June 13, 2023

Golden Girls: The Ultimate Guide To Fake Tan

Photography: Kristina Yenko / H&MU: Chloe Langford / Styling: Lucy Wood


Your ultimate guide to self-tanning the right way.

There’s nothing healthy about a tan. A faux tan, however? That’s a different story. Give your skin a sun-kissed glow–sans UV damage–this winter with these next-gen formulas and expert tips.

The Right Formula

With so many self-tan products to choose from, it’s easy for a lady (or gent) to become overwhelmed. Start by finding the right formula for your skin tone before worrying about the delivery method.

Let’s Talk Undertones

Every tanning product has a base colour to ensure a natural result on different skin tones, the most popular being peachy-red (fair skin), green (medium skin tones) and violette (olive to dark skin). 

Despite what brands will tell you, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to which base colour will suit you, says Natalie Papadopoulos, founder of The Parlour Room. In Papadopoulos’ experience, while these categories can provide a guide, don’t be afraid to break the rules. “It comes down to personal preference on what will also compliment your features, not just your skin tone.”


As a rule, fair skin tones will benefit from a formula with peachy undertones, like Isle Of Paradise Glow Clear Self-Tanning Mousse in Light, $42, to brighten pale skin and colour correct. St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Vitamins Bronzing Water Body Mist, $49.99, is enriched with vitamins C and D to provide skincare benefits while giving skin a light golden glow.


Green-based formulas are the LBD of self-tanners; whether your skin is pale, dark or somewhere inbetween, a product with green undertones is a safe and popular bet. Elle Effect The Self Tanning Mousse, $44.95, is green-based for a bronze finish and get bonus points for its rose scent. Newcomer Mecca Cosmetica Sunless Goddess Tanning Mousse, $36, leaves a sunkissed glow on all complexions and is oil-, sulphate-, paraben- and fragrance-free.


If you have olive to dark skin, a formula with purple or blue undertones, like Isle Of Paradise Glow Clear Self-Tanning Mousse in Dark, $42 , or Bali Body Ultra Dark Self Tanning Mousse, $30.95, will even-out your skin tone and give you a really deep bronze colour without a hint of orange.

Delivery Method

Whether you choose a cream, foam, gel or spray, the outcome is the same – however, the application method can vary. If you’re working with a foam or gel, use a tanning mitt. Most gradual tans come in a creamy consistency and Papadopoulos recommends using your hands “as a cream would soak into the mitt”. For mists, spritz onto skin and blend in with your mitt.

Apply Yourself

Prep Work

Your prep work starts not long after your last tan. “For regular tanners, you should begin exfoliating lightly two days after you’ve applied your tan,” Papadopoulos tells Gritty Pretty. “Because your skin sheds in cycles, you’re not going to get the same result from one exfoliation.” A gentle scrub each day – nothing compares to Frank Body’s Original Coffee Scrub, $16.95 – will help your tan fade evenly. If it’s the night before and you need to call in the big guns, try Bali Body Self Tan Remover, $24.95 to scrub off every last bit.

To create a smooth canvas, do any hair removal 24-48 hours beforehand to prevent the tan from settling in open pores or irritating skin.


The Main Event

Step 1: Make sure your skin is completely clean – that means no perfume, no deodorant, nothing.

Step 2: Take a body moisturiser (any will do) and apply it to your ankles, elbows and knees. Rub it in well to prevent the product from dragging.

Step 3: Use a tanning mitt. Always.

Step 4: With a mirror to guide you, apply the product using circular motions, leaving your face, hands and feet free.

Step 5: Do you have a face tan? Papadopoulos recommends applying it to your face, hands and feet before using a large, fluffy powder brush to buff it in.

Step 6: Wait the appropriate amount of time before washing the tan off; wear loose-fitting clothing while you do so.

Step 7: Wash the product off. Your work here is done!


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