Weathered and raw, yet definitely not real, the ‘desert tan’ is the only way to glow according to those in the know

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Mahogany has had its moment; the modern tan is far more subtle than the spray on leather handbag hues that have perniciously seeped into modern society by way of reality television. Given that ‘getting a tan’ is still the main motivation of the 20% of adults who go out in strong sun in the UK without sun protection according to a survey of 2000 people conducted by Nivea Sun, it’s about time that we got real not only about the risks of sun exposure, but also the shade that our skin looks good in. The likelihood is that the tan that looks flattering, healthy (only if it’s fake of course) and radiant is one that’s not too much of a departure from our natural skin tone, whether that be light, olive, dark or very deep (luminous bronzers look beautiful on black skin). Happily, the SS16 shows put paid to the idea of identikit, overcooked tans, waving in an inclination for all things low key, organic and most importantly, individualised. Bronzing got brainy, and here’s your tanning mood board.

The look: Attainable, and anything but generic. According to the experts at MAC, the contemporary glowing icon is a woman ‘who confidently flirts with the idea of a tan without actually looking bronzed’. If that sounds a bit wishy washy, the key is to keep colour sheer and believable, with a final goal of looking ‘sun kissed rather than suntanned’, as makeup artist Lynsey Alexander puts it.

If you’re at a loss as to your colour palette, follow Charlotte Tilbury’s advice and opt for ‘burnished, lucid golden tones that play with the light to give a dreamy, goddess-like quality to the skin.’

If all else fails, keep it real, as makeup artist Lyne Desnoyers emphasises:

“For this makeup to look modern it absolutely has to look like a second skin.”

Makeup artist Gordon Espinet seconds this:

“The simplicity and uncontrived feel is retained because the skin and the eyebrows are much more natural.”

The inspiration: Destination wise, the south of France and chi chi resorts are out. Think the wilder deserts and plains of Arizona, Brazil, Mexico and remote Pacific Islands. From makeup artist Tom Pecheux ‘artisanal and handmade’ flush at Altuzarra to Alex Box’s take on ‘Brazilian heat’ at Barbara Casasola, catwalk tans were exotic and and earthy rather than overly glossy or perfected.

There was a distinctly outdoorsy, sporty vibe going on at many a show too; Lucia Pieroni built up warmth and dewiness to create ‘sexy, surfer girls’ at DSquared2 while Lucy Burt’s ‘70s skater girl with a cool beach vibe’ at J.JS Lee rocked ‘a fresh face with an intense, passionate flush.’ Full of life, rather than opaque and uniformly sprayed on, is the way forward.

The technique: Mixing up your textures and getting your hands dirty will serve you well on your journey to the desert. Freestyling is encouraged. If you find the perfect tone of taupe lipstick to create a tawny shadow, blend it right in. Some makeup artists backstage ditched brushes altogether and worked colour into skin with the heel of their hands instead, often eschewing foundation on the cheeks to create an even more rustic glow.

Whether you choose a powder or liquid bronzer, a foundation a few shades darker than your skintone or an eyeshadow or lipstick that instantly take your complexion to warmer climes, just make sure tanned hues look raw and seamless, with skin shining through underneath. Contouring isn’t eliminated altogether, but keep it subtle and tonal rather than stark, and if applying colour with a brush, make sure it’s a good size to fit your face. Defining cheekbones with a feather duster won’t fool anyone. Be strategic, discerning and and as always, a master blender. If in doubt, blend outwards, finishing with a dab or sweep of highlighter over the high planes of the face, and if you’re really daring a smattering of freckles as executed by Gucci Westman on ‘desert girls’ at Rag & Bone.

The products:

YSL Les Sahariennes Bronzing Stones , £35

The incarnation of the desert tan in compact form, this dune embossed cream to powder bronzer is micro milled to the point of being almost undetectable on the skin (i.e, no powdery, ‘made up’ finish). With subtle light reflective particles for luminosity without the glitter, blendable, warm yet not orange pigment and squalene to keep skin soft and moisturised, this patent-pending glow giver is an indication of the exciting developments going down in the bronzing market.

Cover FX Custom Enhancing Drops , £34

Bespoke bronzing isn’t new per se, as the ever expanding range of custom dropper self-tans proves (see Clarins Radiance Plus Daily Glow Booster  for an original take), but customised colour is a rarer find. Enter the base colour connoisseurs at Cover FX, who have recently concocted a range of highlighters and bronzers that can be layered, worn alone or mixed with skincare, makeup or body products. Softening, moisturising and with added pearl for a bit of a sheen, go barely there with one drop or amp up with the impact with a few more if the mood takes you. Just a warning if you’re wearing the drops alone- the formula dries in mere moments. Work into skin quickly, and look out for Sunkissed and Sunset if a tan is your priority.

Dior Beautifying Protective Creme Sublime Glow SPF 50 , £24.50

On the topic of tanning getting intelligent, a skin embellishing potion with some serious SPF protection ticks all of our modern bronzing boxes. More glow imparting than ‘tanning’, the pearlescent formula makes skin look instantly fresh, lively and even, while broad spectrum UVA and UVB filters, plus a hefty dose of antioxidants, help to shield skin from the elements (ideal desert credentials). It smells like I imagine Tahiti does; this could be a draw or a detractor depending on your stance on fragrance in skincare.

Liz Earle Sheer Skin Tint Bronzing Fluid , £24.50, launches 30th June

Another liquid offering, this light and lovely veil of colour blends flawlessly into bare skin, your favourite moisturiser or a foundation that needs a little bit of a lift. It’s pretty dark on first squirt, becoming gossamer-like on application and perfecting skin without any major colour changes. Borage seed oil and avocado add vitamin E rich nourishment; if you veer away from powders for fear of looking dry and flaky, Liz is for you.

Tom Ford Bronzing Powder , £50

Maybe don’t take this one to the desert wilderness without insuring it first; the price, pristine white and gold casing and crystal infused mineral formula make it a profoundly luxe addition to any makeup case. With a hint of sophisticated shimmer (very understated) and velvety blendability, a tan à la Tom Ford is highly covetable. Available in three shades, buff a tiny bit of the colour closest to your skin tone over cheeks, down the nose and across the forehead and see how you go.

Urban Decay Beached Bronzer , £20

The two shades of this fine, matte powder bronzer are definitely on the terracotta end of the bronze spectrum, and I found the hint of pink more complimentary to my pale skin than muddier hued alternatives. Swoosh this on to look beautifully windswept then get on with your business- it should last eight hours or longer. A shade range expansion wouldn’t go amiss, but otherwise Beached fits the bill.

MAC Mineralize Skinfinish , £24

A backstage staple at almost every SS16 show (no exaggeration), Skinfinish does far more than simply round off a makeup look. Sheer, gleaming and slow baked (not sure what this adds but it sounds DELICIOUS), it creates the kind of light that only a blissful foreign sunset can compete with. Available in an array of glowing, adaptable shades, there’s a softly gilded shade to suit everyone.

After a budget bronzer option?  Check out this exciting new tanning innovation…

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