Prepping for the Perfect Fake Tan


So we’ve discussed our ultimate tans, but that’s only a fraction of the battle! Even the most fabulous tanning product will look dodgy on unprepped skin; it’ll come up streaky, go patchy and fade quickly…less than ideal! This post aims to help you get your skin in the best shape to take a tanning product, and the better your skin at application, the better the result and the longer it’ll last!

  1. Exfoliation

This for me is probably the most important step before tanning. If I skip it, regardless of the product I use, my tan clings to dry patches, accentuates those annoying little bumps on the tops of my arms and fades quickly and patchily. I actually rarely use an exfoliator as I find that using a body wash with my exfoliating gloves (€1.50, Penneys) works a treat. I sometimes use Tough Stuff from Cocoa Brown (€5.99, Penneys and selected pharmacies) on my elbows, ankles and any other areas that need extra attention. My main tip here is to exfoliate the day before – if you do it the day of tanning, your skin can be a little raw from scrubbing and your pores will be open so when you tan, you’re left with those little dark spots that the tan has settled into.


  1. Hair Removal

Whether you shave, wax or use hair removal cream, do it the day before you tan. Again, the tan will just settle in your pores leaving you with little spots on your legs/in your underarms.

  1. Moisturiser

The day before I apply my tan, I’ll usually apply a really rich body butter or oil (once I’m going to shower again before application – oil breaks tan down and can affect application) such as The Body Shop Body Butter, to get my skin really soft and smooth. Similar to your face before you apply make-up, if your skin is well-prepped, smooth and moisturised, your tan is going to last much longer

Body Butter

  1. Application Tips

→ ALWAYS use a mitt – tan stains your skin so badly and orange palms are never a good look…we’ve all been there! If you do have a tanning accident, try lemon juice on a cotton pad or a quick scrub with Cocoa Brown Tough Stuff

→ If you are a novice tanner, try to use something with a bit of colour in it when applying, so you can see what you’re doing. It’s easy to forget where you have applied clear formulas which can lead to dreaded white patches!

→ Apply in light layers and build – if you paste it on in thick layers, it’s far more likely to go streaky and patchy

→ Steer clear of oil-based products before you apply, they will affect the application and make streaks far more likely. Oil doesn’t mix well with tan!

→ Apply a light layer of oil-free moisturiser to elbows, ankles and hands before you apply, as these are the areas tan sticks to and is most likely to go a bit dodgy. I love Cocoa Brown Chocolate Whip (€5.95, Penneys and selected pharmacies). I also use a light layer of this on my face and slick on a little lipbalm before tanning my face to stop the tan developing too dark and sticking to the dry patches on my face (around my mouth, beside my nose, brows etc.)


Choc Whip


→ Try using an old make-up brush to apply tan to your face – it gives a lovely natural finish, and it’s much easier to get into the corners of your nose and get an even layer

→ Always have nail varnish on your fingers and toes when doing your tan, even if you only have a clear polish on. Tan discolours your nails, so a layer of polish will protect them!

→ If you don’t have a kind helper to do your back, tape a mitt to the corner of a hanger and work away!


Tan Hanger


→ Wash your tanning mitt regularly. It’s similar to make-up brushes in terms of gathering bacteria so make sure to keep it clean. I have a load of mitts as I use different mitts for different tans, particularly if they are different formulas!

→ Wear dark clothes/pyjamas when you’re tanning, and don’t sleep on your good bed clothes – you will smeer colour all over your clothes and sheets while waiting for your tan to develop whether you’re awake or asleep…so best not be white ones!


Have you any application tips to share about how you get your tan perfect? We’d love to hear them!