Spray tan pros may be a dab hand at 'tan contouring', but can you safely DIY with your bottle of trusty self-tan? Yes, says this expert, just follow these streak-free layering steps

Any products in this article have been selected editorially however if you buy something we mention, we may earn commission

A spray tan can be a real confidence boost and in the hands of a skilled professional can also give you cheekbones and leaner-looking limbs with a few deft sweeps of the gun. But how easy (or advisable) is it to attempt your tanologists contouring skills at home with a mitt and a prayer?

Colour cosmetics such as Huda Beauty’s new Tantour  body makeup products are kinder on mistakes – a dab of cleanser and your heavy hands are history. But there's no reason not to work with fake tan if you prepare your base correctly, start light and build, says beauty entrepreneur Leighton Denny. Do the groundwork and there'll be no tell-tale streaks or Trump-like colour fails to give the game away.

An early pioneer of the gradual tan, Leighton came up with his now multi-award-winning Sun Believable range of tanning and skin prep products, when he couldn't find a tanning product that looked natural on his very fair skin, so it's fair to say that when it comes to tantouring, he's more Balearic sunset than harsh Tin Man lines. “ Body contouring with tan  isn’t about creating fake chiselled six packs or bulging biceps, rather accentuating your favourite features and camouflaging areas you feel less confident about,” he says.

Leighton Denny’s guide to at-home tantouring

Prep 1: Exfoliate twice on separate days

“You’ve probably heard it before preparation is key to creating a flawless tan – especially when contouring as you’ll be layering the tan so if there are any dry/flaky patches it will really show up. Think of your skin as a canvas, and you need the silkiest smoothest base possible to allow for a sleek tanning application. I would suggest at least two full-body exfoliations (on separate days) before you attempt to contour the body. Pay special attention to problem areas such as the backs of the arms where you may suffer from slight pimples, as this area needs a little extra care and gentle buffing.”

Prep 2: Moisturise  a lot – but not on the day

“If you don’t already do so, moisturise daily in the week prior to self-tanning. This will replenish any lost moisture and keep the skin supple and soft. Make sure not to moisturise your entire body the day you apply your self-tan as this will stop the DHA (the tanning ingredient) from grabbing to and developing on the skin.

"Just apply moisturiser to typically dry areas such as elbows and knees. I use a rich creamy formula containing organic coconut oil that softens and saturates the skin, and also antioxidant vitamin E, which will help to prevent premature ageing, keeping the skin supple, improving elasticity and of course, providing the ultimate tanning base!”

The night before: do your base tan

“When contouring, you should apply a light-coloured base tan the night before so the skin is a uniform colour and your contour is subtle and believable. With body contouring, you’re building the colour to create the illusions of shadows on the skin so you don’t want to immediately go in with your ultra-dark tan as the colour difference will be too strong and it will look fake. I would opt for tanning mousse and that’s pigmented to guide your application. Use a lighter shade for your base and a darker shade for contouring. Always use a mitt when applying self-tan, it makes the application far easier and you won’t end up with orange palms which is the first tell-tale sign that you’re faking it! Allow the tan to develop for at least four hours before washing it off.”

On the day: define your contours using a colour guided self-tan

“After you’ve washed off your developed base tan you can start with your contouring application. These are important tips to keep in mind:

·       ALWAYS use a fake tan with a guide colour for contouring, you need to see where your placing the tan.

·       Start each application with less product than you think you need, it’s always better to build the colour rather than remove.

·       Have a spare tanning mitt, free from any tan, that you can use to buff in each contour application.

·       A beauty blender or makeup brush (that you don’t use) are best for contouring smaller areas, such as the face or arms”

Legs: “For the appearance of longer, slimmer legs sweep your tanning mitt down the outside of your thigh, starting at the top of your hip and stopping at the bottom of the muscle that sits above the knee. Next apply tan on the insides of the thighs stopping at the knee, then from the base of the knee to your ankle. Ankles are typically tricky areas for fake tan, so make sure to use your spare mitt to really buff the tan in to avoid any patches.”

Bottom: “To enhance your behind, start at the top outer corner of your hip and sweep your tanning mitt underneath your bottom, following its natural curves.”

Arms: “For your arms you should use a beauty blender or makeup brush to enhance your natural muscle. Looking in the mirror point your index finger towards the ground so you’re flexing your muscles. This will highlight your biceps (where your shoulders are) and triceps (towards the back of the arm). Use your beauty blender to lightly press in the tan tracing your natural definition.”

Waist: “Don’t try to create fake abs. Instead, enhance and work with what you already have! To highlight your waist, position your tanning mitt and the centre of your belly button pointing your fingers inwards and sweep your mitt down and outwards towards your hip. Then go back to the centre of your belly button and sweep your mitt upwards and outwards towards your armpit.”

Face: “Here, I would use your lighter shade of tan and a beauty blender to contour. Be very frugal with the tan here as you don’t want to end up with splotches on your face. Take your blender and lightly press the tan underneath the cheekbones, underneath the jawline and along the top of your forehead to frame your face.”

Aftercare: How to extend the life of your tan

"Properly caring for your sunless tan will improve your tan's overall beauty, colour, fade and longevity. Avoid mineral oil-based body care products and facial scrubs, masks, exfoliating gloves, as well as shower gels that contain petroleum or mineral oil bases. Saltwater, chlorine and hot baths can also rapidly exfoliate your tan so be aware! Use a daily moisturiser to lock in colour and keep skin hydrated and safe from dry or flaky patches to extend the life of your tan.”

Leighton uses  Sun Believable Apply Me application mitt, £5   and  Sun Believable Tan Me Self Tan Mousse in Medium  and  Dark , £15, 100ml

Follow Leighton  @leighton_denny  Find out more at  LD-Boutique.com