I’m A Seasoned Self-Tanner And These Are The Best Hacks I Know

fake tan hacks

When it comes to self-tanning, there’s plenty of room for error. But there are also plenty of fake tanning hacks that can help make the journey to bronzed, glowing skin, more of a breeze. Trust me, I’d know.

As someone who has been popping open bottles of self-tan regularly for the past 12 years, I’ve had my fair share of streaky disasters, fake tan hands and stained sheets.

And sure, having the best fake tan formula by your side or opting for a more subtle gradual tan can help. But really, it’s all in the application technique.

So if you live alone and want to know how to tan your back, or can’t ever seem to stop the colour from catching in your knuckles, I’m here to share my faux glow wisdom.

The best fake tanning hacks I know

#1 You don’t HAVE to sleep in your tan

I’m a sweaty sleeper. I like to snuggle under a doona no matter the weather, and I hold it right up over my ear and under my chin. So no matter what I wear to bed or what fake tan I’m using, colour transfer is unavoidable.

What is avoidable, however, is wearing fake tan to bed in the first place. Fast-developing formulas are just as good as six to eight-hour ones these days. Most are 1-3 hours (the longer you leave, the deeper the tan) and so I prefer to pop my tan on before dinner and rinse it off before bed. The colour continues to develop after the guide is washed away and no stained sheets!

My favourite fast tans:

#2 Green-based tans work best for me

If you’re trying to avoid an unnatural-looking tan, the key to the right colour lies in the base of the formula and whether it matches your own undertone. I myself am fair, cool-toned and prefer a medium-depth tan, so, in general, a green base suits my skin best. Isle of Paradise is a great brand for discovering what works for you, making it extra easy with peach, green and violet colour-correcting tans. Not only do they represent different depths of glow, but they each counteract things like redness and sallowness, depending on your skin tone and formula choice.

#3 Go from palm to pit

Ever missed the underside of your arm and not realised until you’re on the dancefloor the next night raising the roof? It’s easy to do. As for the tanning hack that’ll save you from doing it again, I like to remember: palm to pit.

Hold your arm up in front of the mirror just like you’re asking a question in school, and run your mitt from palm to pit. While I’m in the same position I like to make sure I’m hitting wrist to inner elbow, and down to my shoulder too. When your arms are down, these spots are essentially invisible. But they become very noticeable when dancing the Y.M.C.A.

#4 Tan your back with a coat hanger

Sure, having someone else tan your back is always the best solution, but there have been plenty of times where I’ve found this not to be an option. The best stand-in? Put your mitt on a coathanger for an extender arm. And yes, I know there are back applicators. But in terms of convenience, effectiveness and being able to use the same mitt (therefore not dirtying a second applicator and making the most of all tan residue), it’s one of the best fake tanning hacks out there.

#5 Apply hand cream pre and post-tan

Oh, hands. Why are they the most difficult part of self-tanning? Leave them be and the contrast between your paws and bronzed arms will be staggering. But go in too hard with your mitt and you’re left with orange knuckles.

What I’ve found works best is to apply a smidge of hand cream or moisturiser to your hands (focusing on the knuckles) both pre and post-tan application. It creates a more subtle result to blend in with your arms while avoiding tan hands.

Also, there’s no need for a new pump of tan to do your hands. Simply run the residue on your tanning mitt lightly over the top and palm of each hand. I try to create a smooth transition of colour by applying more pressure while I’m close to my arm and less as I reach my fingertips, kind of in an upwards sweeping motion. Then, as the last step and to ensure the colour is subtle and smooth, I apply a touch of hand cream again and buff it in.

The same can be done for feet and toes I’d presume, but even I’ve never been that dedicated.

#6 Utilise face tan drops

If you like your face to match your body tan, I think face tanning drops are the best and easiest way to achieve a natural colour. They’re also my saviour in winter when only my face and decolletage are going to be on show. I will not commit to a top-to-toe tan for just that, thank you very much.

I like the ones that can be dropped into your usual face moisturiser, mixed together and applied to your face (but there are also some tanning serums with great reps). Take extra care to blend right down your neck, into your hairline and your ears too, to avoid telltale lines. Oh, and you’ll definitely want to wash your hands straight after! But trust me, once you get the hang of them, they’re the best invention.

#7 Paint your nails after you tan

This one specifically refers to special occasions when I’m going the whole nine yards with my beauty routine.

I tend to prefer pastel and neutral nail shades, which means they’re more prone to staining. So I’ve found it always best to paint my nails (or get them done) after tanning. Plus, any buffing and cuticle trimming can also help to get rid of unwanted fake tan stains too.

Do you fake tan? What’s your best fake tan hack?

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Comments 34

  1. Some really great tips in this article, but it’s something I’ve never bothered with. As a domestic cleaner I’ve seen the results of people’s home tanning with stained towels, sheets, toilet seats, showers, bathroom cabinets and sinks, floors, etc.

  2. I only tan my legs and always moisture skin first and then apply self tanning. I always do this in the morning and shower before I go to bed I have a shower and don’t seem to get any on the bedding

  3. Coat hanger tip, brilliant! I prefer lighter skin tone as tanned look is a bit harsh on me now. I do not get fair though ever (even with vampire lifestyle), naturally light olive, so not really into tanning.

  4. My best fake tan hack is coming from the fact that my skin is naturally quite a dark tan anyway and so I generally don’t need the stuff BUT….. I love fake tan for this:

    I wear many different styles of bikini tops and so where my bikini covers my skin, I have a lighter tan colour there naturally. So I use fake tan only for that lighter tan area and it makes it look good that my skin doesn’t show a paler tan where my ‘0ther’ bikini top was covering when I wear a different style of top. I hope this makes sense!

  5. I have olive skin colour, and tanning from time to time is great! I do it through out the year for special occasions. I prefer trying to get the real sun tan but its not easy with sunscreen.

  6. After reading about all the bits you can miss, I feel more daunted by trying a full-body fake tan than ever! I wish I could favourite this article, as we used to.

    I usually just use a teensy amount on my legs & feet to take off the blinding white glare.

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