• How do I pick the right fake tan?

    How do I pick the right fake tan?

    woman on fake tan

    The weather’s getting warmer and thoughts are turning to celebrations, enjoying the sunshine and relaxing with family and friends. Perhaps your friends are holding a beach party and you’ve just found the perfect bikini, complete with matching thongs so you don’t burn your feet on the sand. Everything seems perfect.

    • Sunscreen. Check.
    • Sunglasses and hat. Check.
    • Esky. Check.

    You try on the new bikini and turn to look in the mirror. Unfortunately, you’re not wearing your sunglasses so the glare from your pale skin is blinding. You gasp.

    “I look like the underbelly of a fish!”

    So what to do? You’ve done everything right. You wear sunscreen every single day to protect from the sun’s rays, you cover up so you don’t get burnt, and you take good care of your skin. This is great for keeping your skin looking smooth and supple, but you need to do something so the reflection from your pale skin doesn’t blind your friends on the beach and cause an unforeseen accident.

    Choosing the right fake tan for your skin tone

    Check your skin’s undertones

    When choosing a fake tan, you need to consider your skin’s undertone. For example, I have a mid-olive skin colour with cool undertones. How do I know this? Read on.

    It’s important to choose a fake tan that will enhance the undertones of your skin to achieve the most natural-looking effect.

    Cool – bluish/pink undertones

    Warm – golden undertones

    Neutral – a combination of cool and warm undertones

    Are you warm or cool?

    Test #1 – the wrist test

    A quick and easy test can determine your skin’s undertone. Take a look now at the underside of your wrist in natural light. Do the veins under your skin appear blue, or do they appear green? If your veins appear blue, that means you have cool undertones. If your veins appear green, you have warm undertones. If you can’t tell, it’s more likely that you are a neutral, with a combination of both cool and warm undertones.

     Test #2 – The jewellery test

    skin tone test

    Another test you can try to quickly determine your skin’s undertone is the jewellery test. Do you look best in gold and brassy tones or do you look better in silver, platinum and white gold? If you look your best in deep gold tones, you have warm undertones. If silver and white gold make your skin “pop”, you have cool undertones. If you can wear either and they look equally good on your skin, you are a neutral.

    Test #3 – Clothing

    Everybody has a colour that suits them best and most of us have figured out a range of shades that enhance our natural look. Do you look better in basic black, bright whites and primary colours? If so, your skin’s undertone is of the cool variety. If you look better in muted tones, camel, tan and cream? If so, you most likely have warm undertones. If you look good in pretty much any colour, you are most likely neutral.

     Once you have determined your skin’s undertone, check your fake tan (do a patch test) to make sure that the result will enhance your skin’s tone. Some fake tans have a dusky or ashy result (pinkish/bluish shade) that will look perfect on cool-toned skins. Other fake tans have a golden or caramel result (yellow/orange shade) that will enhance the look of warm-toned skin types.

    Types of fake tan products

     Spray booth or custom spray

    This is the option you can use when you want someone else to take care of your fake tan, ensuring you get an even application. There are pros and cons to this approach, but there are so many options that you can pick the one that’s best for you. The pros include a one-step application and the knowledge that the job has been done (hopefully) to an acceptable standard. The cons are dealing with the awkwardness of standing in a booth getting sprayed! A booth tan doesn’t last as long as a custom tan, and an even application is not guaranteed. You can choose a custom spray tan, which produces a more professional result, however you will need to allow someone to apply the tan for you, which is, let’s face it, a little bit awkward.

    You can opt for a home spray fake tan and get a friend or significant other to apply it for you. It’s also an option to apply the spray yourself, as you would apply a spray sunscreen or similar product. Just make sure you lay down a towel or some plastic sheeting or you may end up staining your floor or carpet. A good way to avoid this is to apply the spray in the shower – without the shower running!


    The consistency of mousse fake tan is just like a mousse you would use for your hair. The advantages of a mousse is that you can control the amount before application, and a mousse tends to go on smoothly. If you use the tinted variety, you can see where you have applied and which places you missed. A mousse is a great option for those with oily skin as it tends to be a drier application and it is quick drying as well. You need to test out the consistency to make sure it’s right for your skin, but a mousse can be a great option for applying your fake tan.


    Fake tan lotion

    This is a good option for those trying self-tanning products for the first time. A lotion is easy to apply and goes on smoothly. An advantage of creams and lotions is that drying time is longer and gives you more time to correct any spots that you may have missed.

    It’s important after applying an initial layer that you wait for it to dry and develop. If you rub too hard or apply too thickly in some areas, you could end up with uneven patches. It’s a simple way to apply fake tan and I prefer this basic method as a quick way to get a glowing fake tan.


    You can use a gel in the same way you would use a cream or lotion. Some gels can be runny and will drip during application so you need to be mindful of the consistency. The gels can be fast-drying so you need to apply quickly. The advantages of a gel is that they can produce a quicker, more uniform result.

    Bronzers vs Self-tanners

    Make sure you know which fake tan product is best for your needs. A bronzer is a tinted staining product that produces an almost instantaneous effect, but will disappear with your first dip in the ocean or a shower.

    A self-tanner may appear clear or tinted on application. A self-tanner requires time to develop and stain the skin, but the result will last longer than a bronzer, so may be the preferred option for those of you who wish to have a swim and come out with your fake tan intact.

    Skin care and application

    Wear gloves!

    This seems obvious, but it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of trying a new fake tan product that you forget the gloves. Whether you use a spray, lotion, gel, mousse or tanning wipes, you must wear gloves. Unless, of course, you particularly like the look of tanned palms. The best gloves I have found to use are those multi-pack disposable boxes. Once you have finished with them, you can peel them off and dispose of the pair, leaving your hands unscathed.

    Tanning mitts

    Using a tanning mitt can ensure that your application is smooth and stress-free. Some people prefer a mitt to using their fingers but either way, it’s important to wear gloves!


    Before you apply fake tan, it’s important to exfoliate your skin first to achieve a smoother, more uniform result. There are a number of great loofahs, exfoliating body washes and scrubs that you can use to make sure your skin is free from rough layers so you can start your application on a smooth, blank canvas.


    Apply an even layer of fake tan, making sure you don’t miss any spots. If you are unsure, it is best to wait until the tan develops before adding more product.

    Places you don’t want fake tan: your palms, the soles of your feet and the underside of your forearms. These are the areas that don’t tan naturally, and product an unusual-looking result.

    Maintenance and touch ups

    Keep the area moisturised and remember to wear sunscreen when you are outdoors. If you find an area has worn off, you can use a cosmetic bronzer (powder or lotion) as a last minute touch-up.

    How dark is too dark?

    dark tan

    Yes, we all want the perfect tan, but it’s important to be realistic. If you have pale, translucent skin (think Nicole Kidman), you really won’t be able to get away with a deep, dark olive tan. It’s important to make sure that your fake tan is in keeping with your overall look.

    Think enhancement, rather than setting your mind on unrealistic expectations. The best approach is to make sure it looks “natural”, as if you have been on holiday and came back with a healthy glow. And remember, even though you appear tanned, it’s still important to wear sunscreen!

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