Related content

There has been a dramatic growth in the market for self tanning products as increasing numbers of women, concerned about sun damage to their skins, decide to fake it. But what’s the best way to get a flawless fake tan? Hilarie Stelfox reports

WITH the holiday season in full swing, fake tanning products are flying off the shelves and salons are booked up with women – and men – seeking a golden glow.

“Some people want a bit of colour at this time of year before a holiday while others are much more aware of the dangers from sunbathing or sunbeds and want to fake it.” says Rachael Kenyon, principal lecturer at the White Rose School of Health and Beauty in Huddersfield.

Rachael teaches self tanning modules on full time beauty therapy courses and also runs short courses in spray tanning, which delivers instant colour.

She say that this relatively new technique is now becoming the number one choice for many salons.

“It’s really fast, takes about 15 minutes, dries straight away and gives a really even tan,” she says. “We’re finding that more and more people are interested in it.”

Traditional methods of self tanning through the manual application of gels, lotions and creams, are now more likely to be the choice of those who want to fake a tan at home.

At Boots, where there is an entire section devoted to self-tanning, sales of the products start to climb in May, but there is a steady trickle of customers throughout the entire year.

“Fake tanner sales have increased over the last two or three years in general,” says Kayleigh Foster, manager for the No 7 brand. “There is so much awareness of sun damage and too many horror stories about sunbeds.

“People going on holiday want to use tanners to start off with a bit of colour while their natural tan builds up,” she explained. “And those who are not going on holiday want to cheer themselves up and look as if they have been away.”

The advantage of a fake tan is that it can be acquired instantly or within a few hours.

Celebrities have embraced self-tanning and after Pippa Middleton, sister of Prince William’s new wife Catherine, was seen at the royal wedding sporting a spray tan. It was reported that sales of tanners doubled that very day.

Fake tanners have been around a long time – more than 40 years – and all contain the same chemical, dihydroxyacetone, a sugar-based molecule that works by reacting with the amino acids in the top layer of skin cells. The browning process is similar to that known to food scientists as the Maillard reaction.

Because the skin is constantly shedding dead cells and renewing itself, a fake tan will only last as long as the layer of skin it is applied to – a few days at most. Some tanners have an added chemical, erythrulose, which, it is claimed, makes a tan last slightly longer.

To get an even and lasting tan it is essential to exfoliate before application. “It’s really important to exfoliate and then apply an oil-free moisturiser to any dry patches – such as the skin on your elbows, knees and heels,” said Rachael.

“If you use any products with oil in them then the tanner won’t work properly. You should have no make-up or moisturiser on your face, unless it is oil-free, and avoid wearing deodorant or anti-perspirant as the chemicals in these can react with the tanner and turn the skin green,” she added.

Beauty therapy student Laura Holroyd, 23, who modelled for our photographs, is a fake tan fan. “I wear make-up with an SPF (sun protection factor) and I’m really careful about my skin and never use tanning beds,” she said.

She usually applies Fake Bake gel – a salon product now available in retail outlets – on a regular basis at home and gets her mum to put it on difficult-to-reach areas such as her back.

Rachael demonstrated the spray tan technique on Laura, who lives in Saddleworth.

Applied with a gadget similar to a commercial paint sprayer, spray tans contain a hint of colour so that it’s easy to get even coverage.

Touch dry after only a minute or two, Laura was able to get dressed while the tan developed. It usually takes six to eight hours for the full depth of colour to appear.

“The instant guide colour means you can tell what it’s going to look like but normally you’d shower that off before going to bed and the tan will develop overnight,” said Rachael.

Salons normally charge around £20 for a full body and face treatment.

APPLYING a fake tanner yourself requires time and dedication.

It’s easy to over-apply or look streaky. However, follow Rachael’s tips and you can achieve the sun-kissed look for summer.

Exfoliate thoroughly, paying particular attention to knees, elbows and heels.

If you’ve having a spray tan, paint your nails with clear varnish to protect them from the tanning process.

Make sure that your chosen product has been carefully smoothed on – streaks will not be evident until hours later – and use a sponge mitt to avoid stained hands.

Don’t wear deodorant or have any products on your skin other than oil-free moisturiser.

Once tanned, avoid chlorinated swimming pools as the chlorine will strip away your carefully and expensively acquired tan. Salt water is fine.

When towelling dry after swimming or showering, don’t rub, just pat.

Don’t have long baths as this will exfoliate your tan.

While tan is developing don’t have any hair or beauty treatments.

Don’t use skin products with alpha hydroxy acids as these will strip a tan.

Once tan has developed keep skin well moisturised and after five days start to gently exfoliate your skin so that tan fades evenly.

Nervous first-timers can either opt for one of the gradual tanners – Johnson’s Holiday Skin is an example, or book themselves into a salon for a professional treatment.

Last, but not least, remember that a fake tan offers no protection from the sun. In fact, during the 24 hours following a spray tan skin can be more susceptible to sun damage so it’s best to stay covered up.