To me, a tan is pretty iconic. I started life as a white-as-fuck, freckly-as-fuck half Scottish, half English ghost. God bless my mother and her strange Scottish olive skin otherwise I’d have absolutely no hope whatsoever. I remember being a little girl, looking at all the tanned kids on holiday; Spanish and Italian girls with big brown eyes and golden skin and warm shiny hair. I’d be insanely jealous, I always wanted to look like them, even from as young as about 10 or 11.
So yeah, I started off life fairly pale. NC15 MAC kind of pale. The kind of pale that’s not that cute. You see, I’m blessed with a beautiful, radiant pink undertone to my skin meaning that I look like corned beef in the winter. So when I was about 13 I began experimenting with fake tan. I started on gradual tanning moisturiser and suffered a fair few disasters. Then at around 15 I discovered instant tan, meaning a fair few more disasters, but this time, a darker shade of disaster. I’ve tried so many tanning products on my quest for that deep, dark Aussie glow that’s so famous on Instagram.
As I said, I started life very fair, with a face (and body) spattered with freckles. My mum, who’s naturally very tanned (but freckly) used to beg me to lie out in the sun and ‘train’ my skin to tan. I know in hindsight when I’m 40 years old and resemble a leather boot, this probably won’t have been her greatest piece of advice, but it definitely worked for me. You see, my brother and sister are both fair skinned too and avoid the sun mostly to prevent burning. My sister in particular burns like paper, and after a few nasty instances, has actually done some pretty bad damage to her skin.
I took my mum’s advice and lay out at every possible opportunity. On holiday, we’d be the first on the loungers at 7am and the last to leave at 7pm, without a red mark in sight. Because unlike my brother & sister, I exposed myself to the sun safely, with sun protection on, and learned my boundaries under the beams. I learned how my skin reacted when I’d over-exposed myself, when enough was enough and also found some amazing tricks and products to help me tan quicker, meaning I could spend less time in the sun.
My theory behind this is that I now know and understand my skin, and what is and isn’t good for it. I know for a fact that what my siblings have done, burning themselves red raw by accident just by not being careful, is far more damaging than what I do, even though I spend hours longer in the rays. Sheltering yourself from the sun entirely only means that if you do get caught out, you’re predisposed to burning and blistering. Whereas because I’ve respected my skin, it now knows how to react to sun exposure in a healthy way and means I avoid burning, unless I’m really reckless. To this day I’ve only had 2/3 instances of bad sunburn, and haven’t had any for the past 4-5 years because my skin knows how to react.
Please bare in mind I KNOW this isn’t good for me in the long run, I KNOW I run the risk of getting skin cancer and I KNOW that everybody’s skin works differently, so please don’t preach to me. I’m not here to be scientifically correct and babysit my readers through a sun safety survival course, I’m here to tell you what works for me. So please take everything I say with a grain of salt and simply don’t do what I do if you disagree.
So moving on to what I do to achieve my glow. In summer, I use sunbeds and obviously spend time sunbathing if I go abroad. In winter, I try to stick to fake tan. I do try to give my skin a rest from the UV rays as I am aware (however ignorant) of the long term damage they cause. I use them in summer as I love to be able to just throw on whatever and not worry about exfoliating or tanning or whether my legs look streaky or my back is pale. Still to this day I can’t help but be secretly horrified at the girls who get a spray tan before a holiday; I’d look like a lepor by day 4 if I was left to my own devices surrounded by sand, salt water and chlorine. But in winter, you’re basically always covered anyway, so fading fake tan isn’t such an issue, and it’s nice not to have to strip naked in the sunbed shop when the room is -5 degrees. So here’s the products and tips that have helped me achieve my ultimate bronzey glow, come rain or shine.
I go on sunbeds from March – September, for between 9-12 minutes per session. I go on a maximum of 3 times per week, leaving a days rest between sessions. If the weather is good in the UK or I’m abroad, I just tan in the sun instead of sunbeds. I’m not religious with my tanning routine; once I’m happy with my colour I’ll just have the odd session to keep it topped up.
I always use a tan accelerating cream to make my use of sunbeds as efficient as possible. I use:
ProTan ‘Incredibly Black’ 10x Double Dark Bronzing Lotion – £8.90 – eBay
Australian Gold Dark Tanning Accelerator Lotion – £13.50 – eBay
I’ve found both of these work incredibly at making you as brown as possible without having to increase the time spent in the sun. It also keeps skin moisturised and helps your tan to sink deeper and last longer without flaking, peeling or burning. I always buy them both off eBay as they’re soooo much cheaper on there as opposed to in sunbed shops. Save yourself some dolla and buy them on there instead.
OILS & LOTIONS
Believe me when I say I’ve tried almost every tanning oil and lotion under the sun and these are without doubt my favourites for achieving a really deep, chocolatey tan. The premise of these products is to intensify your tan without having to spend longer in the sun. These products work best in direct sunlight.
Bali Body Cacao Tanning Oil – £17.95 – Bali Body
I love this brand. I initially fell in love with their branding and Instagram about 2 years ago and have purchased from them ever since. This tanning oil is amazing if you’re new to oils; it’s thin, non greasy and leaves a hint of colour whilst keeping your skin hydrated and glowing. I tan beautifully with this oil. I’m definitely going to try their Watermelon Tanning Oil too as that’s meant to be the best for achieving a deep dark tan. They’re really inexpensive, arrive quickly and are a brand I love to support.
Maui Babe Amazing Browning Lotion – £19.00 – Amazon
Shiiiiiii mami. This is my secret weapon when I sunbathe. I can’t lie, this stuff feels pretty grim to wear but Jesus does it work. It has a strange coffee/earthy smell, and comes out as a brown oil. It’s pretty greasy but will make you change race in a matter of hours. What I love is that nobody’s ever heard of it; it’s an all natural tanning oil recipe that’s been passed down through generations in Hawaii. It’s packed with natural ingredients like Kukui Nut Oil and Kona Coffee Plant Extracts to guarantee a rich, dark, tan and soft moisturised skin.
The brown tint to the oil means you look instantly more tanned, so for all you pale bunnies, there’s no need to shy away on day one in the sun; this will give you a little colour immediately. This oil gave me the deepest tan I’ve ever had; really chocolatey brown. Put this on after your suncream and I guarantee you’ll be browner than ever before, but make sure to steer clear of white towels & bikinis when it’s on cause it transfers like a bitch.
Maui Babe SPF 30 Sun Block – £24.00 – Victoria Health
This is the sun cream I use, paired with either of the tanning oils above. I use this for the first 4 days of a holiday and then drop down to Factor 20 for the last few days (I know, naughty), only putting this on my chest, feet, shoulders and any other areas that are more prone to burning. I find my tan is darkest using this and the browning lotion together, however I’m not too fussy with sun creams, I just like this because it smells of coconuts! I also love Hawaiian Tropic sun creams, however their oils make me break out on my chest so I avoid.
KEEPING MY GLOW
So I do get asked quite often what tan I use to stay brown in summer. And although I don’t actually use fake tan, there are a couple of products I rely on to make my skin glow. My favourite products to keep me glowing are:
Scott Barnes Body Bling – Original – £27.00 – Look Fantastic
This product is like a bronze liquid highlighter for the body. It’s a known favourite of J Lo and Beyonce, who have both been made red carpet ready by famous MUA Scott. This is my all time favourite as it doesn’t transfer, and provides a healthy amount of colour with tiny flecks of gold glitter to make the skin photograph beautifully, blur bruises and marks and generally provide a luminous glow to the skin.
Loving Tan Bronze Shimmer Luminous Cream – Ultra Dark – £31.00 – Cult Beauty
This product is better if you’re looking for a darker instant tan. It’s less glittery, so is much better for a day to day wear, but this transfers quite a lot. It’s much browner in colour, whereas the Body Bling is much orangeier, meaning if you’re starting from scratch with absolutely no base tan, this will look more realistic. I can’t tell you how much this product has swooped in and saved the day when I’ve woken up paler than anticipated after sleeping in fake tan, or for an impromptu night out. I simply apply it with a fake tan mitt to avoid mess and it blends in just like instant body makeup. Hallelujah.
ThisWorks Perfect Legs Skin Miracle – £37.00 – Feel Unique
If you’re looking for something even more subtle, try this. It states it’s for the legs but I use it all over the body. It’s a watery gel like consistency that blends in to the skin for a subtle glow, whilst disguising cellulite, marks, scars and bruises. It’s packed with skin saving nutrients too. I use this if I’m going out through the day as it doesn’t act like an instant tanner, unlike the other two, meaning it leaves no orange/brown cast. It just revives the skin, making it look naturally healthy and radiant.
Sometimes if I’m going on a night out and want to look super extra, I add liquid or powder highlighter to my collarbones, boobs and shoulders. This basically just makes you glow like a beacon of heavenly light. I know it doesn’t make me look more tanned, but on top of the above products, it makes you glow like a regal bitch. It’s amazing. I always do this step if I’m having my picture taken or going out, it just adds that extra oomph.
Tan-Luxe The Face Drops – Med/Dark – £35.00 – Beauty Bay
By now you all know what I use to tan my face. I do use fake tan year round to tan my face as I always hide it when sunbathing or on the sunbeds as I’m wary of premature ageing and wrinkles, as well as having enough freckles for 5 faces as it is. So I fake tan my face and neck to make sure my colour remains the same as my chest. This product has been a bit of a revelation for me recently as I used to just leave my face and neck pale, meaning no makeup days were pretty horrifying. Since using Tan-Luxe Face Drops I’ve been make up free most days; it’s rammed full of amazing skincare ingredients that have done wonders for my complexion. Read allllll about these magic orange drops in my Full Skincare Routine post here.
I do use fake tan from October-February to give my skin a rest from the sunbeds, however I can’t say I love doing it. I have very very dry skin on my body, meaning that fake tanning for me is a minefield. I can’t use gradual moisturisers at all (I’ve had some horror stories in the past with almost every brand under the sun) as they just streak and cling to my dry patches. My tan fades really unevenly and flakes off in strange areas like my shins. Plus, I think exfoliating it all off in general is a life ruiner. We all know that feeling of dread on a Thursday night when you have to exfoliate off all your grim tan and re-apply. It’s without doubt one of the worst things about being a girl.
I use an amazing little invention called the Tan Eraser to get my tan off. Unlike standard exfoliating mitts, you don’t need to use any soap. If used damp, you simply rub really gently at your skin and the top layers of your skin pill up in gross little brown balls and scrub off. It’s amazing and has saved me from scrubbing my skin red raw in the shower for hours on end.
Tan Eraser – £6.00 – Tan Eraser
The only fake tans I still reliably use are Loving Tan Mousse and St Moritz Tanning Mousse. I love both as they provide such an amazing, realistic deep brown tan. The Loving Tan is the most incredible fake tan I’ve ever used as you literally only need one layer, however St Moritz is a very close second for me as it’s so so inexpensive and easy to get hold of. I also love Fake Bake Airbrush spray if I’m in a mad rush as you don’t even have to rub it in; it’s also great for topping up areas like the chest or back.
This year, I’d also love to try the Tan Luxe ‘The Body’ Drops after having such an amazing experience with their face drops, however I can’t recommend them yet.
Loving Tan Deluxe Bronzing Mousse – Ultra Dark – £39.00 – Cult Beauty
St Moritz Self Tanning Mousse – Dark – £3.00 – Wilko
Fake Bake Instant Airbrush Tan – Golden Bronze – £13.95 – All Beauty
When I tan, I start by exfoliating in the shower. Then, I moisturise all dry areas like knees, shins, armpits, elbows, hands and feet before applying any tanning products to avoid any dark patches. I then apply my tanning product all over with a mitt. For small areas, I use a large clean Kabuki brush to lightly blend a small amount of fake tan over my hands, feet, fingers, toes and chest to make sure the application is as flawless as possible. I sleep in my tan overnight, wearing all black clothing to avoid transfer to my sheets, and then shower in the morning. I follow up by moisturising my skin to keep it smooth and hydrated. And that’s it!
So hopefully that answers all your tan related questions. I know it’s long winded as fuck but I think we all know by now I don’t tend to upload 2 photos and a paragraph. Let me know if you have any other tanning advice or secret tips; I’ve shared with you all my juicy details after 8 years of tanning mishaps, calamities and successes.
Thanks for reading.