How to prep before a spray tan

Do you want to fake a golden glow in time for your night out/holiday/festival? Get a streak-free, long-lasting tan without any sun rays in sight, with our guide to applying fake tan.

Flat lay of fake tan products

How to prep before a fake tan

Exfoliate everywhere you want to tan

No one goes into a fake tanning sesh wanting an uneven finish. So minimise your chances by exfoliating the night before with a body scrub. This will remove dead skin cells and make for a super-smooth base.

If you totally forgot to do this the night before, then quickly use a buffing brush before you apply any tan and it should also do the trick. Exfoliating is a MUST and applies to spray tans too!

Remove any unwanted hair the day before

If waxing and use hair-removal creams are your preferred choices for hair removal, then make sure you defuzz at least a day before you want to apply your fake tan. These methods can take off the top layer of skin cells, so if you do just before tanning it may have patchy side effects.  

Moisturise dry areas

Don’t you just hate it when your elbows and knees give the fake tanning game away? To keep the drier areas from going patchy, make sure you moisturise all over and pay extra special attention to these problem areas. Try to leave the moisturiser to sink in for at least half an hour before applying fake tan.

The best way to apply fake tan

Step 1 - Prep your tanning mitt

Take your instant tan product in one hand (this can be mousse or lotion) and tanning mitt in the other, and squeeze/pump straight on to the mitt. 

Top tip: To spread the product out evenly on the mitt, scrunch your hand up into a fist before moving to step 2. 

Makeup artist pumping tanning mousse on to a tanning mitt

Step 2 – Apply in circular motions

Focusing on one body part at a time, apply the fake tan in circular motions – making sure you reach every inch. A common mistake is to miss out the inner parts of the body (eg inside of the arm) so make sure you apply your product to all areas - nobody wants a paler patch!

Build up the colour so that it’s even (if your product has a tanning guide this will be easy to see) and rubbed in properly and buff out any overlapping parts.

Top tip: If you’re applying instant tan, you need to work very quickly to get an even coating of tan. And if you need to buff any noticeable streaks then use a kubuki brush to blend it out.  

Makeup artist applying fake tan to model using a tanning mitt

 Step 3 – Leave to dry down

Drying times may vary from product to product so always double check the instructions and leave to dry as per the recommended time slot. After the colour has developed, if you're using a tanning lotion, you may also need to wash it off and then you’ll be good to go.

Makeup artist and model letting fake tan dry

The finishing touches

If you want to go for that Riri-esque glow on your body, all you need to do is finish with a touch of shimmering body lotion or oil.

If you’ve applied a gradual tan, then to retain the new golden glow for longer top up on moisturiser every day.

Top fake tan tips & tricks

Don’t end up with orange hands

Always use a mitt, or gloves, when handling fake tan products as you may end up with giveaway, extra-glowy hands. If you decide to brave it and go without anything covering your hands, then set a timer and make sure you wash your hands every 5 minutes.

Aftercare tips 

To prolong your tan, keep your skin moisturised and hydrated. And hot showers and baths can dehydrate skin, which leads to faster flaking and peeling. Turn the heat down and switch to cooler showers, to help lock in moisture and colour.

Apply fake tan at night

Not only will applying your gradual tan at night give it more time to develop,   but it also means you’ll have less chances of smudging it. Pjs tend to be the loosest types of clothing, so this can help you avoid any dreaded patches.

Clean up after tanning

Always wash your tanning applicator mitt after each use with warm, soapy water and leave to air dry. This will prevent a build-up of product on the mitt and ensure a clean, even tan application every time.