How to choose the best fake tan for you


Attaining the perfect fake tan can be both stressful and streaky. Generally, the only way to know if a tanning formula is right for you is through trial and error. Even if one fake tan turns your best friend into Gisele Bündchen, you might end up more like Bella Thorne.

The process can be brutal.

Self-tanning blunders happen to the best of us. But with new formulas, a variety of base colours and innovative methods of tanning, it’s never been easier to get it right. In the spirit of warm weather and off-the-shoulder tops, we spoke to the experts to find out how to bypass the mishaps and go straight to a bronzed goddess.

Do you need a green-, violet- or ash-based tan? Are you stuck deciding between a mousse or a spray? Have you googled ‘maintaining fake tan’ and were left even more confused? Then you are in the right place.   

We share exactly how to choose the best fake tan product for you, as well as how to maintain your golden glow.

Base colour

Self-tanning has never been so customisable. Base colours allow you to match your tan with you skin tone so your tan looks natural. The first step in deciding which base colour is right for you is to determine whether your skin tone is cool, warm or neutral.

“Ash base suits all skin tones, but particularly cool skin tones and people who are fair skinned. Violet base is particularly suited to warm, European skin tones or already tanned skin. Green base is the perfect all-rounder. It suits all skin tones, particularly people with a neutral base,” explains Jasmine Taylor, Le Tan Brand Manager.

If you can’t decide which base to use, Jasmine suggests selecting your tan based on the jewellery you wear. “If you generally wear gold jewellery then choose a violet base, and if you generally wear silver jewellery, choose the ash base.”

bh loves: Le Tan Ultra Dark Self Tanning Foam, LYCON Sun Faker, Dr. LeWinn’s Sunless Self-Tanning Lotion, Jbronze Dark Tanning Spray


With so many formulas on the market, how do you know which one to choose? St. Tropez Skin Finishing Expert, Michael Brown, says it depends on the moisture level needed and the preferred depth of colour. “Mousse will always give great depth, but not as moisturising – same goes for a spray formula. Cream formula is great for dry skin, as is oil-based self-tan, but the depth of colour will be slightly lighter,” he explains.

When choosing your colour, it’s often thought a light tan is best for fair skin, and medium-to-dark for olive skin, but the expert suggests the opposite. “Olive skin already has a great base colour so a light formula can give the boost they need without looking too dark. For fair skin, they usually want to see colour, so one coat of deep is perfect,” continues Michael.

bh loves: St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse, Ella Bache Great Tan Without Sun, Reef Beach Glow Instant Tan Foaming Mousse, Bondi Sands Self Tanning Foam – Dark

RELATED: 9 of the best self-tanning products under $14

Getting a flawless finish

Once you’ve decided on your base colour, formula and the colour of your tan, it’s time to prepare your skin. Preparation is essential in avoiding streaks and patches. “Exfoliation before applying your self-tan is the most important process in applying your tan,” says Blair James, Co-Owner of Bondi Sands. “Self-tanning products will grab to any areas of dry skin resulting in blotchy patches and your tan flaking off in the coming days.”

According to Blair, application is also key. Here are his tips for ensuring an impeccable tan, every time.

“Always use a tanning mitt and start with a small amount of tanning lotion or foam. You can always add more as needed and gently apply in a smooth circular motion for tanning lotions and a long fluent motion for tanning mousses.

“When tanning areas of rough skin such as the hands, elbows, knees and feet, leave these areas to last and only use the residue left on the mitt.

“If you apply too much product and want to lighten the colour of your tan, soak cotton balls in lemon and wipe [this] over [your] tan, until [the] desired colour is achieved.”

bh loves: Le Tan Application Mitt, 1000 Hour Self Tan Applicator Mitt, St. Tropez Tan Build Up Remover Mitt, ANTHEIA Express Fake Tan Remover KIT


We all want our tan to last as long as possible. There’s nothing worse than applying a perfect tan, only to have it flake off within a few days. “The key to maintaining a tan for as long as possible is ensuring you are moisturising thoroughly immediately after application and for the days following application,” explains Michael.

Along with keeping your skin hydrated, using a gradual tanner is the secret ingredient in maintaining your tan. “Applying a gradual tanning lotion or foam after having a spray tan also helps moisturise the skin while continuing to build colour every day you apply,” says Michael.

bh loves: Aveeno Active Naturals Daily Moisturising Lotion, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Lotion with Vitamin E, Le Tan Coconut Water Gradual Tanning Lotion, JERGENS Natural Glow + Firming Daily Moisturiser

RELATED: 10 gradual tanners to try

When to visit the professionals

If the thought of a DIY tan still makes you nervous, you can always hit up the professionals. “Professional spray tans can be great as the sometimes tricky application process is in the hands of a professional who can reach every area of your skin with ease… and are perhaps more reliable than your partner for accessing those hard-to-reach areas,” says Jasmine.

Spray tans are great for beginners who have a special event they want to look bronzed for. The downsides of professional tanning are the cost, not being in the comfort of your own home and having to make an appointment in advance. However, if you haven’t nailed your at-home tanning routine yet, visiting the pros will typically guarantee a flawless result.

Do you prefer a DIY tan or do you get professional spray tans? What’s your favourite self-tanner?

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