Applying fake tan takes far more skill than lying in the sun, writes Elisabeth King. And its a lot safer.
Nothing beats a natural tan-for skin cancer or premature ageing, anyway. But before you hit the bottle to work up a healthy glow to attract the chicks-the George Hamilton way- it’s time for a few words of caution. Lesson number one: never apply fake tan before an important event or a big date.
Australians are one of the heaviest users of fake tan in the world. More than 9 per cent of the population over 18 has used self-tanning products, a South Australian study revealed. The biggest users are women aged 18 to 24, but even these skilled practitioners often botch their beach babe look and are left with streaky legs, dirty-looking knees and orange palms. Self-tanning products are more sophisticated than ever but there’s still a big margin for error if you don’t follow the rules.
You need at least 30 minutes to apply a fake tan properly. Timing is important, too. Using fake tan late at night will see you wake with dirty pillows and a sheet-marked tan. Apply the product in the morning and give it time to become properly absorbed before you get dressed – at least 30 minutes. Don’t apply fake tan after a very hot shower, either. Excess sweat can cause streaking as the tan develops.
SCRUB UP FIRST
Fake tans work best on clean, exfoliated skin. Use a facial scrub so the cream or gel doesn’t latch on to dry patches on your face and create a blotchy look. If your hair is thinning run a little Vaseline along your hairline so the lotion doesn’t run onto your scalp. Shave as closely as possible, too, or you run the risk of a temporary “range” look, with ginger stubble. If you are bronzing your body for increased muscle definition, exfoliate all over.
OLD CLOTHES, PLEASE
Tanning products stain, so wear old clothes. Also, buy surgical gloves from the chemist or wash your hands more times than Lady Macbeth to prevent your palms from turning orange.
SPREAD IT OUT
Always work in small areas to ensure even coverage. Put a small circle of fake tan – about the size of a 5 cent piece for the face and a 10 cent piece for the body – in the palm of one hand and then rub with the other to apply a light, even coating to your skin. If you apply self-tanner over your entire body always do half a limb a section at a time. Someone else will have to do your back, obviously.
Never put fake tan on knees, ankles, feet, elbows or hands. They are more wrinkled and dry than other parts of your body and the chance of streaking is high. If you do make a mistake, use toothpaste to erase the Streaky Bay look. Let it sit on the over-stained skin for a few minutes and then scrub away with a nail brush or toothbrush. If your tan doesn’t look seamless, moisturise the forbidden areas and apply a very, very thin film of self-tanner on top.
Don’t work out for a few hours after applying a fake tan because sweating can lead to streaks if the tan hasn’t “baked” long enough. To maintain your colour or deepen it, apply a thin layer daily. Also, be aware that most self-tanners do not contain sunscreen.