Faux Tan Without the Faux Pas

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There’s a fine line between a tan and looking like you rolled in Doritos.

Last week, after my Anesi Celestial Secret Facial (more details to follow) one of my friends asked me “Can you see I’m wearing self-tan?”. I noticed that she was a bit browner than usual, but after her question, I went into eagle-vision mode. Then I saw it: a telltale patch of self-tan near her wrist and the unnatural darkening of the elbows. I offered her a few tips on how she could avoid such self-tanning bloopers in the future, which she has since used and loved so much that she suggested I dedicate a post to how to apply self-tan.

A day before you get your tan on:

Step 1: 24 hours before you apply self tan, you should shave/wax/epilate away those unwanted hairs (under arms, legs, and wherever else you need to). By doing this the day before you’re giving your pores a chance to settle and close before applying your tan, otherwise the tan will seep into your pores and make you look like you have orange microdots all over your legs.

Step 2: Exfoliate. This will ensure that whatever product you use is being applied to the freshest skin possible, which will help your tan to last longer and will result in a  more even tan that will fade as naturally as possible. Having gone the organic-as-much-as-I-can-route, I exfoliate with Bicarbonate of Soda.  Now your initial thoughts may be “Whoa lady, bicarb is for the kitchen” and “I aint putting that on my skin“, but take a look at this article which lists 7 surprising uses for baking soda (baking soda = the American name for bicarb). It makes my skin feel super smooth and the plus side is that it contains no harsh chemicals. If you have any hard skin on your feet, now is the time to whip out your foot file.

Step 3: Once you have exfoliated, slather a hydrating moisturiser all over your body.

Applying your tan:

Step 1: Shower, but don’t use any exfoliator or harsh soap. I use Johnson & Johnson Top to Toe Baby Wash as it doesn’t contain SLS (yes, I know I say that a lot, but the minute I do use a product containing SLS, having not used it for about 3 years, my skin becomes icky and it stages a small revolt). You’re aiming to wash the day away here, not strip your skin of all its natural oils.

Find it at Clicks or Dis-Chem

Step 2: Dry off thoroughly and apply moisturiser (not an oil like tissue oil) to your feet, coating them nicely, making sure you focus on the dry bits (dry skin + self-tan = not a good combination as it sucks the product up making it look very tanned orange). Do the same with your knees and elbows. We are aiming to prime the drier bits of your skin so that product penetration is even.

Step 3: is a bit involved, but the results will be worth it! You can either use your bare hands or a pair of latex gloves (which helps to minimise orange hands).

LEGS: Begin one leg at a time, starting from just above your ankle, working up your leg. Rub the cream/gel in by making small circle motions, followed by big circle motions. You have to work quickly here, as the product is likely to dry quickly. After you have done your small and big circle combo (the vertical rubbing in), cuff your legs with your hand, so you’re rubbing in a horizontal direction, and rub the product in using these hand motions, all the way up to your knee. Once you hit your thigh, you can use 2 hands to do this, as there is more to work with. Finish off by taking a small amount of product and applying it to your feet, being sure to apply it very lightly to the drier areas. Repeat with your other leg and move onto your tummy.

TUMMY: On your tummy you can use small circle movements to thoroughly work the product in. Once that is done, you should move onto your arms, which are pretty much the same as the legs.

ARMS: Start at your forearm and move down to just above the wrist and rub the product in using small circles followed by bigger circles, all the way up to your shoulder, reaching around to cover where your arm meets your back. When you are happy, use the cuffing method (if you are a bit confused here I will break it down for you: place your hand over your wrist, so you look like you are wearing a bracelet made out of your hand, where your thumb is on the bottom and the rest of your fingers on top. With your hand in this position, rub around your arm, going back and forth in a C-like motion) to ensure that you don’t have any vertical streaks. Continue with arm number 2.

CHEST & NECK AREA: Be sure to go all the way up the neck to the jawline, or if you use the same product for your face, to cover the face too. Make sure not to apply too much near the hairline or eyebrows. If you do get more product near those areas, simply wipe off with a tissue.

BACK: The final area to cover is the back. Take a small amount of product and work it into the back of the neck, all the way up to where your hairline starts, and as much as the top of the back and shoulder areas that you can cover. This is the part where you need to ask for some help in applying the product to the rest of your back that you can’t reach.

Step 4: Once you are happy that you have done enough weird geometric body rubbing movements on yourself, go over the parts that you didn’t cover, like your wrists and ankles use the Cuffing Method™ (yes, I gave it a name).

Step 5: If you didn’t use latex gloves, run to the bathroom like the devil is after you and wash your hands thoroughly. By thoroughly, I mean 3 times. [A note here for those whose hands have been discoloured 5 minutes after applying self-tan: wash your hands with soap and then apply some whitening toothpaste to your hands and use as soap. Let it sit for about 15 seconds and then wash off.]

Step 6: Finish off by applying some more moisturiser to elbows, knees, and dry areas of your feet. (Its okay to under-tan but over-tanning is a big no-no.)

Try not to get dressed for at least 5 minutes after applying self-tan and then get into some loose-ish clothing for about an hour afterwards. Avoid sweating or getting wet for 5-8 hours after application.

After the development time is up, you can have a shower. Be sure to moisturise every morning and night (if possible) to ensure your tan lasts as long as possible and fades evenly. Most self-tanners contain alcohol, which is very drying on the skin. Try not to shave every night too, as shaving removes the top layer of the skin and will contribute to making you look patchy.

My go-to tanners are:

St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse

Used by Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian, this luxury self-tanning mousse develops into an amazing colour (the green pigment ensures that you will NEVER look orange). It is tinted so you can see exactly where you are applying it, is easy to blend, and doesn’t look streaky.

My favourite aerosol self-tan.

I prefer aerosols for touch ups or maintenance, rather than first time applications, as the application method is a bit trickier and you run the risk of looking streaky. If you are thinking of applying tan from an aerosol, make sure the can is 30cm away from you, and work in vertical and then horizontal movements, to ensure even application. If you love the colour of an aerosol, but can’t get the application right, spray directly onto your skin (about 10cm away) and use a special tanning glove (made out of material or sponge, not a latex glove) and use circle motions and the method as described in the steps above to apply.

Piz Buin tinted self-tan lotion

This is a great product as if your tan hasn’t come out the shade you’d hoped for. Apply this the next day as a lotion. It’s tinted so gives a hint of colour, which will build on your already applied tan. You can find it at Clicks.

Vita Liberata Tinted Gel

Vita Liberata claims to be made of natural ingredients and develops into a golden, believable shade. I normally apply a body oil to my entire body before application, as I find it very hard to blend (it will dry quicker than you can say dihydroxyacetone, which is the key active ingredient in all sunless tanners). You can find it at selected beauty salons for around R260.

My favourite organic sunless tanner – Chocolate Sun

If anyone you know is coming from or you are going to the US, its worth it to order this product! It smells amazing and is chemical-free. Yay!

If all of this sounds like too much hard work, opt for a gradual tanner, which is easier to apply. Enjoy being a streak-free, bronzed goddess for the next 7 days! :)



P.S. If you overdid it a little, click here to find out how to remove those pesky streaks.