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Faking it

How to get a sunless tan

Faking it
15 August 2011

I have pasty Anglo skin and used to use sunbeds. Now that everyone has agreed they’re dangerous, I’ve started playing around with self-tanning products at home. The problem is, I end up looking like I’ve been Tango’d for the first couple of days. How can I avoid going too orange and streaky? Do I need to change products?

Joel, Berkshire

Our expert Ahmed Zambarakji answers your questions below:

‘Fake baking’ is riddled with pitfalls. As you've learned, you can never tell how deep a tan is going to get until it’s kicked in hours – or even days – later. What looks like a natural glow at three o’clock could evolve into full-on George Hamilton radioactivity by midnight. So if you insist on going about the task of deepening your skin tone, always do a patch test first (no, not on your face) to see how your skin will react to a particular product.

The quality of the active ingredient (something called Dihydroxyacetone, a derivative of fructose often used as a food colourant) is hugely important on the final result. I'm fond of Giorgio Armani’s Skin Minerals for Men Moisturising Bronzer (£33 for 75ml from

if you’re after just a healthy glow on your face and He-Shi Day To Day Gradual Tan (£14.50 for 200ml from or Xen-Tan Dark Lotion (£28.99 for 236ml from for a deeper tan on the body.

As for applying the stuff, it’s not as simple as opening the bottle and slapping the stuff on your skin. It’s important to begin with a thorough exfoliation. Everywhere. This ensures the skin cuticle is flat and smooth enough to allow for a more even and longer-lasting tan. You then need to moisturise any dry bits including knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, feet and hands - not forgetting nails and ears, either - to make sure the tan spreads evenly. Don’t forget to go to the very top of the hairline. If the tan doesn’t spread evenly across your forehead or suddenly cuts off at the neckline, you’ll just look ridiculous.

Only now can you get round to applying the self-tanning product. Work with quick, long strokes until every inch of your body is covered and use a mitt to flick the product through any body hair. Avoid getting any product into your eyebrows or hair, as lighter hairs will absorb the colour (you can use a bit of Vaseline as a barrier). Complete the look with a 60ft yacht and a curious European lilt to your accent. Sorted.

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(Images: Rex Features)