April 15th 2020
How to fake tan your face for a flawless glow
April 24th 2021 / 0 comment
Self-tan experts share their tips for a a natural long-lasting glow - with added cheekbones
Even if you're practised at applying self-tan to your body, the face is a whole different ballgame. While you can just about hide tanning errors on your arms and legs, nobody wants a streaky face.
But a facial self-tan, well applied, can give you a foundation-like glow from the minute you wake up, minimising the need for makeup. You're ready to go, you look natural, not done. In fact, Amanda Harrington, who bronzes the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Scherzinger, Holly Willoughby and Naomi Campbell, refers to her craft as "contouring" and "skin finishing" - nothing fake about it.
Who better to give us a face tan masterclass than Amanda and her fellow experts who tan celebrities for a living, where there really is no room for error? Here are their tips for your fool-proof glow.
1. Clean your face first
Don't fake tan your face until it's clean and oil-free (see below for why oil and fake tan should never mix). Founder of tanning brand Isle of Paradise and tanning expert Jules Von Hep suggests splashing your face with cold water to close the pores for a more even tan. Apply your usual serum and then apply your self-tan, making sure to work it into your hairline and down your neck as you would with foundation.
2. Give oil-based skincare a miss
If you're a facial oil fan, it's important to skip this step in your routine before or immediately after you have applied your self-tan. "Oil breaks down self-tan and causes it to separate on our skin," warns Amanda Harrington. She uses a hyaluronic acid-based moisturiser or primer such as her own Gradual Tan Primer, £23, which has a touch of DHA and will help your face tan last longer and fade more evenly.
On the plus side, oil is a great way to remove fake tan mistakes, says Amanda.
3. Exfoliate the day before
Just as you would rid your knees and ankles of dry skin before you tan your body, you should exfoliate your face too to ensure your canvas is smooth and there are no dead skin cells or dry spots to make your tan patchy. Jules suggests doing this 24 hours before you tan to get your facial canvas just right. "Exfoliating will help deliver a uniform skin tone," he says.
4. Dab extra moisturiser onto pigmentation spots
If you have age spots or areas of pigmentation on your face, Jules recommends applying a touch of moisturiser to them. This will buffer the tanning formula and prevent these areas from looking darker than the rest of your face.
5. Brush your teeth before you tan
Toothpaste is whitening, remember! "Toothpaste can collect at the side of your mouth and remove tan from the area if you do it afterwards," cautions Jules.
6. Use Vaseline on your brows and hairline if you're blonde
If you're fair-haired or have sparse brows Michaella Bolder, tanning expert for St Tropez wants you to add a protective balm to your tanning routine. "Use Vaseline on your brows and hairline to prevent colouring the hairs," she advises.
7. Swerve the body tan on your face
Back in the day, we used to add a smidge of moisturiser to our body tan and then apply it to our face. But these days there are sophisticated formulas designed specifically for our facial skin, often formulated to give a lighter, natural glow with skincare ingredients to hydrate and care for the skin without congesting it. We love Isle of Paradise's Hyglo Hyaluronic Self-Tan Serum for Face, £21.95, James Read's Glow20 Facial Tanning Serum, £25, and St Tropez's Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist, £22.
8. Only apply one coat of self-tan on your face
Less is more when you apply self-tan to your face. "Repeat after me, two coats on the body, one on the face," says Jules. "Faces that have too much self-tan on them look unnatural." Take your time when applying, starting with a thin layer, he says. It's easier to add more tan than to remove it.
9. Use a brush for a more natural-looking tan
Amanda Harrington recommends applying your face tan with a brush (such as her Face Buffer Brush, £30) because it buffs the tan onto the skin, pushing the colour in deeper, minimising the risks of streaking or patching. She uses a gradual tan hydrating primer first, to make the tan last longer and fade more evenly.
If you're using a face tan mist such as her Amanda Harrington Face Illuminating Bronzing Mist, £28, she recommends spraying it right onto your brush. "Starting in the centre of your face buff the colour in circular motions, remembering to blend product into the hairline," she says. "Then work down the neck and across the décolletage using circular, blending motions."
If you're contouring, always use a tan with a guide colour.
10. Use a brush to sculpt in cheekbones
A brush will also help you sculpt in cheekbones. We know we said one coat only but this is an exception. "After your initial face tan application, spritz another pump of the tanning mist onto your Face Lifter Brush, £35, and sweep up cheekbones and into the hairline," says Amanda. "Blend the colour into the temple area of the forehead and then down, across and into the jawline to achieve a lifted and sculpted look."
11. Use a sheet mask the day after tanning
Celebrity tanner James Read recommends using a hydrating sheet mask on day two of your tan to add hydration back into your skin and prolong your face tan.
12. Don't use retinol after tanning
We all know retinol can make the skin more sensitive, but did you also know it spells trouble for your tan? It increases cell turnover, which can shorten the life of your tan. "Retinol can accelerate the fade time of tan on your face, so choose light, hyaluronic-based lotions instead," says Amanda Harrington, who always advises tanning over a hydration primer or serum.
13. Use SPF - and a tan with a guide colour for morning tanning.
Even though you're now glowing, don't forget to layer on facial SPF. For that reason, it's often best to tan your face in the evening to give it a chance to settle before applying a thick layer of SPF - especially if you are on holiday and regularly topping up. If you are a day time tanner, Amanda Harrington recommends applying your face tan, followed by an oil-free SPF.
Her Face Illuminating Bronzing Tanning Mist, £28, has a guide colour, which means that the colour of your skin won't change in the six hours it takes for your tan to develop and your makeup will still look how you intended.