Mimic sun-kissed skin with our expert guide to achieving the perfect faux glow

Covet a sun-kissed glow? Instead of basking in the sun in real life, invest in one of the latest self-tan formulas. Far safer for your skin, these sophisticated products combine skincare ingredients with premium tanning agents to deliver a bronzed glow that, with the right application technique, looks natural and gorgeous.

To master the art of application, we ask tanning guru and founder of Isle of ParadiseJules Von Hep for all his top tanning tips. From prepping skin to tanning hands, follow our expert guide below.

Prep is key

“For a flawless glow, it really is all in the prep,” says Jules. Just as we prepare our skin for make-up, the same rule should apply to our tan.

“Shave or wax at least 24 hours prior to application and exfoliate skin,” says Jules. “This will help create a smooth surface for a more even result and, more importantly, will ensure your tan fades evenly just as a natural tan would.”

Remove any perfume & deodorant

“I recommend removing any perfume and deodorant prior to application to allow the tan to penetrate the skin,” advises Jules.

Fragrance can break down the tan as it develops and deodorant can react to fake tan, turning green. “For best results, apply your chosen self-tan an hour after showering so skin is clean and hydrated,” continues Jules.

How to apply fake tan to face

“First, find a formula that works for you,” says Jules. With increasingly sophisticated formulas that combine skincare ingredients with tanning agents, this is easier than ever before. “Isle of Paradise, for instance, offers a variety of formulas and all of them are packed with essential ingredients to ensure your skin glows,” says Jules.

For the face, Jules recommends self-tanning face drops. “They’re a great way to tan the face while also supercharging your existing skincare routine. Simply mix your desired number of drops (I advise two to three drops) into your favourite moisturiser, and apply the product in upward motions and down the neck to the décolletage.”

Products to try:

Try: Isle of Paradise Face Self-Tanning Drops

• Size: 30ml

• Available in three shades

• Contains colour-correcting actives

• Vegan-friendly

• Cruelty-free

“Combine two to four drops of our self-tan drops in with your favourite moisturiser,” says Jules. This will give you a healthy-looking, sun-kissed glow that will have people asking, ‘where have you been?’

Try: Vita Liberata Beauty Blur Face with Tan

• Size: 30ml

• Available in three shades

• Cruelty-free

This multipurpose hero acts as a primer, moisturiser and self-tan in one. The tinted formula instantly makes skin tone appear more even, while premium tanning agents boost glow over time.

How to apply fake tan on the body

“Moisturise your hands, elbows, knees and feet before and after application,” says Jules, “but don’t moisturise the rest of your body.” This step is key as moisturiser creates a barrier between the skin and self-tan, so it’s important not to moisture all over just before application. Instead, stick to the areas (as mentioned above) that are prone to dryness and are more likely to go patchy.

“When applying, start from the ankles and work your way up. If using a mitt/brush, sweep in a lengthways motion, applying even pressure and distributing the tan evenly over the skin,” instructs Jules.

After application, it’s time to buff and blend. “Use a brush to sweep lightly over the hairline, chest area, wrists, knuckles, knees, elbows, feet and ankles to ensure tan is beautifully buffed into these areas,” adds Jules. Finally, wash your hands (focussing on the palms and in-between fingers) and soles of the feet to remove any tan residue. 

Products to try:

Try: Skinny Tan Tan & Tone Wonder Serum

• Size: 145ml

• Vegan-friendly

• Cruelty-free

This lightweight, silky serum is loaded with nourishing and hydrating ingredients to help protect and moisturise skin while imparting a long-lasting medium tan that looks incredibly real.

Try: St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse

• Size: 200ml

• Vegan-friendly

• Quick-drying

• Non-sticky

For a flawless glow that develops in as little as one hour (yes, seriously), try this tan mousse that blends in effortlessly for a streak-free, natural-looking finish. Fast and foolproof – the perfect blend.

Try: Filter by Molly-Mae Large Velvet Tanning Mitt

• Machine washable

• Vegan-friendly

Wave goodbye to streaks with this super-soft tanning mitt that’s ideal for all-over body bronzing.

How to apply fake tan on hands

Many of us worry about orange hands when applying fake tan. To avoid this, Jules assures us that the trick is in the prep.

“Dry areas, such as hands and cuticles will absorb self-tan more than the other areas,” he says. “So, during your prep, I recommend using an aloe vera-based moisturiser as this will act as a blending agent, preventing the tan from going too dark in these areas. It will also help blend the colour in with the rest of your application.”

Immediately after applying fake tan, remember to wipe your palms and in-between your fingers.

Try: Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Body Lotion

• Size: 400ml

• Soothes dry skin

• Lightweight texture

• Non-greasy

Laced with soothing aloe vera, this is a great moisturiser to apply to dry areas (like hands) before applying self-tan.

Practice makes perfect

“Practice really does make perfect,” says Jules. “Note that each time you tan, you get better and always remember your prep!”

For more tips on how to achieve a year-round golden glow, watch our tutorial on bronzer application tips.

Shop more great tanning products in Boots’ full range. From tanning lotion to gradual tan and tanning mousse, your perfect match is just a click away.