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Want a Streak-free Tan? This Expert Reveals How

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Want a Streak-free Tan? This Expert Reveals How

As the temperature rises and the need to show some skin increases there is only one thing on my mind — self tan. Yep, it is officially fake tan season and the time of year when I embark on a three-month constant cycle of weekly self-tan application and removal to ensure I look bronzed throughout the summer. I have to admit, before I was aware of the damage UVA and UVB can do to the skin I was quite the sun worshiper, thankfully I have now swapped trying to grab every last ray for a good SPF, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still long for a natural-looking tan. Although now I prefer to achieve summer skin with a faux glow.

One of my personal favourite tanners has always been James Harknett, Three Warriors Global Creative Artist, he is based in the W London where he turns self-tanning into an art form. His eye for detail and quick application means he is one of London’s best-kept secrets and it is no surprise he has a celebrity fan list which includes Kylie Minogue, Kate Beckinsale and David Gandy. As it’s unfortunately not possible to have him round every Thursday night to ensure I am streak-free, I recently grilled him for all his top tanning tips at home.

Read on to find out why the perfect application is all in the prep and why you need to apply in a cool bathroom.


How to Prepare For a Perfect Self-Tan Application

Ever heard the phrase, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”? Well, this needs to be your mantra before you reach for the fake tan. “A few days before you plan your application of self tanner, start by smoothing out the skin with an exfoliator,” Harknett tells PS UK. “Concentrate on areas that get a build up of cells, such as under the breasts and on strap lines. These are common areas where tan often clings to heavy.”

If you prefer a physical exfoliator you can opt for a gentle scrub like Estrid The Essential Exfoliator (£7.95) not only will this get rid of dead skin cells it will also help reduce any ingrown hairs. If chemical exfoliators are your preference then Q+A Salicylic Acid Body Wash (£6.50) is a great switch for the shower.

It is also the time to start thinking about defuzzing: “Ensure any hair removal is done well before you tan,” says Harknett. “24 hours or more is best for shaving, for body wax then make it 48 to 72 hours. The skin can then renew evenly and the self tan has enough cells to bind with to allow the tan to react.”

If you’re having your hair tinted or coloured, whether this is on your head or your eyebrows, it needs to be done before your tan as the chemicals in hair dye will strip your tan around the hairline. This can lead to patches and tell tale signs that your faux glow is indeed fake.

Where Should You Fake Tan at Home?

If like me you’ve lost a good bed spread in a self tan incident or dropped a pump of tan on the carpet then listen up. “I always recommend working in a cool bathroom, where there is no humidity,” says James. This means not after a shower or a bath. It may be best to open the windows for a bit before you settle down for a self tan session too. If you can, Harknett suggests working with a mirror so you can check to see if you have missed any areas in the back or side.

“Before any tan hits the skin, ensure hair is tied back and remove all jewellery,” say Harknett. “And add a little Vaseline over the brows to act as a barrier.” If you’ve chosen a mist formula then it’s a good idea to throw down a towel to avoid the tan going on the floor. It can also prevent it from sticking to the souls of your feet. “Always moisturise the parts of the body that self tan can gather, such as the heels, knee caps, elbows, hands and tops of feet,” says James. “A little moisture will act like a barrier to the skin and will give the most natural results.”

Which Areas Should You Self-Tan First?

Always start with the legs first. “Bend the knee by lifting it, to open the creases,” says Harknett. “If you’re using a mousse, then apply in round circular motions which will allow a smooth, even and fast application.” Ankles can be one of the trickiest areas to get right so Harknett recommends approaching with caution. “As you get towards the ankles and feet try and graduate the tan gently,” he recommends. “Use less pressure or opt for a tanning brush, as this can delicately disperses your tan over around the heel and feet.”

One of the main struggles when self-tanning at home is reaching the middle of the back. I have tried everything from tying a tanning mitt to a wooden spoon, to switching the mitt on to the back of my hand to try to reach the centre of the back. Thankfully there are now products, like Velvo Tanning Back Applicator (£5.99) made to conquer those hard to reach areas and according to Harknett it is worth purchasing. “Snap open back tanners allow you to work in a tanning mousse or liquid,” he explains. “Stand sideways in front of your mirror so you can see that you cover the whole back.”

Another area many feel apprehensive to tan is the face, “When it comes to tanning the face I recommend a mist like Three Warriors Face Tan Aqua Mist (£32) as it has a super-light consistency which does not weigh heavily on the skin,” says Harknett. “This certified organic product from the award-winning Australian brand is packed with natural oxidants and natural oils to soothe, hydrate, and protect the skin. It is so simple to apply, with a spray-on mist you spritz straight onto the skin, lifting your face, neck and decolletage.”

How Do You Make Your Self Tan Last Longer?

To keep your tan lasting longer and to enable a gentle fade, moisturise, moisturise, moisturise. This will not remove your tan, and if anything it will enhance the skin to give you a healthy looking glow. “A spray on moisturiser is ideal and can be used on the go,” says Harknett. “It will help you to avoid over-rubbing the skin, which is a no no.”

Although it may be tempting to show off your tan in your swimsuit, the chlorine will remove your tan so it’s best to avoid. “As the tan is in our skin cells, avoid hot baths too,” adds Harknett.

“If you’re an avid gym enthusiast, try a powder in your sports bra or active wear,” recommends Harknett. “A cooling powder or talcum powder on the skin will shield the tan from being rubbed by the friction of your sports bra – this is also a tip I give to all brides on their wedding day so it allows them the much needed movement in their dress.”

Lauren Ezekiel is an associate editor at PS UK, where she writes about all things beauty and wellness. With a degree in journalism and 12 years’ experience as a beauty editor at a leading Sunday supplement, she is obsessed with skincare, hair and makeup, and is often found offering advice to innocent bystanders. Her work has been published in Grazia, OK, Health and Beauty, The Sun, ASDA, Dare and Metro.

Want a Streak-free Tan? This Expert Reveals How

Estrid The Essential Exfoliator £7.95 from estrid.com Buy Now

Want a Streak-free Tan? This Expert Reveals How

Q+A Salicylic Acid Body Wash £6.50 from hollandandbarrett.com Buy Now

Want a Streak-free Tan? This Expert Reveals How

Velvo Tanning Back Applicator £5.99 from boots.com Buy Now

Want a Streak-free Tan? This Expert Reveals How

Three Warriors Face Tan Aqua Mist £32 from threewarriors.co.uk Buy Now