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Ultimate Guide: How to put fake tan on.

Ultimate Guide: How to put fake tan on.

Are you looking to get that sunless golden glow for the first time but aren’t exactly sure on how to put it on?

Look no further, as we have created the ultimate Guide to applying fake tan for beginners. Even if you’re a fake tan expert, we advise you to continue reading because there could be a few tips here you don’t know about!

When you put fake tan on, the process can be broken into three stages, Prep, application, and aftercare. Naturally we’ll start with the prep!


Exfoliate (24 hours before)

Make sure you exfoliate at least 24 hours before putting on the fake tan. If there is any excess dead skin then the tanner will fade much more quickly, particularly in areas where there is a lot of hard skin (Think elbows, knees and ankles).

Not only that but it can also go patchy as it fades. Thankfully, exfoliation will remove any dead skin and create a smooth base for your tan.

Pro tip: When exfoliating, make sure to concentrate on very dry areas such as your feet, elbows, ankles and knees.

Make sure to exfoliate any hard skin 24 hours before applying the tan.

Remove hair (24 hrs before)

If you do choose to remove your body hair, make sure this is done at least 24 hours before you tan.

If you do it any later, then the fake tan can sink into the pores where the hair follicles once were, which can leave dark spots.

Don’t use deodorants or perfumes

Don’t use deodorants or perfumes on the day you put on your fake tan. These can create a barrier on the skin’s surface. This means the tan doesn’t absorb as well and you may not get the colour you want.

Also, some fake tanners can turn green when mixed with perfume. It’s difficult to know whether a perfume will turn your tanner green, so it’s best to just avoid them on the day!

If you're worried about having that fake tan smell, read this article on how to get rid of the smell of fake tan.

All hair removal should happen 24 hours before application.

Select the tan that best suits your skin

This is something everyone overlooks, and it’s so important.

Everyone’s skin is different. Some people have oily skin, some have dry skin, and some skin types are too sensitive for certain products.

Different skin types need different tanners.

If you don’t know what fake tan is suited to you then try our quiz by clicking on the button below. We'll email you a personalised booklet giving you fake tanning tips based on your skin type.



The DHA in the tanner can have a drying effect on your skin. If your skin is dehydrated when you put on the fake tan, then the tan can go patchy. In some cases, this can result in irritated skin.

Make sure you thoroughly moisturise the night before, in fact it's a good idea to ensure you always use a moisturiser daily before putting on the fake tan to ensure that your skin isn’t too dehydrated after application.

Applying the tan

Tan application

There are a few key steps to follow when putting on your fake tan. We will take you through those steps below, with a few extra pro tips:

  • Put on your tanning mitt and squirt some of the solution onto the mitt.

  • Scrunch your hand up into a fist so that the tanning solution spreads out on the mitt. This will allow for a more evenly distributed tan.

  • Apply the solution by pressing the mitt gently to your skin and make a circular motion whilst moving the mitt across your limb or body. Make sure to apply the solution to your whole body and don’t forget parts like the inside of your arms or legs.
  • Naturally there may be some light streaks. If you want to get rid of these then you can buff them out using a Kubuki brush.
  • Allow your tan to fully dry before dressing in order to avoid smudging. If possible, opt for post-tan clothing that is dark and loose. This means that any smudging that does occur, won’t be so noticeable on your clothes.
  • Many people forget to do this, but it’s very important to wash your mitt with soapy water and leave to dry after every application. If you don’t wash it, then your mitt will have a buildup of old tanning solution which can mean your next tan isn’t so even!

If you’re applying instant tan, then make sure you apply the tan quickly. Instant tan dries much more quickly and applying it rapidly will ensure an even coating of tan.

If it's your first time applying tan then it's likely that you will have made a few small errors resulting in darker patches. If you've done this and want to remove or just even out these dark patches, then read this article: How to get fake tanner off - 8 ways to remove fake tan. 

Pro tip: It’s always best to apply your tan before going to bed. Most tanners are gradual tanners so this means they will have more time to develop. It will also mean you are less likely to smudge it so long as you wear loose clothing to bed.

Always use a tanning mitt when applying your tan to ensure an even colour.


Washing off your tan

If you’re using a fake tanner with a colour guide, then wait 4 to 8 hours depending on how dark you want it. Different tans vary, but generally if you would like a light tan then you should wash the colour guide off four hours after application.

If you want a medium tan, you should leave around six hours between application and washing.

If you want a dark tan, then wash the tanner off eight hours after application.

When washing it off, use cool water. This is because hot water dehydrates the skin which can cause the tan to go patchy. It can sometimes result in very mild skin irritation too.

Don’t scrub or use soap as this can fade your tan. Just use cool water and keep washing until the water becomes clear. 

If you don't mind sacrificing the colour of your tan in order to hide the fake tan smell then follow some of the points in this article. You can use deodorising soap in the shower (Tip number 7 in the linked article) which will help stop the fake tan smell from forming.

Maintaining your tan

It’s recommended that you gently exfoliate every 2 to 3 days. This will allow any dead skin cells to be exfoliated and it will stop the tan going patchy as it fades.

Moisturise very regularly to keep your skin hydrated. When taking showers, make sure to always use a cooler temperature.

Always moisturise before and after tan application

Remove the tanner completely before reapplying

Before you reapply the tanner to your skin, make sure that you have completely removed the fake tan from your previous application.

You can do this by getting a tan eraser mousse or a tan removing mitt. But you can also use products from your own home by following any of the tips written in this article. 

If you don’t have either a tan eraser or a tan removing mitt, then you can also use a body scrub that contains oil. The oil in the scrub should break down the remaining DHA on your skin and mean it comes off more easily. Gently scrub your skin and wash off with warm water.

The bottom line

All three stages of the tan cycle (Prep, application and wash-off) are important. Each step helps your tan to not only last longer, but also stop it going patchy. 

Alot of people think that post-tan care isn't important. But if you want to reapply your tan, then it's a good idea make sure you properly exfoliate and reapply moisturiser shortly afterwards. Not only will it set you up for the next application, but you will avoid that patchy phase at the end of the tan cycle!

For tips on how to properly do this, read this article on how to remove your fake tan.

For even more fake tan tips, make sure to sign up to our email newsletter. You'll get monthly fake tanning tips and articles and you'll also be the first to know about any special offers on our products. Not only that, but signing up will get you 10% off your first order with us!

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