty side of the tanning mitt, dot it on my cheeks, forehead and nose, and blend with the cleaner side. For those with sensitive skin, I would recommend using a designated facial tanner, my favourite being Clarins Liquid Bronze Self Tanning for Face. I apply this with my fingers before I do the rest of my body, so I can wash it off my hands before I start. I use this to top up my facial tan everyday after my moisturiser, as it adds only a subtle colour, but my face tan fades much faster than my body as I use exfoliating muslin clothes on it so often.